How we see it...
Last year, I participated in a class exchange day with Keystone High School, a school about 30 minutes away from Oberlin. I was excited to take part in this, and couldn’t wait to see what another high school was like. Upon arriving at Keystone High, my first reaction was, “Why are the students staring at me?” I spent the entire day wondering if there was something on my face that I forgotten to wipe off, or had I tripped walking up a flight of steps and had not noticed? Slowly, as the white students entered without being stared at, I started to realize that people were staring at me because I was the only black person there. I had never felt so uncomfortable and out of place in my life.
Contrary to Keystone, Oberlin High is diverse and has taught me to appreciate and accept different cultures and lifestyles. Sadly, I did not realize how important diversity is and the influence it has on people until I participated in the class exchange day with Keystone High School. Diversity is very important because it exists in most of the world. If one is not willing to accept or understand it, then life will be very hard for them to function in. Being around people of different race groups makes people less judgmental because different opinions and ideas are being expressed. The same idea one thinks is right might not be so right when they hear from others that are different from themselves.
Diversity would also put an end to stupid stereotypes that are embedded in people’s beliefs about certain races, like all black males are good at basketball or all Asian people are super smart. Think about it; the only reason stereotypes exist is because of people’s ignorance, so if they were exposed to different kinds of people with different viewpoints on the world, their ignorance would be replaced with knowledge. Diversity to me is one of the most important things a person can ever understand and be a part of. It teaches acceptance of people who are different from yourself, it makes race differences less apparent, and there is less racial judgment. People are free to be themselves.
I am delighted I took part in this class exchange day with Keystone High because it let me be exposed to a lack of diversity, which I have never been exposed to. Also, learning their viewpoints and opinions was just as important as wanting them to learn mine. But I’ll be honest, when I first arrived and received those awful stares, I wanted to say, “What the hell are you white people staring at me for?” But what would that solve? Instead I thought to myself “These Keystone students do not know any better.” I had to understand that some schools were not as fortunate as mine to have diversity. Places that were not as fortunate of course would react to a “new” situation with some kind of reaction.
As I prepared to leave Keystone High, I was able to meet two of the boys that
really gave me the stare down when I first arrived. They were very nice people
and I even found out we had a lot of things in common. If color didn’t
exist – if both of us were covered with a bed sheet – it would be
difficult to identify who’s who. We both have great accomplishments we are
proud of; we play varsity tennis, work hard in high school, are involved in our
community and want to go to college. At the end of the day, that’s what
should matter the most, not the color of our skin. We should be seen as people.
With diversity, great things can be achieved and ignorance, stereotyping, and
uncomfortable situations can be avoided.