By Danniella Banks
Imagine a white girl, who lives in an agrarian community with her parents and three siblings. She goes to church every Sunday, and when she isn’t at school during the week, she is spending time on her grandparents’ farm. It isn’t until this girl is five or six that she meets someone of another race. She doesn’t understand why this person looks so different from everyone that she has previously met. However, her confusion does not make her hate or dislike this other person, just because they look different on the surface.
This young girl was me. I grew up in a predominately white community that has nearly 6,000 residents and is 96.45% white, 1.58% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.85% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.13% from other races and 0.73% from two or more races according to the 2000 census. If you look at the entire county, which has over 18,000 residents, it is 97.69% white. Are you shocked?
While many people are focused on the racial and ethnic makeup of urban and suburban United States, some of us wonder why no one seems to care about the lack of diversity in rural America, where a majority of the food you eat is grown and raised. There are actually parts of rural American that are 99-100% white, for example Allendale, MO. Though it’s not nearly as surprising when you see that there are only 53 residents of this town.
I’ve just pointed out that there are many areas that are still predominately white. So what? You probably had already figured as much, but think about the story that I presented in the beginning. I had not met a person from another ethnic or racial background until I was almost in elementary school. I didn’t even go to school with someone from another race until I was in the 7th grade (partially because I went to a private Catholic school from Kindergarten-6th grade). Even when I had classes with those from other races, it was weird and almost awkward for me because I wasn’t sure how to act.
Since then, I would have to say that I have greatly broadened my horizons by attending Marquette University in urban Milwaukee, and my family traveled a lot when I was younger. I was exposed to more cultures, races and ethnicities due to the experiences that I was provided. Yet, this is not the case for many of my community members.
There are many people in rural areas of the US who never leave their hometown, or a certain radius of their hometown, to familiarize themselves with the cultures and experiences of others. These people never have the opportunity to “diversify” themselves because they never leave, and it’s not because they can’t afford it. Most times it’s because they have no desire to leave the comforts of their own home.
When you think about all of this, you have to realize that there are just some people who are never going to change their ways. They will always be stuck in the same place, no matter how hard you try to shift their thinking. Nevertheless, just because we can’t change them, doesn’t mean we can’t educate them. Here’s what we must focus on, pertaining to diversity and inclusion:
- Defining diversity as more than race and gender. More people need to take into consideration that religions, sexual orientation, education, generations, and more are all part of what diversity is.
- Inclusion can create great things. By including all people, whether it be in the workplace or another setting, we are able to learn more about each other and form a better community.
- Ignorance is not bliss. We cannot ignore that there are other cultures and ideals. By learning about them, we can have a better understanding of society.