Diversity is not only race

by Beacon Staff • April 5, 2006

A number of classmates and the professor nodded their heads in complacent agreement.,At the beginning of the school year, I sat fidgeting uncomfortably in my seat during a lecture as a girl went off on a tangent regarding Emerson's lack of diversity. She said that the lack of variety on campus hindered her learning experience.

A number of classmates and the professor nodded their heads in complacent agreement.

I left the class fuming. I wondered which one of my fellow peers would care to give up their place at Emerson to a more "diverse" candidate.

But more importantly, I didn't understand how one could deny the diversity evident everywhere.

As it turned out, this girl was of the majority opinion.

Here at Emerson, the lack of diversity is a favorite topic to complain about. It has even repeatedly appeared in this opinion section of The Beacon.

For a while, I was confused over how this was a problem within our student body. Then it became clear.

To Emersonians, diversity is defined solely by skin color. Variety simply means not white.

It is ironic that at a liberal arts college, where we study academic essays that tell us how race and gender are merely social fabrications, students are so fixated on the color of one another's skin.

Even our school's diversity awareness groups are focused solely on our skin tone. How do we get people talking about sensitive diversity-related issues? Campus Conversations on Race.

One's physical appearance should not be the basis for grouping people together. The scientific community agrees.

Since the publication of the article "The Genetics of Human Populations" in Scientific American in September 1974, scientists have agreed "greater genetic variation exists within the populations typically labeled as Black and White than between these populations."

This means that you may be genetically more similar to someone of a "different race" than you are to those who you consider part of your own race.

Yet people at this school continue to talk about "race" in terms of skin color and ethnicity. Even in this context, there is a population of minorities here at Emerson.

It's no New York City, but racial diversity does exist. If this amount doesn't satisfy you, then look deeper. I am white. I look Anglo-American. But coming here after living in Eastern Europe makes me a minority, too. Eastern Europeans know all too well that grouping by ethnicity can be disastrous.

Just because someone appears white doesn't mean that they are American, or that they have a Caucasoid ancestry at all.

Considering the small size of its student body, Emerson has a large international student community.

True, you may not be able to pick us out in a crowd. But our experiences are very much unique. The great part about America is that an "American" nationality is comprised of many different ethnicities. All the regions of the United States are vastly different in both geography and ideology.

Diversity exists within the country, and therefore inherently exists within our school.

If variety of color is the issue, consider people's clothes, their eyes and most appropriately for our school, their hair color.

Appearance should not matter. College should be about sharing ideas.

It's true that the way a person looks influences his or her viewpoint. But socio-economic status, geographic location, sexual orientation, level of education, religion, political standing and ethical beliefs also shape the way people think.

The only problem here at Emerson is a close-mindedness regarding the meaning of the word itself. Emerson is not missing diversity among its students; rather, its students are missing the diversity that is all around them. Talk to your schoolmates about their experiences.

Open your eyes. Or, if it helps, close them.