Friday, October 31, 2003

My first published piece

Browsing the hard drive of an old computer is the corollary to opening an old trunk of personal memorabilia. I thought that I had lost it forever, but I found my first published piece, an editorial that I wrote for the college newspaper. This received quite a bit of commentary when it was first published; I chastised the "lip service" paid to the benefits of diversity and how students did not capitalize on its breadth and depth. Not only this, but students misconstrued diversity for advantages that disrupted the harmony that the university was trying hard to cultivate and promote. I reflected for the moment on this piece, as I thought about the circumstances - returning from a life-changing experience abroad - that provoked the words. And then another two hours passed wandering through the other writings and documents trapped on my old computer. Nostalgia is the same, regardless of its physical (old trunk) or virtual (computer files) form. And now, here is the first piece, published again with permission of the copyright holder :)

Look beyond simplistic definitions

DIVERSITY: Varied resources, experiences - not skin tone, culture -
should be our defining characteristics

By xxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx

I have often wondered what it would have been like to go
to a different university, perhaps a school closer to home.
I wonder what common ideologies would be accepted by
the student body if I had attended a school in Virginia or
South Dakota. Definitely, my college experience would
have been much different, but how different? What would
be the perspective if I had attended school in a
homogenous environment?

Honestly, I do not know if a homogenous environment
really exists. I have heard it many times before - those
people in the South and the Midwest do not really
understand what diversity is all about. What would it be
like if I was not white, and I lived in Indiana? I think that
we all have something to share with each other, if only we
listen up. I have many friends who go to school in Ohio,
since that is where I am originally from. Sure, the college
population is predominantly white; "diversity" is virtually
nonexistent - or is it?

I have experienced many deep-impacting experiences at
UCLA, and I have enjoyed the education afforded me.
This is a wonderful institution which we attend, and it
offers a breadth of resources for education and
development. I have been able to build wonderful
relationships with people of so many different
backgrounds; I have been challenged to think about the
consequences of human actions and study the relationship
between humans and their communities. I have been given
an opportunity to challenge myself to become a
contributing member of society, and I am grateful for this
opportunity.

But amidst the laudable qualities of our university, there is
a repugnant undercurrent that I have observed for quite
some time. There seems to be a discontented feeling
among many students regarding various components of
our education, particularly dealing with diversity issues.

Diversity, in the definition of student groups at UCLA, is
defined by two major issues - race and culture. If one is
asked to describe oneself at UCLA, inevitably, that person
will reveal these things. There is nothing wrong with that;
in fact, that is a good starting point to embrace our
differences. But that is usually where it ends.

This is a travesty. Of the breadth and depth of resources
on campus, the varied experiences that all of us can share
with each other - it stops at skin color and cultural
heritage? Does that define me? In a strict sense, yes. I am
white. Big deal. I really don't care. What does matter to
me is that I am a second-generation Hungarian, that I
lived in Brazil and Peru when I was younger, that I hail
from Ohio, that I enjoy lots of different cultures, that I
have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning. But, I
guess that I am white.

I have seen this happen so many times; we stop learning
about each other before we ever begin. There is a subtle
ignorance exercised here, there is an underlying racism
present. Why do we impose limitations on ourselves when
classifying each other? Unfortunately, it happens more
than I care to admit. College should be a time of
self-discovery, a time of personal exploration that should
create centered, sophisticated individuals able to contribute
to the greater good of society. I see many stunted
individuals walking around this campus, too involved in
issues surrounding their insular environment to notice the
damage it is doing to the campus community. There is so
much more than just race and culture; we are all so much
more than that.

Perhaps I am discounting the opportunities that I have had,
to travel and live in various parts of the world. I have been
able to witness different peoples around the globe; I have
been able to step outside my protected world to get a
perspective on humanity. I have been lucky in that
respect. What I have learned is that the multiculturalism
that we truly need to address is that of different people.
This is an individualistic thing; every person brings with
them an identity, and it is an identity that transcends
physical description. It is fruitless to stop the search
before it has even begun.

What if UCLA admitted more out-of-state students,
maybe those students from Virginia and South Dakota?
What if UCLA admitted more international students,
students with an international perspective? What if UCLA
admitted more students concerned with developing
themselves to help their communities rather than students
concerned with the injustices that have wronged them?
What if UCLA looked beyond the squabbling and used its
resources to draw from each other and make us all better
people? What if UCLA students actually listened to each
other without various forms of requital?

Would that help us all see the diversity that truly exists on
this campus, around this country and in this world? Would
we finally be able to see that the issues affecting us affect
others in a totally different way? Would we finally learn
what it means to be empathetic and understanding of each
other? Ultimately, that is the quest of true multiculturalism
and diversity. Through difference we learn similarity,
through varied perspective, we see the same world.
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