Jul. 23, 2014

The true meaning of diversity

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March 31, 2014

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Back during my Model United Nations days in high school, my team discussed the heavily debated topic of affirmative action. I spoke out against this topic as a high school sophomore, strictly promoting equality in the college admissions process. My Model U.N. advisor — after several students gave speeches against affirmative action for the same reason — told us that we would all be thankful for affirmative action as college students. He told us all that as college students, we should strive for an environment that embodies diversity.

I attempted to look past my sheltered lens, as I grew up in a typical middle-class, predominantly white New Jersey suburb, where most students wore the most popular, expensive brands and drove Honda Civics. My parents continued to provide me with the standard rhetoric that when I got to college, I would be exposed to many different people with many different backgrounds. They tried to teach me to be non-judgmental, as everyone has a different story that made them who they are today, and not all students were given as many opportunities as myself and other students in my community.

The College of William and Mary is completely blind in the college admissions process with the exception of gender. About 55 percent of the student body is made up of females. Roughly 70 percent of students live in state, while 30 percent live out of state. 30 percent are students of color. These statistics could be alarming to any perspective student — as they were to me — and these percentages objectively revealed to me that there would be little to no ethnic, gender and potentially socio-economic diversity.

I was completely wrong. Despite such a high volume of students from the same geographic area, I have yet to meet the typical “NOVA” student. While the College has a high percentage of white students, every student has a different story, family life and personality.

My government professor recently asked students in my class to raise their hands if their parents’ socio-economic backgrounds would fall under upper or upper-middle class. More than half of my 30-person class raised their hands, and I was completely surprised. The attitudes, appearances, mannerisms and political ideologies do not match the stereotypical, but false, viewpoints of the typical upper-class student.

I learned that, while the College does not have affirmative action policies in place, this campus is exploding with different personalities, opportunities and cultures. It was through this demonstration that I learned differences in race, gender and socio-economic status do not exemplify diversity. Diversity is truly showcased through the personalities of people, unique due to differences in upbringing and DNA.

Reaching statistical quotas on race and incomes will not ensure diversity any more than a unique response to a college admissions essay will. Institutions, in both college and the workforce, believe showcasing diversity through numbers will convince society that racism, sexism and prejudices do not exist. Rather, these physical differences are just a drop in the pond of diversity. Diversity entails much more than the color of your skin or how much money your parents make.

I have had the privilege of coming across the most vibrant, unique, passionate and inspiring people during my short time on campus. While my high school Model U.N. advisor was correct that I would one day be thankful for the diversity on my campus, he was wrong that it would be due to affirmative action.

Email Daria Grastara at dagrastara@email.wm.edu.

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About Author

Daria Grastara

Daria Grastara

(48) Readers Comments

  1. Not Amused
    April 1, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    So the lesson you've learned is that conditions for diversity are sufficiently met merely so long as people are not clones of one another? You have a lot to learn about diversity. It's easy for you to say as a privileged, white girl that "physical differences are just a drop in the pond of diversity," but I'm sure if you were a member of a marginalized, disadvantaged group you wouldn't be so thrilled about more than 50% of your class being rich, NOVA kids.

  2. Student
    April 1, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    #stopwhitepeople2k14

  3. wmlady12345678
    April 1, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    guys, I think we can all agree with Daria that we need more diverse people like him on our campus

  4. student
    April 1, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    i really hope it is

  5. sick of white nonsense
    April 1, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    *white person voice* affirmative action is unnecessary. You see, every person has their own story, and i believe these two thoughts are in some way connected

  6. Jessica Colbert
    April 2, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    I think I facepalmed so hard that my hand went through my forehead. I might be dead. Does that make me ~*diverse*~

  7. arvin
    April 2, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    I honestly thought this was an April Fools joke when I started reading it. Shame on the Flat Hat for either 1) being too shortsighted to realize the ramifications of posting such an **edgy** article or 2) exploiting a hot-button issue for click-bait. There are surely more constructive ways to continue a discussion of diversity on William & Mary's campus. I don't think the author had any malicious intentions in writing this piece -- she does not deserve to be shamed as a person. In no way is that beneficial for any party involved. Let's use this as an opportunity to educate, rather than mock.

    • actually
      April 2, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      It isn't our job to educate. But you're right, she doesn't have to be shamed as a person, but the systems that allowed her to come up believing this certainly do need to get a firm kick.

  8. C'mon people
    April 2, 2014 at 3:10 AM

    Stop playing the victim. Diversity means more than skin color. Just because you're a minority students doesn't mean you didn't have an upper middle class NOVA upbringing and just because you're white doesn't mean your life is easy. There may not be a lot of racial diversity on campus but there sure is a lot of diversity in life experiences.

  9. Humanitarian
    April 2, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    Personally disgusted by the reactions I've seen here in the comments and on Facebook. I doubt this girl wrote this piece from a place of malice, so why must everyone be so friggin rude? We're all just humans. Although I could've down without the affirmative action talk, to me this piece seems more of a journal entry -- a commentary about how diversity can be seen through more than just race/ethnicity. No where in this article does this girl say "this college is diverse enough, we need not do more". It's a cute little piece about everyone loving each other for who they are blah blah blah. Not gonna win a Pulitzer, but not nearly as big of a deal as everyone seems to think it is. Everyone needs to calm. their.tits.

  10. Minority Student
    April 2, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    No one said that wealthy, white NOVA kids all cannot comprehend the experiences of minorities-- a lot of wealthy, white NOVA kids have expressed anger and frustration with this article because they appreciate what diversity REALLY is, and know how to acknowledge their privilege while still being an ally to the underrepresented. Yes, you can be a rich, civic-driving white NOVA kid and still understand the experiences of others less privileged than yourself. Are you happy? That doesn't change the fact that the author's article clearly illustrates an ignorance to the experiences of the students who actually represent diversity on this campus: students of color, students coming from socioeconomic backgrounds where wearing "all the expensive brands and driving Honda Civics" was an impossibility growing up, and students who fall into both categories (of which there are many, SURPRISE!). To clarify: the author of this article is the only person under scrutiny here, not the entire wealthy, white population of NOVA, or really even the rest of this school.

  11. A Human
    April 2, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    ---"But like you do realize that being a white student means you can't comprehend the experience of a minority student" No, it doesn't. I am a Jewish woman who grew up with a physical disability, a chronic mental health disorder, and a past history of sexual abuse. I'll be damned if my being white invalidates those experiences or makes me any less informed on the adversities of minorities. I CAN comprehend it. I simply don't agree with you. ---"Racism is involved in every single aspect of my life as a black student." Yes, it is, and that's a problem. But that doesn't entitle you to stereotype or insult others' abilities to understand complex issues. Nor does that approach really solve anything. ---"So don't try to tone police peoples ~opinions~ in response to this "opinion." It's incredibly hypocritical of you to tell others not to challenge your opinion, while doing the same to the author of this article and to myself. While I disagree with your definition of racism, I do respect your point of view and the adversities you've faced. I ask for that same respect - not to be silenced or told that my views are invalid. ---"So, y'all can stop playing the victim card." Again, very hypocritical. This is essentially a game of "who's the bigger victim" and that's a misguided approach to solving these issues. You're assuming that the author hasn't faced anything as bad as systematic racism on the basis of her skin color, when in fact you know nothing about her. I believe that to be racism, and while you may disagree with my on the semantics, surely you can see my point. ---"You are not being threatened." The author has actually been receiving hatemail for this, and is being attacked on multiple different modalities (Flat Hat, Facebook, Twitter). That's wrong, whether you disagree with her opinions or not.

    • Student
      April 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      No one ever said that being white invalidates other identities that you have. We're not playing oppression Olympics here. Being Jewish, a woman, having a physical disability, a mental health disorder, and being a survivor do put you into many systemically oppressed groups. But we're talking about race. And those identities DO NOT make you able to understand what it is like to be a person of color on this campus. Us telling you that you cannot understand the experiences of people of color is in NO WAY invalidating the other parts of your identity that are oppressed. You just can't have every oppressed identity. You may be informed on the adversities of some minorities, but not people of color.

      • Student
        April 2, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        How do you know it's better for non-color individuals? If whites can't understand blacks, then blacks can't understand whites. Wait! What about bi-color children? Are they the bridge between the color and non-color? *Edit* Please note the mocking tone in the second questions. The first question was genuine.

        • sick of white nonsense
          April 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM

          "bi-color"? "non-color"? jesus CHRIST

      • A Human
        April 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        Well, I guess that means we can't have a discussion about this, since apparently racial discrimination is so different from other forms of discrimination and so complex that I cannot possibly understand it. Unless of course I agree with you. Then I understand it perfectly.

        • annoyed student
          April 2, 2014 at 12:19 PM

          As an able-bodied student, I would not pretend to understand what it's like to be a disabled student in a world that's made for able bodied people. That's my privilege. Same with my privilege as a cis person and as a neurotypical person. The list goes on. Non-color student means a white student, first of all. Second of all it is because we understand what it means to have privilege. We all deal with shit but as a white student, you'll never understand what it's like to be a person of color. Ever. As much as you want to think you will you never will because you'll never BE a person of color and that's just the truth of the matter. I'll never understand the complexities of an oppression that I don't have to face. You'll never understand what it's like to be black (or any other non white race) on this campus./in the world. Racial discrimination is different for a lot of reasons but that's not even 'Student's' point. The point is that you don't understand THIS oppression which is what this discussion is centered around. You can't just say that because you've faced other things you basically get what it's like to be a student of color because you don't and you never will. Again, when someone writes something about race ESPECIALLY from a privileged perspective, expect those who are actually affected by this kind of discussion to have plenty to say about it.

          • Laughing :)
            April 2, 2014 at 12:25 PM

            Are whites not discriminated against in Asia, South America and the Middle East?

          • Student
            April 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM

            Read a book on internalized racism and the pervasiveness white dominance in POC spaces as a result of colonialism and global white supremacy.

        • Student
          April 2, 2014 at 2:45 PM

          NO ONE IS SAYING DON'T TALK ABOUT IT. But if I said "I'm black I know what oppression feels like thus I know what it feels like to be a paraplegic and oppressed from that" it would sound like utter shit.

  12. Laughing :)
    April 2, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Wow! I had no idea a fraternity was being mean to you. When they treat women with such respect? If you actually think you are being discriminated against, call a lawyer. Get over YOURself. ;)

    • annoyed student
      April 2, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      ...what are you talking about?

      • Laughing :)
        April 2, 2014 at 12:22 PM

        If you are being discriminated against...call a lawyer. Is that a hard concept?

        • annoyed student
          April 2, 2014 at 12:32 PM

          "Wow! I had no idea a fraternity was being mean to you. When they treat women with such respect?" ...what are you talking about?

          • Laughing :)
            April 2, 2014 at 12:39 PM

            Fraternity's disrespect a wide range of individuals, from non-athletic men, to gay men, to women. Why would their insensitivity of race be any more or less egregious?

          • annoyed student
            April 2, 2014 at 12:43 PM

            I never mentioned fraternities. I still don't know why you're talking about this. But also I don't really care either.

          • Laughing :)
            April 2, 2014 at 12:44 PM

            "racist themes at greek life parties anyone? jungle fever signs on peoples doors anyone? BET v CMT anyone?" Is greek life not fraternities? I am starting to think you're an idiot :)

          • annoyed student
            April 2, 2014 at 1:07 PM

            yeah im not wasting my time with you. if you'd like to educate yourself you can read plenty of what ive said on this topic but im not about to sit here and try to educate your dumbass.

          • Laughing :)
            April 2, 2014 at 4:26 PM

            Awww! Somebody's temper got the better of them! :)

  13. objective student
    April 2, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Nothing wrong with stating your opinion Daria. Too many people here like to say terrible things behind a computer screen. I think your viewpoint is unique and I'm glad I read your article.

  14. You're Stupid
    April 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    To the people responding to this "racism(?)" with calling this girl racial slurs, you are ignorant and should never voice yourself in a racial discussion again. Anyone that claims to be THIS offended by "racism" shouldn't be going on to then racially objectify a girl that you don't even know. YOU are the problem here. YOU are what is causing race to still be an issue. This girl is just arguing for diversity, and she is right. Racism isn't exclusively reserved for hating on minorities. It's discriminating ANYONE due to their race. Any time an Asian person has been assumed to be smart because they're Asian: Racism. Any time someone calls a blond-haired blue-eyed white person an Aryan or a Nazi is JUST AS RACIST. If you are too blinded by your own ignorance and intolerance to see that, you are clearly not educated enough to voice yourself in this subject matter. Furthermore, you will only be as offended by a statement as you let yourself be. MLK Jr. was called all kinds of racial slurs on the daily, and he didn't let it bother him. So why do you? P.S. : Someone assuming you are smart because you are Asian really isn't that bad, you know, compared to ALL THE OTHER ISSUES THAT ARE GOING ON IN THE WORLD THAT YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT. So STFU, and PREACH WHAT YOU SPEAK, YOU HYPOCRITICAL BIGOTS.

    • Disappointed Student
      April 2, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      how much of that has happened to you? you are such a racist. i can only afford it here because I have scholarship. but all white people are super rich, huh?

      • Disappointed Student
        April 2, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        i'm not saying i'm not privileged. And i completely agree that that instance of the rich white kid was horrendous. I took that statement as all white people being rich and being sad about being paid to ride horses, so I apologize because I thought you were trying to make a huge generalization about white people being spoiled brats.

        • annoyed student
          April 2, 2014 at 1:44 PM

          then stop complaining about a word that has no historical significance and pay attention to actual things, like death, that people of color face. you dont go around feeling sorry for rich people, do you? its not classism to not want to hear rich people complain about money is it? no. im sick of these tired arguments about how much racism white folks face. isolated incidents though they do happen does not equal hundreds of years of organized oppression adn you cant undo 300 years of this shit in 50.

  15. You're Stupid
    April 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Racist.

    • Student
      April 2, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      FALSE EQUIVALENCE.

  16. You're Stupid
    April 2, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    Racist asshole.

  17. Disappointed Student
    April 2, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    I can't post on my phone, but if I send you what I want to post, can you please post it as disappointed student On this campus, undoubtedly people have been discriminated against...including white people. I've gone to CSO parties and have had people whispering to their friends, "who brought all the white people?" And I've lived with someone who initially did not like me because of the color of my skin, assuming all white people are nasty bigots who "will never understand." Though I don't know how you feel when you get discriminated against, I know how I do. Ignoring all the racist comments towards white people on here, I know what it is like to be judged, disliked, and treated differently due to the color of my skin. So maybe you all should think before you blatantly assume that you know what it's like to be white. I'm not saying I don't have priviledges...but were at william and mary...every single one of us is priviledged in that regard. What I am saying is racism goes both ways and if you want to end it, you should stop being racist yourselves. I came to this school because we were one tribe, one family. Maybe you all should start acting like it. This is unbelievable.

  18. Student
    April 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    singular instances are different than systemic cultural norms. and sources or it didn't happen.

    • Disappointed Student
      April 2, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      FROM THE PAST. you're talking over 50 years ago...i'm pretty sure none of us are 60 here, soooo let's not judge an entire race based off of what a group of their race did decades before they even came into existence.

  19. multicultural and bothered
    April 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    wow, this article is completely ignorant about what diversity is. I hope the author takes time to really research and talk to students about diversity.

  20. Student
    April 2, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    unless of course you're being satirical because your claim is kind of a joke.

    • Disappointed Student
      April 2, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      regardless of your opinion, how many people do you know that took part in doing such? Can you blame entire race for what their ancestors did in the past?

  21. Disappointed Student
    April 2, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    On this campus, undoubtedly people have been discriminated against...including white people. I've gone to CSO parties and have had people whispering to their friends, "who brought all the white people?" And I've lived with someone who initially did not like me because of the color of my skin, assuming all white people are nasty bigots who "will never understand." Though I don't know how you feel when you get discriminated against, I know how I do. Ignoring all the racist comments towards white people on here, I know what it is like to be judged, disliked, and treated differently due to the color of my skin. So maybe you all should think before you blatantly assume that you know what it's like to be white. I'm not saying I don't have privileges...but were at william and mary...every single one of us is privileged in that regard. What I am saying is racism goes both ways and if you want to end it, you should stop being racist yourselves. I came to this school because we were one tribe, one family. Maybe you all should start acting like it. This is unbelievable.

  22. Concerned Student
    April 2, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Whatever happened to the Flat Hat comment policy? I call for Flat Hat representatives to immediately enforce the policy and remove all comments deemed to be "obscene, frivolous or off topic ."

  23. Humanitarian
    April 3, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    No, get over YOURself. This poor girl did not write this article as a social commentary on race, ethnicity or affirmative action. It's a tiny piece about how differences can be seen in all different ways. It's cute. It's small. It's harmless. Your comments are hostile and hateful. I don't think anybody disagrees with the fact that being a minority is tough, diversity is still lacking at W&M and that racism is institutionalized within society. But your comments further institutionalize that racism by marginalizing anyone who doesn't share your skin color. Stating that white people (or God forbid, someone of a different skin color than yours) cannot comprehend your feelings is absurd. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that all white people are incapable of feeling empathy.

  24. The Flat Hat
    April 3, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    The Flat Hat welcomes informed and respectful comments on its online content. All comments deemed obscene, frivolous or off topic have been removed. Concerns may be emailed to flathat.editor@gmail.com. http://flathatnews.com/online-comment-policy/

  25. Curious
    April 3, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Has this piece been edited in any way since it was first published? I'm just curious, replies appreciated!

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