Cultural Diversity Awareness – #ACT
For as long as I can remember I was always “different”. During my childhood my peers would comment about how my eyes were too small, my lunch of Gimbap and Bulgogi smelled strange and disgusting, and they could never understand my mother because of her heavy accent. That’s what my life was like as a Korean-American. My cultural identity felt like a defect or a deformity, and I began to hide my cultural pride in fear that my peers would not accept me. It wasn’t until I was approached sarcastically with the question, “Is English evenyour first language?” by my high school English teacher, that I realized cultural discrimination was a systemic flaw. It became crucial for me to focus on an impactful and positive solution.
Culture is defined as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or social group. Often a person’s potential is unfortunately based on their cultural identity due to negative generalizations and biases created in today’s world. This problem is very apparent in our school systems; negative perceptions on culture are becoming limiting predictors of academic performance. Through my platform Cultural Diversity Awareness – #ACT,I am empowered to directly combat this challenge by actively promoting an accepting culturally diverse environment that creates Awareness, Compassion, and encourages youth to Take a Stand against cultural insensitivity and change undesirable attitudes and behaviors.
Awareness begins in our schools and communities. Research shows that diverse settings increase all students’ level of critical thinking, raises levels of their knowledge, challenges assumptions, and improves communications. During my #ACTschool presentations in Winchester and Frederick County, I focus on prejudice reduction, community building and leadership. Programs with guest speakers of differing backgrounds build bridges that focus on anti-bulling, and promoting self-esteem. I encourage school sponsored clubs to increase understanding and develop action around social justice issues and promote respect among all religions and philosophical beliefs. I believe that what is learned can be unlearned. Unlearning is breaking bias and building communities. When the schools have firm, consistent, and fair discipline, it can help children develop the habits of thinking and caring necessary for public life: courtesy, tolerance, respect, and the sense of justice. It ultimately decreases the growth of motivated hate-crimes, riots, and injustices and increases opportunity. I have partnered with the #ImJustMeMovement, a grass roots initiative based in Winchester, VA. It is dedicated to helping students overcome cultural adversities. It offers opportunities for youth to engage in community self-acceptance mentoring, field excursions, and specialized positive diversity workshops. I have also created a prominent social media presence to provide more information on both my platform message and the #ImJustMeMovement.
My future plan is to partner with the National Conference for Community and Justice.This organization has chapters in every major city in the nation with community leaders who can bring this issue out of hiding and into the public light. I would serve as catalyst for social change spreading a positive message of inclusion, competency through cultural sensitivity, and self-pride in cultural identity. My message of acceptance pairs perfectly with Miss Virginia’s ABC School tour because it addresses a facet of bullying ona broadened level and encourages students to be accepting and compassionate at a young age.
The title of Miss Virginia, combined with different media outlets, allows me to create national awareness. It is time to take action and move beyond talking about “Cultural Diversity” because of the need to be politically correct. The Miss America Organization continues to evolve with every new generation. The organization has itself embraced cultural diversity by crowning beautiful women who embody style, service, scholarship, and success like Nina Davuluri and Caressa Cameron. My role as Miss Virginia would be a voice for change throughout the Commonwealth to accept differences and create a society that values and respects each person for their character and celebrates the beauty of their cultural heritage.