Both of my parents were immigrants to the U.S. My father immigrated from Germany and my mother from Taiwan.
As a child, I was surrounded by all sorts of people.
My parents used to own a four-star gourmet restaurant in Port Richey, Florida. Thus, as a child, I was surrounded by their employees and customers. At that time, I never realized how diverse our clientele and employees were at that old restaurant.
We had people coming to us from all walks of life, both domestic and international.
I just thought, “That’s what America is, right?” We used to use the old term “melting pot.”
Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and I now have the pleasure of serving students at UF as a professor in the College of Education.
I look in our classrooms, and I’m reminded about what diversity meant to me as a kid, being surrounded by people from all types of backgrounds, political affiliations, cultures, religions, sexual orientations and more.
My understanding of diversity wasn’t just about skin color or political affiliation; it was about cherishing our differences and learning to respect each other based on our unique identities and experiences.
Recently, an article posted in the Alachua Chronicle titled “Insider report details how DEI is embedded into every department at UF” singled out my academic unit’s website for posting our values of diversity and equity on our website.
Aside from the fact that the article made some claims about our school that were outright factually incorrect, the article didn’t acknowledge the other four values posted in our website: quality, collaboration/teamwork, respect/professionalism and transparency.
Journalism isn’t what it once was in the 21st century, and several news sources aren’t living up to the ethical codes of the great field of journalism.
However, this is another conversation.
My major concern about the use of the word diversity as a so-called “bad word” is that we seem to have forgotten what the word really means.
Albeit, a word like diversity is polysemous in that it means different things to different people. But as a first-generation American, I was taught to value our differences and to respect each other for our character — not our political affiliation or skin color.
I truly hope that this culture war brewing in the U.S. settles with more people being reminded that our differences are what build our experience, identity and character.
This is our strength.
We should always cherish diversity, especially in the U.S. I’m proud to serve at an institution that values diversity.
Albert Ritzhaupt is a UF professor of educational technology and computer science education.