“My high school didn’t have a large amount of diversity but it had some diversity”
This comment was made by one of my classmates earlier this week. This is no anomaly; I hear comments like this all the time. So I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that diversity is not a codeword for “minority students are present,” yet people use it that way all the time. The dictionary defines diversity as “the state of being diverse; showing a great deal of variety.” Thus, the above quote can be translated to “we didn’t have a lot of variety but we had variety”… wait which one is it? Was there variety of not? By this logic my elementary school, which was 95% black and latino, was the most diverse school I ever went to.
Another issue with the “diversity = minority students” mindset is it ignores all the other elements that are important when it comes to diversity (ex. nationality, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, etc). Remember: diversity is multifaceted.
Additionally, try to step away from your previous experiences and embrace the numbers when it comes to diversity. By this I mean the following: if you’re coming from a homogenous background to a slightly less homogenous background that’s not “diverse.” So many students on my college campus have said things like
I know it’s not really diverse but it’s a lot more diverse than my high school was.
I’m glad you’re in a place that’s more diverse than you were before but comparing a college to a homogenous high school is setting the bar pretty low.
Lastly, diversity means different (different backgrounds, different race, different religion, etc) but too often we are overly eager to find similarities. I think it’s really important to acknowledge the things we share and to realize we are all connected but I think our thirst for similarity can undermine our celebration of diversity. What’s wrong with admitting that we are different? I think of peers that have grown up on farms in contrast to myself, growing up in the city. Our commute to school was nothing alike. But so what? I love that. And I can learn a lot from hearing about their upbringing. Just because some experiences don’t have common ground doesn’t mean we can’t learn a lot from them. So let’s celebrate and talk about those differences instead of trying to reframe them to be “the same.”