Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Diversity Matters

Diversity is a word fraught with frustration. Why? Because to me it seems to be more of a power struggle between the "loser" of the history versus the "winner" of the history. On one hand the "winners" have to give up their power and admit that perhaps those "golden years" that's filled with so much nostalgia were not so golden after all, especially for the "losers" that struggled during those years. On the other hand, the "losers" are tired of feeling exotic and otherworldly and they are tired of feeling less than the winners, and they simply want for people outside their groups to understand their reality and what they have been feeling and experiencing. 

In 1994, I arrived to America from an Eastern European nation and had my own unique struggles in at first trying to fit in with the majority because that is what was expected; but later I discovered that I couldn't fit in with the American majority because of my name, my background, my emotions towards my own circumstances. During those years I felt alone and less than because I did not meet an American ideal of being thin, born here, blonde haired and blue eyed. Tired of feeling horrible, I stopped watching TV completely and threw myself even more into reading. 

While my struggles do not include being of a colored race or of being LGBTQIA? they do include struggle with myself, my background and how in the larger world, it's impossible to change identity and become someone else because what you were will continue to haunt you until death. My struggles included of only being known for one specific event during the five thousand year history of my background; they also included only knowing of the Cold War and of being perceived as an enemy because of the country I came from, and of having to explain to multitude of people about the place where I was raised.

It also included lack of understanding from some of my ex-friends who couldn't reconcile the idea that in Europe religion is not just beliefs but its a whole other culture and that people will never let go of your past. 

The shame, embarrassment as well as loneliness I experienced living here is not something I would wish anyone, and many times I wished that I could've met characters in books that I could relate to and understand while I was growing up. How nice it would be to meet a young girl in a book who had very similar background to mine and who helped me deal with learning English as well as feeling valued. How great it would have been if in my classes we could have gone deeper into the world history and focused on a lot more than just Eurocentric version that was constantly fed to us. 

It wasn't until college that my desires for knowing more about my background came true, but alas it is too late because by then my feelings of not being part of larger community and not being valued for self have deeply embedded in my psyche and are here to stay. 

I have a son of Asian and ethnic minority mixed in, and recalling those memories I experienced growing up here, I am scared that he will grow up with an eroded self-esteem just as I did and will also feel less than simply because his background will only be acknowledged either through one specific event or through the "exotic" culture his father came from. I am sad that he might be dealing with Asian men prejudices and that he will not be a confident young man as he is now as a baby. 

I am sure that everyone wants the best for the children, for them to feel proud of their background, traditions, culture and etc. but that pride should not come at the cost of being thought as greater than those who are different which is why diversity is important. 

In order to make people feel valued and heard, it is important to acknowledge differences and to push books that are far more than just reinforcing stereotypes, which means its important to read and talk about #ownvoices books. 

4 comments:

  1. I have such a hard time understanding why diversity is so hard for people to understand. To me it seems like just the absolute most basic common sense. I'm a white American, but ambiguous-looking enough that people often think I'm Latina or Hispanic. My mom is an immigrant, with English as her second language, and I grew up fairly poor in a non-mainstream conservative religion; I also have severe social anxiety and am just a general nerd. All of which is to say that I understand the shame, embarrassment, and loneliness, and I am LOVING the focus on diversity in books that's been developing over the last few years. I can barely even stand to read books by white men anymore, because I'm so hungry for other stories.

    (I discovered your blog just a few days ago, by the way, and felt like it was one I wanted to follow. So, hi! I'm Gwen.)

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  2. Happy you like my blog :) if you have any ideas or suggestions on how to improve it let me know :)

    Unfortunately many people do not grow up as outsiders :( thus they either can't or don't want to understand.

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    1. Forgot to say it, but nice to meet you :)

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  3. Thank you for writing this. <3 I love reading more personal post from bloggers I follow. Feels like I know you a little better now :)

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