Breaking the surface: diversity in terms of discourse

Avid Khorramian, Web Managing Editor

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I feel as though people at this University often take the term “diversity” at its absolute surface. Individuals immediately consider race, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation, failing to understand that diversity is much more than those three facets. The true sense of diversity that I maintain–at least personally–is diversity in perspectives, knowledge, and culture that people are willing to express and share with others. If someone has a last name that appears foreign but maintains the exact same views, background, knowledge, and culture as an individual with the last name Smith, I don’t think that is necessarily benefiting our campus’s diversity. Similarly, if someone is middle-class rather than upper-class, but has been spoiled by his or her parents while growing up, has never had to work a day in his or her life, and has never been in a situation where his or her family’s financial situation served as an obstacle or a restricting force, he or she again would not constitute diversity within our student population in my opinion.

Last year, someone called me “exotic” because people at this school apparently immediately consider someone who is Middle Eastern diverse. The truth is, I do consider myself diverse in the context of this student body, but that is only because I am currently functioning in a highly homogenous environment. In the context of my hometown of Los Angeles or of the public high school I attended, I would not hold myself as a clear factor of diversity.

However, my position as a form of diversity on this campus by no means stems from my name or the fact that I apparently look Middle Eastern. Rather, it’s the fact that I come from a family that switches seamlessly between languages at home and discusses Iranian politics and current affairs at the dinner table. It’s because I can draw from my culture and offer insight and a differing perspective. Furthermore, I consider myself diverse on this campus because, although I could absolutely pull the funds together to buy myself a fantastic new Lilly Pulitzer dress, I choose not to because I express myself in a way that differs from the norm. I would rather spend my money on clothes that support what I maintain to be my identity instead of splurging to conform.

My diversity stems from the fact that I attended a public school that brought kids from underprivileged neighborhoods across the city via buses to provide them with the opportunity to receive a decent education. I grew up understanding that the public schooling I received that involved me sitting in a room with no less than 30 other students at a time and being nothing but a number in a 2,800 student body was an absolute privilege because I was on a safe campus. A diverse perspective is as simple as understanding how truly lucky we are to attend a university like this one, where the class sizes are small, professors give us the time of day, and we don’t need to be in college for five years just because it’s impossible to get the classes we need each semester.

I consider myself diverse because I can offer the West Coast perspective, the Jewish perspective, the Iranian-American perspective, and the probably-not-as-wealthy-as-the-majority-of-the-student-body perspective. That isn’t something you can gauge by looking at me or looking at the race box I checked on the Common App. I could very easily be from the West Coast, be Jewish, be an Iranian American, and be a bit less well-off than the majority of the student body, but have absolutely nothing to say about it. I could have just as easily grown up less actively engaged in my culture and what makes me who I am. Although I might seem diverse to some on paper, it’s the fact that I am able to take my background and formulate opinions and views that I am able to relay to others that truly implies my diversity.

These surface components are by no means indicative of diversity, and I genuinely believe that people need to stop focusing so much on the labels that they might immediately associate with diversity. I was filed under the “White” race box when I applied to this school and despite this I still believe I convey a form of diversity. I believe that the lack of diversity at this school can be solved by reverting our attention from labels to discourse. The school should focus on increasing the number of people who can offer a unique perspective and break the very prevalent homogeneous pool of views by caring enough about their personal identity to share their opinions and knowledge with others.

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