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By Ana Tanaka
For The North American Post

Editor’s note. The following is a speech Ana Tanaka delivered at the graduation ceremony of the UW Department of American Ethnic Studies (AES) in June.
Ana Tanaka speaking on a Japanese American Citizens League JACL panel at the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival April 2023 Others on the panel from left are Kyle Kinoshita Camila Nakashima and Bill Tashima Photo David Yamaguchi

“HELLO, I’m Ana and I’m here to talk about the Diversity minor but I would like to firstly say how intriguing I find the name. Because what are we, as people of color, diverse from? People of… NOT color?

“While the minor’s name, to me, is humorous and a little ironic, it sheds light on the fact that people of color are considered ‘diverse’ and ‘different’ from the supposed ‘norm’ — with emphasis on the air quotes.

“Throughout my time here, getting to know the faculty, staff, students, and general community, I have actually learned that I am, in fact, NOT diverse.

“Which might not be exactly what you’d expect to hear from me during my little speech, but this label is simply a western conception. We are not a minority in numbers. We share stories and backgrounds and patterns in history that should bring us together.

Ana in leis with UW Prof Connie So whose courses include In Justice for All Intersection of Race Ethnicity Class and Gender in the United States<br >Photos both courtesy of AT

“And when I say I am not diverse, I don’t mean that everyone is the same—I mean that I have found others like me who have experienced being ‘othered,’ who have had to seek out their history beyond their textbooks, and who have experienced generational trauma that fuels their fights today.

“That being said, I firmly believe that those who take the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion classes that the minor requires gain an unparalleled perspective on the world which is crucial in any field. After studying about marginalized communities and oppression, there is truly no other lens through which one can observe the world around them… for better or for worse.

“And while I know that I am my own person and that cultures are not a monolith, I have learned that diversity means community, in which case I am proud to graduate with a minor in Diversity. And I am proud of all of you who (whether you knew it or not while scrambling to register at the literal crack of dawn) have chosen to decolonize your perspective, I am proud of all of you who will continue to uplift marginalized voices in our country that systemically works to stifle them and I am proud of all of you sitting here in this room today who have passed any of Dr. Connie So’s classes.

“Please give a round of applause in congratulations to all the Diversity minors and AES majors we have here today!
“Thank you.”

Ana Tanaka just received her BA in American Ethnic Studies and Human Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Diversity. In AES, she studied Japanese American history in Dr. Vince Schleitwiler’s classes. Since 2021, she has also volunteered with the Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Chapter, presently an intersectional activist organization that works alongside other groups to end family separation and US incarceration for undocumented peo­­ple. She is presently studying for the LSAT exam with hopes to attend law school and study Civil Rights.