Sometimes, I take a moment to look at my hands. In private, I will hold them up and stare at them intently. I will wonder why my color, a deep brown, holds so much say over how the world views me. Walking around campus, anyone can see that Deerfield is a diverse community. Everywhere you look, you see waves of different hair shades and textures, multiple skin tones, and glances revealing numerous eye colors. If one skims a Deerfield Admissions pamphlet, scrolls through the school website, or observes various tables during a sit-down meal, the wealth of physical variety in the student body almost overwhelms normal diversity statistics. These observations would lead many to conclude that Deerfield has succeeded at “rudimentary diversity.” Rudimentary diversity, a phrase I have decided to coin here, is diversity that is skin deep, objective, and indisputable. It is the type of diversity that operates on the quantity of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities present in a given area.
Preparing students for the “real world” is one of Deerfield’s major objectives. As a result, Deerfield has done its best to create a synthetic “real world” on campus in order to teach students the skills and capacities necessary to succeed in today’s diverse society. Perhaps the school believed that by creating rudimentary diversity on campus, “authentic diversity” would organically follow. Unfortunately, with this aspiration, Deerfield did not consider the teenage tendencies of its students, the human nature of its community, and the stifling effect of the Deerfield bubble on its inhabitants.
“Authentic diversity,” another one of my coined phrases, purely boils down to true acceptance and inclusion. Valentina Connell ’16, a strong activist and feminist on campus thinks that “diversity is being aware of other people’s differences and accepting them for it.” Imani Goodridge ’17, a leader of the DBSA with Caribbean heritage, believes that “diversity is everything inclusive. It is everything on this Earth.”
I believe that authentic diversity is acceptance of one another that transcends arbitrary labels and differences such as race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, etc. It is not something that can be seen or touched. It is something that can only be felt. In a place like Deerfield — with its vast opportunities, state-of-the-art facilities, and collection of fascinating people — one would wonder how anyone could ever be unhappy here. Using the idea of authentic diversity as a lens, students at Deerfield are unhappy when they feel judged, disrespected and/or not accepted by the community. Daniella Faura ’17, who has Mexican and Cuban heritage, noted, “If you feel like you are a part of something, that’s when you feel like you fit in.”
To feel accepted, many students begin to conform to the majority’s popular opinion. Conformity is what has prevented Deerfield for years from progressing from rudimentary diversity to authentic diversity. Marco Marsans ’18, a trilingual student who has lived in three countries, said, “I would pair diversity with individuality, meaning you’re strong enough not to conform, and you’re strong enough to show the different sides of who you are.” This notion of conformity hindering authentic diversity poses a bigger question: How can we at Deerfield sincerely have a diverse community if we are afraid to be true to ourselves? I firmly believe that we should not view our differences as dividers but as tools to educate one another.
Lately, I have seen more students showcasing their differences. In other words, I have witnessed students starting to be true to themselves. In the past, the administration has always taken the first step to ensure authentic diversity on campus. A few examples include creating the Office of Inclusion, hiring Ms. Marjorie Young as the Director of Inclusion & Community Life in 2013, and initiating the Freshman Village into the dorm configuration this year. But in recent months, it is the student body, not the administration, that has created a spirit of acceptance on campus. Real change has occurred, and the student body has begun to embody these changes for the first time collectively. These days, I see the gender divide crumbling, ideas spreading like wildfire, action beginning to be taken, students respecting one another, and uniqueness beginning to be truly accepted.
On November 16, 2015, the student body participated in a blackout to stand in solidarity with the students of color at the University of Missouri being threatened. On November 13, 2015, the renewed school spirit during the pep rally shook the foundation of the Hess building, and during Choate Week, students from all backgrounds could be seen wearing various student alliances’ shirts. Truly, as Miles Menafee ’17 stated, “Deerfield hasn’t changed, but the students have and the students are what make the school.” Students on campus have become more open-minded, and the majority of students have begn to understand and become aware of all social issues present in the community and beyond: those with which they have personal connections and those with which they do not. Deerfield has changed since the first time I stepped foot on campus, and I can confidently say the recent growth in authentic diversity has changed it for the better.