Diversity 101

Some days, you just can't believe where you are and how far you've come. On these days, you can't help but reflect: on your experiences, on your choices, on who you are-you reflect on your own diversity. Sometimes I can't believe I am where I am-college. It still feels like I should be back to school shopping for my first day of 5th grade (I'm sure my mother would agree). Regardless, now that I am here, I'm taking classes off the beaten path of 8-3 Monday-Friday. Because I'm a freshman, my first round of courses are level 100 courses. Instead of labeling classes as level 1, 2, or 3, college tries to show it's bigger than high school by using numbers like 100, 200, and 300. Which brings us to the point of 101.

While Dalmatians are easy to count, course loads are a little more complicated to calculate. Good thing you only have one class today-and a level 100 at that. Welcome to Diversity 101: an introduction to the basics of defining a diverse person.

(A general rule of thumb: if the name is longer than it needs to be, the class is either pretty easy or very hard. There's very little room for a grey area in this case.)

Diversity is hard to define in one set statement. However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "the condition of having or being composed of differing elements." More simply put, diversity could be defined as from many, one.

When we picture a diverse person or people, the immediate thought tends to be a person of color or a person whose skin tone differs from your own. This seems to be the primary visual used to define diversity in schools and books. While racial diversity is an important aspect of diversity, it is not the sole aspect of diversity-there are also many other important parts that tend to be overlooked. It's easy to ignore what you can't see. Factors like sexuality, experience, culture, identity, and gender are also major components of diversity, yet they exist below the surface. They are hard to see, and thus, go overlooked.

"Out of sight, out of mind." While hidden, these features of diversity are often crucial to our own identity. They affect how we see ourselves, and how we engage with others. And clear or admitted combinations of these ideas tend to affect the way other people see us. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a legal scholar, has coined the term "intersectionality." This is the word Crenshaw uses to describe the ways different forms of identity--gender, race, etc--build up together to form the way a person may see or treat others. While we don't have enough time to talk about intersectionality in this class, we'll be sure to touch on it another time. I'd like this introduction to diversity to help you to think about your own self--how are you diverse? And, more importantly, what does diversity mean to you? Be sure to leave your thoughts for me to see. Now that I've, hopefully, taught you, I'd like you to teach me.