Mercer’s Student Government Association elections have brought the topic of diversity back into discussion, so I feel it is important to talk about this ambiguous word.
I have had the recent experience of being able to attend a community forum hosted by Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism that explored why Macon-Bibb County schools are becoming resegregated.
During one of these forums, a Macon resident made an important point as to what diversity actually means and why it is important. She said that minority students often need to be in school with white students in order to get the resources that they need for better learning.
I grew up in a county that was filled with both predominantly black and predominantly white schools, so it was a moment of clarity for me to reflect and see how disproportionately funding seemed to be allocated between the two.
This point struck a chord with me, because people talk about diversity all the time, but never do justice of explaining why diversity is a necessity. For some people it may not be, but for many it is ever so crucial.
We can’t deny that we live in a country that often affords opportunities to certain members based solely on the color of their skin or economic background; there are around 400 years of history to disprove anyone who would even think of arguing against that.
Accepting that is the first step to understanding why diversity means so much to so many people and why there are so many SGA candidates running on this platform.
The word diversity has been thrown around by SGA Senatorial and Presidential candidates alike.
In my personal opinion, these claims get thrown around so much that they hardly even seem to have substance anymore.
What do you think about when you hear the word diversity? Is it the image one of those promotional university pamphlets that has multi-ethnic students laughing together while also studying in a park?
If that is the image you get, then you should ask yourself if that is what diversity really means or if there is something more to the subject than just having a plethora of varied skin tones?
The point is that championing for diversity does nothing if you’re not aware of what makes diversity so important or what it even looks like.
So instead of arguing for more diversity, I would like to move beyond just that and see more talk of why diversity is such an important theme in the first place.
In America, minorities have a difficult time succeeding unless they have an understanding of white culture and society, but the cultures of other Americans are often successfully ignored or even trivialized until it is incorporated into the mainstream culture (take how cornrows were considered ghetto until Kendall Jenner wore them or how popular henna tattoos have become recently).
In the same way that minority students need white students in their schools in order to get proper resources for learning, minorities don’t always have an equal voice or representation unless they have white counterparts who share the same message as them.
To me, diversity is important because it allows for the sharing of thoughts and ideas among everyone, so that everyone’s voice can receive the respectable amount of attention they deserve.
People come from different backgrounds and have different needs; it is not always race based even though most of the time this dialogue comes up it is centered around race. Many people come from different socioeconomic backgrounds as well, that others have not experienced and affect what their needs may be.
If you plan on voting for an SGA ticket that promises diversity on its platform, it is important to not to just vote for diversity because it has a positive connotation and it sounds good.
Be sure to understand the real implications of what diversity would mean for you and for other Mercerians.
You can vote for SGA here.