Why I Joined Diversity Leadership Project

by Maggie Herndon
Centennial High School
Class of 2018

I am an upper-middle-class white girl who has lived in Franklin, Tennessee her entire life. I will be the first to concede that I, like the majority of my peers, have never been directly subjected to racism or discrimination at any point, nor am I ever likely to be.

I have had the fortune to live my life under the influence of my family’s affluence and my inherent white privilege and, should I wish to ignore the situations of those who are less fortunate than me, whether through birth or through the discrimination given to minorities in our country, I could. I could distance myself from the racial violence. I could disregard the uneven poverty trends. I could dismiss the racist slurs and rampant stereotyping as nothing more than harmless brands of humor that create unwarranted backlash.

So why would I instead choose to dedicate my time to bringing attention to these issues which seem to have no impact on my own life? In what way is diversity important for a privileged, sheltered white girl such as myself?

As a young member of a constantly growing and modernizing world, my own life is, in actuality, endlessly intertwined with the lives of others. We are all immensely dependent on one another and feed off of one another’s contributions to our society, often in ways we do not even consider. We therefore each have a responsibility to contribute to this society if we wish to depend on other members of it, and we must do so while understanding that we cannot function alone, that we need the input of other individuals.

Cooperation with one another is not simply a convenience in today’s society, but a must, a necessary part of our existence if we wish to continue innovating and working towards a more prosperous future. One of the greatest truths that we have learned throughout the history of mankind is that ultimately, people need people; this is why diversity is important. Diversity, whether it be in the workplace, in an educational context, or simply in everyday life, represents the unification of inherently different people in an effort to improve the life of one common society.

Diversity is not about looking past these differences and deeming them unimportant, but rather, it is about embracing them and using them to our advantage, understanding that everyone has grown up with different experiences and different hardships and different values, all of which can be contributed in different ways to the same goal, to the same society.

Diversity allows us to look at problems from various perspectives and address them in a way that will be beneficial for all people, not just the heterosexual, white, Christian male. Diversity should not be considered a quota to be filled, but should be sought after for what it truly is: an opportunity to open oneself up to new ideas and to gain new insights into existing ones.

Unfortunately, whether I wish to acknowledge it or not, the reality is that I am and always will be surrounded by individuals who face discrimination, and I am and always will be surrounded by those who perpetrate it. It may not be affecting me directly and, as a result, may not seem worthy of my attention.

However, just as I am dependent on members of the minority populations and the so-called “different” individuals that face such discrimination, they are also dependent on me. This is why I joined the Diversity Leadership Program.

As a white, well-off member of society, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to fight for those who do not have the opportunities that I do, who are consistently left out of the history books and treated as second-class citizens by other privileged individuals. This is my contribution.  ​


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