What Does Diversity Mean to You?

November 18, 2020

By Taj Jensen ’21
A selected piece from the 8th Annual Multicultural Performance Showcase

Google defines diversity as the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations. To me, diversity is an ever-present thought about how I can feel heard, respected, and included. As a person of color, I have become accustomed to being comfortable with discomfort. Although I find this ability amazing, as humans, we all seek comfort and commonalities with others.

“One might think diversity and affinity are contradictory. I see the two as parallel to one another.”

There’s little that one can do to get rid of the pit in your stomach when you feel like an outsider. It was my freshman year at Wheeler when I was nudged by an older black student to go to the black affinity meeting. This experience was foreign to me even though I had attended Wheeler since 5th grade. I had entered the boardroom across the street from the main campus, and all doubt about myself and that heaviness in my stomach went away. The relaxed atmosphere had shed the rigidity of the average school day. I had seen each person in the room before, but they all had a different buzz to them since this was their safe space too. This group understood my perspective without even having to hear my story – I wasn’t different here. I didn’t have to represent every other black person or do anything extra. I was free to laugh and talk without judgment.

This was one of my first brave spaces where I could explore who I really was. I used this space to gain confidence, continuing to go to meetings while trying to become more involved. Without enough diversity, there can’t be these safe spaces for marginalized people to find a voice in the larger community. Inclusion is a strong tool that everyone needs to feel capable of tackling their challenges and accomplishing whatever goal they set. Now because of inclusion, I have the opportunity to be a student that nudges a younger generation to find their voice. This will be my legacy; this will be my way of leaving a place better than I found it.

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