I firmly believe in the truth and validity of everyone’s experience. Perception constitutes reality. That is why I have chosen to discuss this issue. I am fully aware of the #MinoritiesAtMadison movement, and I am also aware of the article that my fellow blogger, truequeerlatte, has written for ShoutOut. Let me be clear: It is not my intention to discredit this movement, or the experiences held by those involved. I simply wish to offer a different view…my view.
The word “diversity” encompasses more than just race. The concept of diversity means acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These differences not only encompass race and ethnicity, but the dimensions of gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies. Diversity is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding individuality, and moving beyond simple tolerance to the celebration of differences within each and every person. If we are discussing diversity in this context, I cannot even begin to fathom dubbing JMU a university that is in opposition of this view.
My experience at this school has been nothing but diverse. I have encountered students, faculty, and members of Harrisonburg’s community that have challenged my beliefs, outlooks, and attitudes about life. This may be because of the people that I associate with, the organizations I am a part of, or the classes I have taken. Call me blind, but I do not see a lack of diversity on JMU’s campus. Take, for example, the a cappella group I have been a member of for the past 6 semesters.
To the person who is only using their eyes to assess diversity, Low Key is diverse. Of our 17 members, 2 are black, 2 are Indian-American, 1 is Iranian-American, 1 is half Serbian/Croatian and half Russian/Jew, 1 is Afghan, 1 is Korean, 1 is Vietnamese, and 8 are white. Statistically speaking, 53% of this organization is “diverse.” Now, to the person who does not consider diversity to be a concept that is wholly dependent on race, Low Key is diverse. We were all raised in different states, different families, different households. We are all involved in different organizations on campus, and have very different majors: Alpha Sigma Alpha, Student Ambassadors, UPB, SafeRides, Theater, Communications, SMAD, Physics, Foreign Languages, Geology…the list goes on. We all believe and experience different things, understand and learn in different ways. One thing unites us: music. One thing keeps us together: family. We are a family because we accept each other, respect each other, love each other and celebrate each other for our differences. If this is not a demonstration of diversity, at all of its levels, I am not sure what is.
Diversity means so much more than just acknowledging, or tolerating, difference. Diversity is the embodiment of a set of conscious practices that involves awareness. I know JMU to be a place where students, organizations, and faculty accept, understand, and engage this concept in their daily lives. I also know JMU’s diversity to stretch far beyond this statistic:
Diversity is more complex than difference in race. Let’s talk about spreading an awareness of that idea. It is a known fact that JMU’s campus is overwhelmingly white, but why should being white make someone any less diverse than their black, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Iranian, or Afghan counterpart? In my mind, the answer is, it doesn’t. Diversity is around us, we just need to know what to look for.