“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community – and this nation.”
– Cesar Chavez
by Julia Macias, senior at Grover Cleveland Charter High School Humanities Magnet
President, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council
Cultural diversity is a vital aspect of American society that deserves to be celebrated proudly, especially within the classroom. L.A. Unified sits at the confluence of cultures, languages, ethnicities and race.
However, diversity has become a bad word for many because of the rise of political tensions. As a result, some students are not given the “justice for all” they deserve because of their immigration status.
I remember the day following the presidential election, entering a class that had at least four students who were immigrants from Central America and the resulting drastic transformation they had undergone in a matter of hours. Usually lighthearted and jovial spirits, these students had become quiet, unresponsive and purely terrified. The wide smiles that were normally present on their faces were gone, and they worriedly asked the teacher – a Spanish teacher – if everything was going to be okay.
It was in that moment I realized I had such privilege in having been born here, even though I am a woman of color who faces her own kinds of discrimination. I realized I had no need to fear coming home to an empty house because my parents had been deported, Immigration and Customs Enforcement knocking on my door or being denied equal opportunities because I was born in another country.
While I am second-generation, I can relate to first-generation immigrants. Though removed from such frightening experiences, I am passionate about speaking up for my fellow classmates who contribute so much at school but cannot count on a secure future in this country.
The diversity of these students encourages the growth of other groups of students for a variety of reasons. Having students from different cultural backgrounds allows for more variation in opinion. It also provides fresh perspectives to a dilemma that perhaps would not have been considered without students who had shared these experiences.
From an emotional perspective, interaction with people that are different culturally allows for more understanding rather than the detachment that can lead to stereotypes or other misconceptions. Further, such diversity in the classroom prepares students for the outside world, where diversity is seen as a strong value as people move across the globe, and there is more representation within fields of practice that have been historically exclusive.
This need for diversity is why programs like “We Are One” and movements concerning the Dream Act are so important to students and their opportunities in life. They help atone for the discriminatory inequalities society fails to resolve while actively empowering students and families within the school community.
Ultimately, it is easy to imagine L.A. Unified as a “family” that supports and provides a safe space for students to grow intellectually and emotionally while preparing for the future. However, when the “family” is threatened with the possible loss of members, this District has shown it will support and empower such students.
In the immortal words that started a movement some years ago: ¡Sí, se puede!