Growing up in a small town in Northern California, you would think that there wasn’t much in the way of diversity, however, the town where I’m from celebrates many different cultures. Today, in fact, it’s the Sikh Festival. It may seem like an odd place for it, but Butte County has one of the largest Sikh populations in the United States, and my cousins look forward to attending this festival every year. Sacramento, where I attended most of elementary school was incredibly diverse, and had many different cultural celebrations throughout my attendance there. It wasn’t something that I thought all too greatly about, that is, until I reached high school.
I attended high school in Chico, California. Chico is a sleepy little college town that really only makes headlines on random major holidays when the college kids that invade the town drink too much and decide to burn couches in the middle of the street. There is incredibly little in the way of cultural experiences, diversity, or inclusion in Chico. It is incredibly white washed and full of subtle racial bias. There was a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) of which many of my friends helped put together, but it was not highly recommended by faculty and didn’t get very much in the way of attention or publicity. There was little to no mention of celebrating diversity, and I can’t recall one cultural event put on by the school.
My cousin Abbe, the one that loves attending the Sikh festivals, often has moments of pure rage at the ignorance that her classmates spew from their lack of understanding or even want to understand another person’s beliefs and/or practices. When I tell her about our campus at Shoreline she is happy, but a bit jealous of our inclusiveness. While she struggles against the current in a small town community college, we here at Shoreline reap the academic benefits of having our minds opened up to endless possibilities of culture and background. We are fortunate to have teachers that speak to these current events daily in their lectures, and use their platform to promote inclusion and curiosity.
I know that Abbe wishes she could do something to push her campus to take these matters more seriously, but that can feel pretty overwhelming. My friend Gina is a professor at this same college and teaches one of the lower level English classes. She is on the front line of what it looks like for these students that struggle with English as their second language. I feel that here at Shoreline we have a whole crew of Gina’s, and they work hard daily to make sure that their ESL students know that their ideas are great, and that their thought process is solid, and that they understand their point in their papers and they (foreign exchange students) may be frustrated, but they will be supported. I really appreciated my English 102 professor because she made it very clear from the first day of class that she wanted all of us to get to know each other, and learn about our differences, and most importantly, respect and appreciate those differences. There was a student in our class that was transitioning from female to male, and when this was shared in class with us by the student, this professor was dedicated to referring to this student by their preferred gender pronoun and ensuring that the rest of the class was passionate about this students’s comfort and success as well.
I had the pleasure of taking Dr. Hamako’s Multicultural Studies course here at Shoreline, and I found it to be incredibly helpful. Not only did he make students more aware of the diversity in our school, but show us that it was something to be celebrated and discussed. It must be hard to teach these values to adults, but he met the challenges head on, and instead of stepping in and talking down to students he let other students discuss it with respectful dialogue. I think that it’s important that we not only learn from our professors, but also from each other and that’s something I really valued about that course. It was very inclusive, and students felt supported. Not only do we have such a diverse student body in which to learn so many new and interesting things, we have teachers that encourage this, and that’s what I hope will happen in my small town California, but we are going to need a lot more Gina’s.