From growing up in a small suburb in Virginia, to moving to a massive city such as London, has definitely been one of the most amazing, eye opening experiences. London is one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world. Being able to connect with people from all different parts of the world has been one of the most rewarding parts of living here. Becoming a student at Westminster has also contributed to this. Sitting in my classes at the University of Westminster, I am surrounded by students from across the world. The University of Westminster is listed as the most diverse university in the UK. This is such a crucial part to the learning environment as each student brings their unique and different perspectives to the classroom. By being from different countries every student has varying creative ideas and opinions.
Life in Virginia
However, this was not the case for me growing up in Virginia, USA. In 2022, 63.5% of crimes committed in Virginia were crimes against persons, where 64.8% of these crimes were hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, and ancestry. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2022). During my high school years, I first hand witnessed countless incidents of these hate crimes. From white students coming to school carrying a confederate flag on their backs, to white supremacists marching through a town just a few hours away from where I grew up, to countless more disgusting and disturbing incidents, It was definitely sickening growing up surrounded by so many hateful people. While the ignorance was clear, these students were unwilling to accept others who they deemed as different from them, without realizing the amazing people, cultures, and experiences they are missing out on. They are unwilling to learn about cultures besides their own, leaving them with a very narrow and wrong view on the world.
Diversity in the classroom
The greatest learning experiences come from those who have first hand knowledge on the subject. The more diverse your environment is, the more you can learn about the world. This is why diversity is so important to not just everyday life, but also your learning environment. Studies have shown that by learning in a diverse environment, it alters the way students think, improving their problem-solving and decision-making skills. It also promotes a more innovative classroom with increased creativity. It is also crucial when you enter the workforce to have had experience working with those from different backgrounds. “96 percent of major employers, according to the Century Foundation, say it is vital that employees are able to work with people from diverse backgrounds.” (School of Education, 2019). You will be overall more employable if you are able to work with others and are willing to learn from them.
Is education a solution?
Being part of a diverse and inclusive environment is crucial to widening your perspective, being more open minded, and gaining respect and understanding of different cultures. “Educating people on racism and its critical components, such as racial stereotyping, unconscious bias and white privilege, will go a long way in tackling racism at its core and helping people understand what they can do to make positive change.” (Ramchuran, 2020). I like to think that lack of education is the main cause for such horrific prejudices, but I’m not sure it is that simple. I am forever grateful that I have had the opportunity to leave behind the close mindedness of the neighborhood I was once living in and can now experience the amazing, ethnically diverse neighborhood I now call home. I am also thankful I have had the chance to study at the University of Westminster where I have been able to connect with people all over the world and learn from them.
American University (2019). The Benefits of Inclusion and Diversity in the Classroom | American University. [online] soeonline.american.edu. Available at: https://soeonline.american.edu/blog/benefits-of-inclusion-and-diversity-in-the-classroom/. [Accessed 2 Jan. 2024]
Ramchurn, A. (2020). Can education be a remedy for racism? [online] The RSA. Available at: https://www.thersa.org/blog/2020/07/education-remedy-racism. [Accessed 1 Jan. 2024]
Steps 4 Change (2022). Why is Diversity So Important. [online] Steps4Change. Available at: https://www.steps4change.org/why-is-diversity-so-important/. [Accessed 2 Jan. 2024] www.justice.gov. (2022). Hate Crimes | Virginia. [online] Available at: https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/state-data/virginia. [Accessed 2 Jan. 2024]