There’s no doubt that the United States has become more diverse throughout the years. The U.S culture can’t easily be labeled as a single heritage; different ethos merged overtime to develop it into the multicultural country it is today. In my community in Bethany, Oregon, there is no dominance of a specific ethnic group, but a beautifully diverse body that finds a connection with everyone’s differences.
However, just two decades ago, the high school that I attend, Sunset High School, had a totally different atmosphere. One of my small group leaders at church, a man born in the United States identifying as Korean American, told me that when he attended my school in the nineties, he was one of two or three Asians in the entire school. He spoke of his difficulties being a minority and revealed that even though the harshness of racism was diminishing, intense negative stigmas followed him wherever he went. This was shocking to hear, especially because now, Asians are hardly considered a minority in my area,
This week, I truly began to appreciate the multicultural ambience of my community, and how things have changed. It is my first year of high school, and I discovered that there is a traditional celebration at my school called “Multicultural Week”. During this event, the school was festooned with all sorts of different flags in the hallways, the back wall of the cafeteria sporting a huge poster that spelled out “UNITY”, and quotes from activists were pinned on doors. During lunch, many people volunteered to perform in front of their peers, displaying their culture with traditional singing, dancing, and colorful clothes. I admired the creative ways in which the school board recognized the cultures of its students. I especially enjoyed when the board put out a table of Japanese candy and traditional Chinese and Korean foods for students to try, and the study hall period which was turned into a time where students could make Chinese lanterns, origami, colorful masks, and other cultural crafts.
The multicultural celebration ended with a huge school wide assembly. There was a semi-formal ceremony where volunteers held up the flags from dozens of countries. Next, there was a line of performances made up of students representing their country in creative ways. There was a group of girls who danced to K-pop, a duet of old-time American songs, traditional Indian dancing, and more. A notable performance was an impressive match of Judo, which left the whole school on their feet cheering wildly.
I am glad that, over time, my school and community has become more diverse. I especially appreciate how we not only accept but value our differences. The multicultural week celebration made me feel proud of my ethnicity as a Korean American and served as an opportunity for me to learn new things about the cultures of my peers. I hope this cherishment of diversity will continue forever, and that, in communities where this diversity may not be as present, people will grow to love and accept each other despite their differences and start to treasure the ways they are unique.
Elyse Nah, Grade 9
Sunset High School