Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

People who know me very well (and maybe some who don’t) know that this is one of my absolute least favorite questions to be asked.

I’m from the East Coast– a place where diversity is generally a way of life, not a bullet point on a strategic map. I have never been asked the “What are you?” question there. Maybe it’s my fault for picking a college in the midwest, but there sure seems to be a lot of questions like that here.

I’ll share one example. I covered a village council meeting for a local newspaper, and as I waited for the meeting to begin, I made small talk with the man seated next to me. I told him my name and that I was a reporter for the local paper, and the first thing he said to me after a hurried “that’s interesting” was “So, what are you? You just look different. Are you Spanish? Do you speak Spanish then?” In a professional setting, that wasn’t what I expected to hear. It was like he had never seen someone like me before.

The strange thing is, I’m just your average white (mostly) girl from the middle-class suburbs. I’m not a minority. I just happen to have a little bit of a mixed ethnic background. Mexican. Norwegian. Irish. German. French. You name it. And as it turns out, that make me pretty normal. Maybe not in Cedarville, Ohio, but certainly in the rest of the country.

The New York Times published an article in January that caught my attention because it addressed an issue that I had been thinking over for some time. It said, “The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage.”

So almost every time I hear people at my school mention the issue of diversity, I cringe a little. For some reason, to them, diversity seems to be only a black and white problem. It’s like they’re still trying to struggle through basic civil rights issues and white guilt. They are about 30 years behind, in my estimation.

The university is trying hard to increase the diversity of the student population– the goal is 15% diversity by 2020. But in order handle this issue correctly, they need to look at the major demographic changes happening in our country. The 2010 U.S. Census data was pretty clear in indicating that the fasting growing minority group in America is Hispanics, to no one’s surprise. Combine those statistics with the increase in mixed-race Americans and you have a recipe for change– a diversity issue that’s much deeper than black and white.

The NYT article also mentioned that many people are beginning to reject the idea that they have to pick one race to be labeled as. The single-race way of thinking comes from a time in our country when the rule was that “anyone with a trace of African ancestry was only black.”

According to the article (and my own experience) that thinking still prevails in our society, even though the concept should have been thrown away long ago. “Witness President Obama’s answer to the race question on the 2010 census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, Mr. Obama checked only one box, black, even though he could have checked both races.”

I am glad that my school recognizes that diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed, but I hope that in their search for a more “ethnically diverse” student body, they will try looking in their own backyard first. I’m sure the student body is actually a lot more diverse then they even realize.


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