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Diversity at my "Non Diverse" School

HCRL's picture

When I attended my high school in Vancouver, Canada, I did not think it was “diverse” (specially, racially and ethnically diverse). About 25% of the students were white, about 50% were Canadian-Chinese or recent immigrants from China, about 20% were Canadian-Korean or recent immigrants from Korea, and the remaining 5% were mostly students of Japanese, Vietnamese, and Indian heritage. Despite the pretty big ethnic and racial diversity at my school, I (along with my friends who were mostly white) did not think of our school as diverse. This is pretty mind-boggling to me. It is hard for me to understand how I could have been so off in my conception of diversity. Looking back on it now, I see a possible reason for it.

My school did not acknowledge, or at least act on the realization, that so much of its student body was not white. The mandatory history classes only covered Canadian and European history, we gathered as a school for days like Remembrance Day, and our elective classes had nothing to do with anything other than “white Canadian culture” (ex. drama class only used plays written by North American authors).  We did not learn about the history of other countries, we did not celebrate non white-Canadian holidays, and students were yelled at for speaking Mandarin, Cantonese and any language other than English in class. Basically, the school just pretended all of its students were white, which it seems I did too.  The bizarre part of this though is that the school was pretty divided based on ethnicity/race. I knew every white student in my grade of about 250 students, but I probably knew less than 30 non-white students. So I thought my school was not diverse, which it actually was, but my friend group did not reflect that diversity.

I don’t mean to absolve myself of my own responsibility and errors in thinking, but I believe the school ignoring the racial and ethnic diversity of its students played an enormous role in me doing the same thing. I wonder now what the non-white students thought about the school overlooking all aspects of their culture that did not overlap with “white Canadian culture.” I am also curious how the school’s teachers and principal would respond or react to my evaluation of the situation.

(This is slightly separate and I don’t want to diverge too far away from what I am talking about, but I also think my idea of diverse schools was derived from movies about mostly white teachers coming into under-funded schools with mostly Black and Latin@ students, such as Freedom Writers or Coach Carter. I think my idea that students of different Asian heritages did not qualify as diverse might have also had to do with the model minority myth.)


Sergio's picture

I agree with you that, from what it seems, the lack school acknowledgement of diversity is one of the main contributing factors to how you viewed or did not view diversity at your school. I wonder, however, what role did your friend groups play in your perception of diversity and wether or not your interactions with the thought of diversity were limited by your interactions with your friend groups and how often or not they talked about it. Along those lines, do you believe Haverford to be more diverse? Just food for thought...