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The meaning of diversity

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

Diversity. I had this notion that it was all about race and ethnicity and culture, but after further contemplation, I’ve come to question the true nature of its form.

I have lived in the Midwest for pretty much the entirety of my life. For those of you who are not aware, minorities in the Midwest are actually minorities. If you are not convinced, keep in mind that I was one of the five Asian kids in my entire fifth grade class consisting of about 250 kids. Inevitably, this molded the perception I held of the world from a young age. I thought that because of my skin color, my speech pattern, my culture, I was the outlier in the sea of normalcy. So when I went to Korea to visit my family two summers ago, I thought I would fit right in. I was Korean: same skin color, same language, same heritage. I could not have been more wrong.

As soon as I stepped foot onto Korean soil, I expected to feel something similar to a homecoming. But that was it. I did not feel like I belonged. Granted, it had been 10 years since I last visited the country. Inevitably, a lot had changed, but I felt so obviously alien. It was not as though the food or the scenery felt foreign. It was me. The way my family viewed me, the way I was treated by the locals was, for lack of a more fitting word, different. Do not get me wrong; I was treated fairly and with plenty of love. It was simply that I could feel a clear divide between myself and the people. My culture was different from what was considered to be socially-accepted Korean culture, and so despite being genetically Korean, I was not actually a “true” Korean. People could tell from how I walked in the streets that I was, and I quote, “one of those Korean-Americans.” In the place where I am from, in the place where my history originates from, I was merely another tourist. This hurt.

But then I got to thinking. I am of the same skin color, the same heritage, the same culture as these people. Despite this fact, I was the diversity, the outsider in the sea of normalcy, yet again. So what really constitutes diversity?

To me, diversity has molded into a fluid form where definition is no longer concrete. At this moment in time, I believe that diversity is not about race or economic status or any of these categorizing factors. Diversity is about the awareness of individualism and the acceptance that different is OK. No two people on this earth share every aspect of themselves, of their lives, as equal; there is no “same.” Each person is their own, and in this aspect we are all in the minority, we all contribute to the diverse nature of the human entity.

So, what is diversity? It is every single aspect of the human condition that differentiates us all from one another, and inevitably we are all a part of it.

Alice Kwak is a sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected] 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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