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Sample Diversity Statement # 1


As a little girl, I was dropped off at my great-grandmother's house every afternoon; she would keep my sister and me until my mother got home from work. After a snack, I would run out to play. I would stand on the rock in my great-grandmother's front yard certain I could see the whole world from my perch. The rock took me away from my little corner of the world, a corner consisting of a dirt road, lots of animals, and the house from which some members of my family were freed from slavery.

Atop my perch I could see the future, but I was also acutely aware of the past. Walking in the house was like stepping back in time. My great-grandmother had electricity but she refused the indoor plumbing and the modern conveniences that so many of us take for granted. No central heat and air-conditioning here, just a coal burning stove for the winter and some fans and high ceilings to make a southern summer bearable. I would do my homework and imagine how my great-grandmother had done the same thing with even fewer modern comforts than I was enjoying at the moment.

The women in my family, my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, aunts, and, of course, my mother, have always been inspirations for me. For three generations (with the single exception of my maternal great-grandmother, who had only a fourth grade education), all the women in my family have graduated from college and many have gone on to do graduate work and all have become either teachers or social workers. In my life I may have successes but I will never have to work as hard or struggle as much as my parents or grandparents did to achieve as much. Any time I would complain about how hard school was my relatives would just laugh. My great-grandmother would recall riding to school in the horse and buggy. My own mother grew up with Bull Connor in full control of Birmingham, Alabama, under the watchful eye of Governor George Wallace. My teenage trials just did not compare.

When I was applying to college both of my parents were amazed at the number of choices I had when deciding where to apply. When they were eighteen they picked from among the historically black colleges, as their friends did. My mother chose Bennett College in North Carolina and my father chose Morehouse College in Atlanta. The world attempted to limit where they could go and what they could do, but it could not limit the possibility my parents saw in the world for themselves and their children. My family taught me that education was the key to opening up the world and its possibilities. They knew the world was more than that corner and their minds were free to explore it. Despite growing up on a dirt road down the street from the house where members of my father's family were freed from slavery, or perhaps because of it, I was taught to see the possibility in the world. My family nurtured me and encouraged me to explore and do the things they had been able to explore only with their minds' eyes.

My grandparents and parents remind me of the ways the world has changed and the ways that it has remained the same. My father is still the only black dentist in our town. Just last year I made an appointment for a man who said he was in tremendous pain from a toothache. Before he got off the phone the man asked if the dentist was black. I told him yes and the appointment was promptly canceled. There were no racial epithets bandied about, but I guess the thought of enduring another couple of days of pain was easier to bear than a black man pulling his tooth. Those are the days when the slave quarters feel uncomfortably close in time, as well as in location.

Even now I go to the rock to remember where I came from and to see where I am going. I intend to explore all the possibilities and complexities the world has to offer, ever mindful that the opportunity that I have been given was denied my parents only a generation ago and still seems tenuous at times.

 

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