Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls very appropriately in January, a time for reflection of the year past as well as a projection of our hopes for the coming year. Every year our community and our country strive to appreciate his words and expand upon them, giving them new meaning and new depth. Through the emotion, hardship, and determination of our country to right the wrongs of our past constantly comes the word diversity, and with that, the knowledge of new perspectives’ abilities to change the nature and character of our world.
It is heard throughout the world of business, sports, education and politics; we need more diversity. Colleges need more diversity on their campuses. The biggest corporations in the world need more diverse leadership because it is established that the presence of minorities brings new thought as well as change. The current American mindset supports that diversity, through minorities, can singlehandedly add depth and light to our world. To gain new perspective truthfully depends upon our community’s ability to use our diversity, to understand the meaning of being a minority, and to allow it to expand our character and beliefs.
In diverse environments, it is very common to think that because I am of this race, I need to look like, think like, dress like, or behave like the other members in my racial community. That I must remain loyal and allegiant to those who look like me or have the same sexual orientation, etc. Staying united and representing our minority is a necessity. I am my minority first, me second. In these thoughts therein, lie the realities of the ideals of diversity.
The world of pop culture and media has also touched on the pressure of minorities, to believe based on what I am rather than who I am. An example prominent to me and personally reflection provoking was an episode of ABC’s political drama, Scandal. Following the national upset of the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the actors and producers of the show aired an episode entitled, “The Lawn Chair”; in this episode a black father is featured demanding answers regarding his newly-deceased teenage son, shot and killed in a lawn chair by the weapon of a white police officer. The protagonist of the series, Olivia, a savvy, intellectual, and articulate black woman, arrived at the crime scene and immediately felt pressure to partake in protest and the chanting of slogans. The other protesters denounced and shamed her for not showing outrage, and, in their eyes, not being a real black person. She then felt she needed to be loyal and joined in behind the yellow tape demanding no more black lives under attack.
Furthermore, Loomis students who returned from a leadership conference dealing with ideas in diversity leadership brought back new perspectives regarding the outlooks of all. Everyone in this world truly has a unique outlook. The sexualities, religions, genders, ethnicities, etc. with which different people identify are most often not seen through physical appearance. Students from the conference explained a silent exercise they participated in where the 1,600 students shared which minorities they identified as, truly showing how face value assumptions say very little about identity. Louisa Gao ’17, specifically noted an activity in which they were asked to place themselves around the room depending on their degree of agreement with a certain statement. They all responded to the same statement and could see how many different views were among them.
Loomis Chaffee has made, and succeeded in, the effort to make our school diverse and accepting. Dr. Maura Cullen offered us a metaphor in her powerful convocation, expressing that we need not step on one another to step up. It is time we, as students, continue the effort to be who we are rather than what we are.