Diversity is a difficult term to define. Several students on campus recognized the ambiguity of the term, and sought to promote inclusion, diversity and respect on Knox’s campus. In a statement of commitment to social justice, several students got together and donned “I am…” t-shirts during the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on Monday, Jan. 20 to voice their own identities and experiences.
Shared via email, here are a few of the stories from students who participated in the “I Am…” campaign:
Although the school has diversified the courses that are offered, it’s still interesting to note that subjects which pertain to other cultures such as African, African-American, or Latin are in their own categories rather than being integrated into other course areas. If I want to have any chance at seeing an African-American writer, I have to take an African Studies class instead of being able to take a more general literature class and see representation of ethnicities other than White.
– senior Alexia Watkins
I wrote “Orang Malaysia” (which means “Malaysian” in Malay) on my shirt. Like America, my country is both racially and ethnically diverse — as I am in America, I am part of a minority group at home. At the moment, Malaysia is struggling through conflicts along racial lines some of which have dangerous consequences. Today, I wanted to stand in solidarity with the other international students at Knox as well as with the people at home whom I love and am a part of.
– senior Amanda Shiew
I decided to write proud, because feminism has a pretty bad connotation on this campus. I decided to put Black in all caps, because, honestly, there are lots of Black feminists on this campus who don’t really feel like they have a voice.
– senior Tia Watkins
I decided to express two of my identities in one word or phrase by writing ‘Mexican’ in Hebrew. I was born in Mexico in 1991 and adopted by a Jewish family that same year. I have felt uncomfortable with both identities and experiences most of my life but after coming to Knox, I realized that both are equally significant to my life every day. I am 100% Mexican, 100% Jewish, and 100% Knox.
– senior Philip Bennett
I wrote “I Am Queer” on my shirt for a number of reasons. Knox is where I first came out as a queer individual, and I have been incredibly lucky to spend the last two and a half years in a community in which I can be open and supported as an out queer student. However, I want to highlight the lack of resources for queer students at Knox, a challenge that many marginalized populations of students face here. Having a diverse community of individuals on a college campus (as Knox does) is important. Supporting and engaging with that diversity is crucial, and is something that the Knox community can — must — continue to work on.
– junior Devin Hanley
Rarely do I get the chance to truly use a term reflexive of my heritage. While I am Mexican-American, otherwise known as Chicana, that term doesn’t include my European ancestry. In my blood runs both the blood of Native American people and European people. Mexican-American is just a term to ascertain my nationality, but regardless of where I was born or my parents, this land is my home. I am proud to be mestiza. I am proud of the history encoded in my DNA. After all, it has made me who I am. This was a chance to honor an often overlooked part of who I am.
– senior Maricruz Osorio
I chose an identity that, to me, represents over a year of work dedicated to combating rape culture and sexual violence on the Knox campus. From planning Take Back the Night rallies to pressuring the administration to uphold its Title IX commitments, I am fighting, with many others, for a campus that respects survivors and prioritizes the safety of people with marginalized identities. I am striving to make Knox a more inclusive, genuine community because I am Knox, too.
– junior Allie Fry
Though diversity has become an all-powerful buzzword in college brochures, the real meaning of diversity (here in America) is understanding nonwhite, nonmale, nonstraight, nonwealthy/middle class life stories. But even underneath our physical appearances and bank accounts, there are complications — I fulfill most categories of privilege (a straight white middle-class male) but my experiences growing up in Tanzania have made me something else. My high school experience was extremely different. No one ever used the term “diversity” but the school was minority-majority — no ethnicity, nationality or religious creed made up a majority. This may not be true at Knox, where we are majority agnostic middle-class white Americans, but that by no means invalidates the experiences of all others. When the curriculum teaches us only about those that look like us (but more male), we miss out on the truth of the lived human experience and the incredible contributions of those that don’t happen to share our financial background or hair texture.
– senior Tom Courtright
I called my mom to ask her what she thought I should write on my shirt because, as I’m sure many other people felt, it is hard to label yourself with a single identity. We talked about how I could say something about being raised in a multicultural home or being an advocate of animal welfare but in the end I wrote, “I am a Lesbian Activist.” I think the LGBT movement in America is at a very critical point right now in that acceptance of the community is at an all-time high, yet prejudice and intolerance have a way of morphing and burying deeper rather than dissipating. The best way, in my mind at least, to keep these internalized prejudices from perpetuating is to remind people of how interconnected they are to the issue. As the mission statement said, we are your classmates, friends, teachers, teammates, brothers and sisters, and we are all Knox.
– freshman Donna Boguslavsky