To me, it’s important to consider diversity as a part of the human condition. We are, each of us, diverse in unique ways. To that end, diversity is not an after market add-on. It’s also not a postscript you think of to check a box or cover your bases. The concept of diversity should be imbedded in our daily existence.
I was raised in a diverse family; my father was born in Cuba and my mother grew up abroad, the product of a military upbringing. The conversations that took place in my home were often about places I had not traveled to and cultures that were unlike the community in which I was raised. From an early age, I was taught that diversity made the world colorful and therefore appreciated all aspects of ‘difference’.
Diversity is a norm in my field of special education. My students are diverse in learning styles, in their backgrounds, in their race, culture and often their language acquisition. When I discuss inclusion in classrooms, I think of my own upbringing. I advocate for schools filled with diverse learning styles, cultures, races, and levels of language acquisition for that exact reason: to afford students access to ‘difference’ in an effort to paint the world more colorful and appreciate the unique contributions of every person.
My Cuban roots are as much a part of my personality as are my American roots. That, however, doesn’t mean that I can speak for the entire community of Latinos. It means that I have as much of a responsibility to my family as I do to my culture to be a productive, active, integral part of the many communities to which I belong. As often as I find myself having commensurate perspectives with my Latin students, I also find myself learning about the challenges they have faced that I have not. Communicating openly about those challenges opens the door for change and the potential for growth.