My view of diversity comes from my Dad’s emigration experience, to Louisiana from Cuba. I never witnessed my father experience racism directly, but I was aware that he was different from the other men in the town where I grew up, as he didn’t talk, dress or behave like them. Even his name was different: ‘Sergio.’ When I was young, he was up for a promotion and didn’t get it. Months later, the person who made the decision, and who had never met my Dad, was at the same party as him. After a few drinks, the man said, “you’re not a bad guy. Sorry I didn’t give you that job, I didn’t know what to think of your name, but as it turns out, you’re not one of us.” Seeing how hurt my Dad was began to open my eyes to injustices of biases.
As an adult, I moved to New York City, where I’ve become even more aware of diversity, tolerance and inclusion. It seems like every culture, race, economic level and type of education coexist in a very small radius. All of these experiences have formed my beliefs, which include appreciation of the uniqueness in each one of us as well as empathy for the paths and challenges that we each have. I embrace all members of my community and in the classroom, aspire to have an appreciation for ability, age, citizenship status, creed, cultural background, ethnicity, family model, gender identity and expression, health status, national origin, political ideology, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, spiritual affinity, size, socioeconomic class, and veteran status.
In the classroom, my goal for each of my students is to feel like they matter and are welcome. There is no tolerance for ignorance, apathy, indifference, bias, or anger. Outside of the classroom, it can mean anything from helping someone who is new from India and hasn’t ever experienced a cold winter, and doesn’t know that they need to buy a full-length insulated winter coat versus a light jacket, to guiding career paths that match with students’ Muslim beliefs.