More than 31 Days: Diversity Month is a Catalyst for Change

Diversity all year long: A World IntertwinedEditorial by Derrick Newby Jr.
Member, Diversity Council

Polysemy is a term used to describe the instance of any single word having multiple meanings or understandings. Even if you’ve never heard it used before (because let’s be honest, unless you’re talking with someone who studies that sort of thing, it’s fairly unlikely to come up in small talk), you experience it every day. Consider for a moment the word “diversity”. What words or ideas come to mind?

Derrick NewbyEquity, fair treatment, representation, gender, race, opportunity…and on and on. Take a minute or two to write down on your own list. If you were to show that list to someone else engaged in the same activity, chances are there’d be some similarities, but it is not likely it looks exactly the same. Why? Because the term “diversity” is as polysemous as words can get. Don’t think so? If you Google search “diversity” there are “About 569,000,000 results” and there will probably be another million or so by the time you read this.

The month of March of every year is the opportunity here on the campus of UA Little Rock to bring focus to the subject through Diversity Month, which is organized through the efforts of the Diversity Council.

This year felt different in some ways as we as a community and a nation continue to deal with challenges brought about by a worldwide pandemic, civil unrest in response to several acts of injustice experienced by different ethnic and cultural groups, and a political system that has been pushed to its limits in many ways.

All of which make the issue of inequality an ever more pressing matter to solve.

UA Little Rock and its amazing collective of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and external stakeholders may not be able to solve the conundrum of inequality by ourselves, but the events that were held during Diversity Month helped shed some light on various aspects of diversity and how we can all strive to make positive impacts in that regard.

This month’s events sought to inform and educate us on topics such as microaggressions and how to develop the awareness needed to avoid them, what daily life is like for those with disabilities or those who identify as deaf or blind, and the ways we can work together to ensure reasonable access to the opportunities of those who face these challenges, recognizing the contributions of different marginalized groups throughout history and how we can bridge the gap in understanding, search for solutions, and more.

Even with so many different interest groups being represented throughout the month and sharing their unique experiences, there were still, to borrow from the Diversity Council’s newsletter, significant ties that bound us together in our shared push for a better world. These ties include themes such as awareness, accessibility, fair and equitable resource allocation, collaboration, and perhaps most importantly, a genuine desire for understanding connects us all.

While Diversity Month gives us the platform and visibility on our campus to highlight the obstacles, efforts, and contributions happening in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the real work takes place every single day. It happens in our regular conversations with friends and family. It happens in the classrooms where new ideas are being generated and discussed. It happens in meetings taking place between faculty, staff, and administrators of all levels. It happens in the halls of government where new policies are being devised and implemented. It happens when we all decide to work together using our collective knowledge, privilege, networks, power, etc. to bring about the kind of world of which we all can be proud.

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