[diverse]When you ask a small child to tell you the meaning of diversity, a blank stare is often the result. In today’s society, young children rarely think it would be out of the ordinary to have friends of different races. But as we age, we learn about this idea of diversity, and the importance of eliminating stereotypes in our society. As we age, we learn diversity is not simply the inclusion of one person from each major race on a textbook cover. Diversity is not a tangible thing, but a concept, a philosophy: it is a way to approach daily life. In the world of higher education, diversity is an idea that is shoved down our throats, but nobody really tells us what it means. Job applications ask what diversity means to you, and many times, we grapple with how to answer such a loaded question. The quest to have true diversity within colleges and universities affects the enrollment policies; it affects the social calendars for extracurricular activities and even the food choices in the cafeterias.
Cultural events are described as “diverse,” which often makes attendees feel empowered and causes them to miss the point about the true meaning of such affairs. Diversity isn’t an untapped resource, sitting within souls and waiting for students to make just the right moves to cause it to become alive. Some people believe they embrace diversity because they don’t openly display prejudice against different races. Others think that racking up attendance at different cultural events will give them the requisite amount of acceptance and put them over the diversity threshold. As a concept, diversity is not forced inclusion of each race in a book, on a payroll, in a newspaper section. Diversity is providing coverage to marginalized groups and providing a voice to those who want or need it, regardless of race. The media does attempt to adhere to this, but perspectives are often lost in the news-editing process, which is often done by a white man.
Not all situations are interpreted in the same manner as a white male, but this is often the perspective we are fed by the media, since white men hold the majority of high-profile management positions in news media. It’s not completely the fault of the public that the exposed definition of diversity is skewed. It comes down to the media.
Objectivity is a virtue preached by most news outlets and journalism teachers; aspiring writers and broadcasters are told about the importance of leaving oneself out of a story and telling “both sides.” In truth, there are rarely only two sides to a story; there can be three, four or eight. Diversity literally means “different from,” and with that definition in mind, reporters need to seek to find out what makes us so different from each other, and not just in outward terms of race. Reporters shouldn’t run to the easiest sources or the ones with which they identify. As the news media, reporters are responsible for giving those groups with a minority voice the chance to speak.
Because February is Black History Month and Chicano History Month, it can be expected the token stories about these racial groups will surface in the newspapers and on television. It’s as if because the calendar has designated the month of February as such, media coverage will be given to these groups. But what about when February ends? Will the media coverage end with it? In addition, who qualifies for this media coverage? Will only those who are 100 percent African-American be questioned about how they celebrate Black History Month, if at all?
Racial identification will also continue to be a societal issue. As time passes and more and more people come to America from across the world, it is rare that people will identify with only one race. Individuals cannot be quantified and sorted into neat categories based on their racial identifications; we’re not expendable like that. We chafe at being forced to define ourselves as skilled at one thing – well, I can sing, but I can also dance – and we are defiant in the face of anyone who has the nerve to try to demean or compartmentalize our many talents, skills and strengths. And yet we often are able to choose only one box on a form to describe our race.
As a society, we have made incredible strides in creating a governmental body that is more reflective of the components of this country. Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House. The suspense is building as to the nominees for the 2008 presidential race: there is a woman and a black man, among others, who will be clambering for the Democratic bid. Thirty years ago, the idea of that would have been ludicrous in the eyes of most Americans; now, it seems there are no limits for what anyone of any race can accomplish. As rosy as this sentiment is, some will fail to accept the concept of diversity, and these limits will erect barriers between citizens and ensure that existing walls will remain. To embody diversity, one should approach the traditions of different cultures with an open mind and recognize it’s all right to feel a little uncomfortable about it. The media has spent so much time focusing on how different everyone is that it is no small wonder why it is such a difficult thing to forget.

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