By Larissa Check
Elm Staff Writer
When I first arrived on the Washington College campus, I had very little diversity awareness. However, I did have a great cultural memory to make me believe that I was very different from my peers.
When people on campus talk about diversity, they have the instinctive ability to turn the meaning of diversity to pure statistics, like how many of a certain race there are in the entire population. Thus there is an immediate tendency to associate the word diversity with “race.” I was raised to believe that diversity doesn’t just apply to someone’s race or ethnic identity but ranges from national, spiritual, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and even political identity.
My initial interest in the idea of diversity in this community was first triggered after I was placed in the multicultural peer group. Many thoughts went through my mind from does this not already instill the idea of “you are not like everybody else?” to feeling a bit more “comfortable” around that peer group.
The Multicultural Office offers the optional (very optional) program as an effort to make the campus a more welcoming and adjustable environment for people from all walks of life. It does not by any means restrict the participants to associate with just the individuals of the group, but encourages and help them participate in the entire campus. I believe it is a way to create a safe space for minorities and those “culturally displaced” individuals to turn to for a feel-good community that they can at least identify with.
Even with these programs and offices in place, I believe that a lot of people fail to understand that, while these offices promote diversity, they are not the sole source of breeding a diverse population. They fail to really take diversity out of color and ethnicity. It will always be hard to set those apart, but I have always had the simple reasoning that two individuals who grew up in different locations make a great deal of diversity even if they are of the same race or ethnicity.
In the America of today, there are thousands of people who cry everyday because they cannot legally be with the one they so dearly love, people whose religious beliefs have made them targets for violence in society, people who are hurt because others do not have enough understanding of who they are; what it feels like to be different and even worse, be rejected by society, families, and friends for who you did not choose to be, but were made to be. I hate to think that our community does not provide lots of room for anyone who wants to be different, to grow as an individual because that would take the community out of WC community. Everyone is diverse because we were born to be different from everybody else.
In the effort to promote the acceptance diversity on the WC campus, it would be very appealing to deliver an “Obama-esque” statement like “encourage dynamic interaction among individuals with different perspectives” and pray for the best. But in order to really call this our second home, concrete objectives must be determined in order to execute ambiguous ideals. If students are educated to respectfully accept our diverse world, this consciousness will be an undertone in everything we do and accomplish.
The idea of Diversity Week was to promote and encourage the personal growth of students and a healthier college community. It was meant to challenge stereotyped preconceptions and help students communicate with students of varied backgrounds with respect to their beliefs and cultures. This was achieved by creating an environment for student to learn from others students whose experiences, believes and perspectives are different from their own. As a result, that week provided our community and culture with inspirational and unique perspectives of our very own students. I especially enjoyed doing the very energetic Maya dance borrowed from their culture.
Although the week was a chance for everyone to celebrate individuality because we will always be who we are, it should not be the only time we appreciate the individuals of our community. We are all so different. We should celebrate this everyday because it really is the core of everything we do. Better yet, we are a community because you are a part of WC, and for as long as WC lives, we would and should always, appreciate, respect and celebrate you.