Diversity

Topic of your choice (common application)

“I was born on the banks of the Amazon River. Well, Brazilian birthplaces are limited to that, a soccer field, or a Carnival celebration, you know? What was my mom doing nine months pregnant on the banks of the Amazon? Well, she was seven months along; she wasn’t expecting me yet. Ha, some native children are born prematurely and they must also do without incubators, you silly, technologically-blessed American. Unsanitary? I won’t disagree it was likely unclean and chances are I am a dormant breeding ground of uncatalogued tropical diseases. Help? Of course, from a midwife – everybody’s a midwife there, even the men. You know my middle names mean “inconvenient jungle child” in Portuguese? Ok, the inconvenient is implicit, but look up the rest. What were my parents doing there? Well you see…”Were this story told before an ESL discussion group as I was clad in accessories and ceremonial scars alluding to some sort of rudimentary tribal heritage, it would unfold without too much interruption. However, because I do not look like I escaped from a history museum display and because it is told in fluent English, embellished with familiar mannerisms, and appropriately paused, rushed, and italicized to reflect a distinctively American brand of comedy, this tale is always followed by an inspired interrogation session. Largely because of these circumstances, it avoids the worst fate for stories of this kind: an uninspired and often patronizingly polite acceptance of yet another episode of “diversity”.Out of all American abstract concoctions – everything from the often elusive “American dream” to the uniquely aggressive concept of capitalism – diversity is the one idea that fascinates me the most. This captivation often carries very blatant manifestations. I question my friends about the history behind their customs with the scrutiny of a CIA operative; I search for the most seemingly inedible food in Manhattan’s Chinatown and order it in my butchered Cantonese; I even follow the locally broadcast Korean soap opera (subtitled of course) in hopes that Kim Mi Kyung will see Choi Bae for the fiend that he really is. While there are scores of infinitely intriguing “occurrences” of diversity, its most interesting aspect lies not in its manifestations but in its treatment.America’s regard to diversity cannot be described across a spectrum of reactions, but between two opposites; it either is so pervasive –as is the case in New York City suburbia — that it is largely ignored or it is so rare that it is resented, or worse, feared. Its acknowledgement in education and corporate institutions, for all its merits, has plagued it with a bureaucracy that organizes the social consideration of diversity into countless workshops, panels, and conferences. Within these circumstances, the thrill of exploration – of learning about other heritages, of walking through ethnic neighborhoods, of becoming mesmerized by the creative product of another culture – is lost to most people. My “Amazonian birth tale” is my private, perhaps absurd but no less amusing, campaign to spark this interest. College is where I want to see the other campaigns.

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