By: Dr. Ni Zhang and Pranuthi Pagidipati
The past year has brought a wave of adjustments across the United States: adjustment to climate change, adjustment to a change in leadership, and more importantly adjusting to a sci-fi-movie-style pandemic era. One year into the public health crisis, the bleak consequences of the pandemic have been blatantly displayed: the revelation of how deep the roots of social and racial injustice were planted in this nation. The pandemic served to highlight an ever existing, yet newly designated epidemic: racism. At San Jose State University, the outcry and protests against recent miscarriages of justice have been loud. But students wonder if there is ever going to be a world where diversity, inclusion and equity become more than just terminology. We wonder when the time will come when all cultures will be included and amalgamated into the American landscape.
A world where racial justice and equity no longer needs to be considered and where every ethnicity and culture are integrated and not separated in society is one we should be striving for. In order to get there, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate differences between one another. When implicit biases are foregone and all forms of culture are validated in society, that is when it can be considered “truly multicultural” according to Monica Allen, DrPh, MPH. during one of the Spartan Legacy Training Academy workshops. As part of her academic and professional career, Dr. Allen took a special interest in multicultural health. Her belief is that the wellbeing of individuals is improved when social issues are first addressed. With regard to health, it does not just refer to individual health, but also social health. When health is addressed at a societal level, those changes then affect populations and individuals. To demonstrate, the current social health is poor. The U.S. is so deeply divided and politically charged that those divisions and beliefs have permeated into daily lives, resulting in disparities across the board. The poor condition of American society today also contributes to the prejudice and hatred between cultures, leading to many of these negative incidents. For example, the shooting of Jacob Blake and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Daunte Wright among many others sparked a demand for justice and change. Just weeks ago, the violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities reached a peak during the tragic Atlanta spa shootings that resulted in eight fatalities. It is clear that society is not healthy when we are seeing so many victims of a social disease.
In order to improve the health of society in the present and promote cultural equity, “We need to change our way of thinking about it fundamentally,” says Dr. Allen. The change begins with basic terminology. Given the depth of the divide in this country, terms such as “acceptance” or “tolerance” are no longer sufficient. She emphasizes that “We need to value diversity; we need to understand diversity; [we need to] understand that this country was built on diversity.” Understanding and incorporating diversity, inclusion, and equity into daily life is the first step forward in healing and bridging the divide.