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Diversity In The Classroom: One Teenager’s Struggle

“We should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color” –Maya Angelou

What defines diversity? According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, diversity is the condition of having or being composed of differing elements. I wonder if student diversity in the classroom is the existence of all of the elements or a combined use to make some new creation or effect. For example, blue and yellow are two separate colors but when you blend them together they create green. Is the diversity in the picture the blue and yellow on the same page? Or is it the green that was created by the blue and yellow?

Seeing Diversity In Education

Shaker Heights High School has more than green and yellow; we have blues, purples, yellows, reds, oranges, and more. Yet we barely use these brilliant colors to make a beautiful painting; instead each color has a stereotype of the other color. For example, an Asian girl is brilliant and will become a doctor when she is older while an African-American teenage boy is a drug addict and will be sent to prison. Defining diversity and using the diversity are issues that face Shaker Heights High School every day.

I love walking in the hallways of Shaker Heights High School and seeing a white boy behind me and a Kenyan exchange student in front. It is great; I have the opportunity to learn about different cultures every day, without walking in a classroom. And then the bell rings, and I walk into a single color classroom. Most of the time, the sections are divided by color.

I find this very frustrating as an African-American scholar, since I want to challenge myself and make new friends of different races. When I associate myself with some white girls, I get labeled as a “white girl” or “oreo,” which I don’t like because I am a proud African-American girl. I also find myself paying attention to the classes I take, knowing that if I take an AP class, I will probably be the only of few African-Americans in the class. In those situations, I feel uncomfortable and like an outcast. And then I have to deal with my African-American peers calling me “white girl.”

Diversity In Schools

So I try to adjust to my reality. I try to become comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Although I feel uncomfortable taking AP courses because there will be very few African-Americans in the class with me I am trying to turn that feeling of being uncomfortable into a positive. I want to take this challenge and learn how to adapt to an uncomfortable environment.

As Maya Angelou said, “All threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what the color.” Maya Angelou understands that every individual has the same value as his neighbor. Once people venture outside their own comfort zone, and blend with other colors, this masterpiece will change the world. As we appreciate everyone’s unique value, the world will become a gorgeous and significant picture to observe. Then we will understand the real meaning of diversity.

Now the question is – What is diversity in the classroom to you? Is it many colors on one page? Or is it the blending of the colors on that page that created something different?

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