OPINION: Simply having diversity isn’t enough

Asia Porter | Online Editor

Seeing is not understanding.

In Mason we are surrounded by so many cultures. We boast our diversity and hang flags in the large commons to showcase all the nations represented within our student body, yet we never actually take the time to get to know them.

Every day we brush shoulders with our peers from the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, but our knowledge of the person beside us fails to penetrate the surface. We claim to be accepting, to love diversity and culture, but we fail to understand what these things mean. It’s not enough to simply be around different cultures. Having students from around the world is pointless if we can not understand their traditions and histories and customs.

There are roughly 134 African American students at Mason High School, but outside of these students, the majority of MHS has never heard of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) nor do they know the history behind them.

Recently, more students who do not practice Hinduism have begun to participate in cultural events such as Navaratri. While attending these events is a great step towards understanding another culture, many of us fail to understand the deeper meaning behind it. During the nine night and ten day celebration, used to honor Indian deity Sri Devi, many celebrate through dances called Garba, which is often done around a candle or picture of the gods.

Students who practice the Islamic faith fast every year during Ramadan. The holiday is determined by the lunar calendar and helps Muslims to be aware of the poor’s hunger and hardship and to remind themselves to be thankful for what they have. Men and women who fast can not eat nor drink anything, including water, until sunset when the fast is broken for that day.

Approximately 101 Hispanics attend MHS, but few of us know about commonly-celebrated holidays such as El Día de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a celebration of life and a time to honor loved ones who have passed away or Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day), a holiday more important than and sometimes celebrated in place of Christmas in many Spanish-speaking countries.

To be fair, MHS has made an effort to develop a deeper understanding of our diversity. Interfaith and Mason Inclusion Club hold discussions about the variety of religions and races present within our student body, but these discussions die at the end of every after-school meeting, and our school of nearly 4,000 students deserves more than a one hour block of time.

My freshman year, there was an attempt to launch a Covered Girl Challenge in which students would have the opportunity to wear the hijab for a day to better understand what a Muslim woman may experience on a daily basis. Before the campaign was launched, it was shut down after parents expressed their concerns with the event. We see these girls wear the hijab every day, but nobody had a problem with it until their child opted to experience another culture. We have no problem seeing our diversity in the hall or posting pictures of it or advertising it to neighboring communities, but the minute a campaign or club is created that goes beyond this surface level of acceptance, we riot. We should be encouraging exposure to outside cultures in our halls – not shutting it down.

It’s not enough to know a black person, to be friends with an Asian, to go to school with a Hispanic. To truly be an accepting community, we must get to know every culture even if they only make up 0.1 percent or 0.3 percent of the student body.

Every race, every religion, every nationality must take the time to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s cultures, because it’s not enough to simply have diversity, we must explore it.