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The Blue & Gray Press | September 26, 2017

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Diversity More than Just Race

BY BREEANNA SVUEM

Mary Washington is mostly composed of white females, as any glance around campus will show. But instead of accepting that people of a certain skin color tend to apply and attend a school called Mary Washington, there is a “fight for diversity” to encourage students of ethnic minorities to apply.

Race is a touchy topic in today’s society, and with good reason. The United States has done some terrible things to ethnic minorities in its history, and no amount of words will cancel that out. Entire generations have discriminated against groups of people simply because of the color of their skin.

But for a country that claims to be beyond the racial prejudices of its past, we are obsessed with race.

Make no mistake, cultural diversity is a beautiful byproduct of the melting pot society we have in America. There are a thousand different cultures, all of which deserve to be celebrated.

But the problem lies in assuming that a different culture means a different skin color. We categorize people largely based on their skin color—black, white, red, brown, etc. Everyone falls into one of these categories, regardless of where they come from or who their ancestors were. And that’s fine for the Census—there are thousands of countries in the world and classifying people based on their country of origin would be a logistic nightmare.

But those categories don’t explain what it means to be diverse.
Just because people of the same race look similar and have the same skin color doesn’t mean they all have the same culture. Not all Native Americans came from the same tribe, and they all have different customs and traditions.

The same logic applies to white people. My skin color is white, but that’s not all that defines my heritage. I am Polish and Czech, and my family celebrates traditions from both of the cultures. My ancestors suffered abuse and discrimination too—my grandparents are the children of immigrants from their respective countries, and I am sure they had relatives in peril during WWII.

The Irish are white too, but they have a completely different set of traditions than my family. During the waves of immigration to this country, the Irish suffered discrimination too. Even though their skin color is white, most people do notconsider Irish  as diverse.
Almost every culture has had its hardships, if not in the US then throughout the world. By recognizing the struggles of others, including those of of light-skinned cultures, we do not belittle our own struggles. We simply become more open minded when we consider the plight of our fellow human beings.

Even though Mary Washington is predominantly white females, don’t make the mistake of saying we’re not diverse. There are Russian students and Dutch students and French students, all of whom have cultures that should be celebrated.

If this country wants to move past its history of racial oppression and prejudice, we should recognize and celebrate diverse cultures.
We just need to remember that diversity manifests in more than just skin color.

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