What is Rural Diversity?
When our class was first asked to consider diversity in a rural setting, it was hard for us to know what we were looking for. Most of us having come from large cities or suburbs, our concept of diversity was rooted in the urban areas. We were initially held back by our preconception that a rural town is made up of a homogeneous group of people.
We began by creating a general definition of diversity including categories of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, economic status, ability, and religion in an effort to identify the types of diversity we wished to investigate. Our categories seemed to apply more to the urban settings, until we began to look for individuals from these categories within the community. The more we paid attention, the more we were able to see.
Although there is no one common experience of diversity in Knox County, there are some themes which reoccurred in our conversations with the communities we interviewed. One of the themes we noticed was that these members of the minority groups were not geographically separate from the larger community, as we were accustomed to in larger cities; they generally blended in and were dispersed amongst the larger community.
The image of a small town community brings to mind close-knit relationships and the ability for everyone to get along. Through investigating how the community views diversity, we found that many of these rural communities want to maintain that image, and therefore resent the idea of diversity because of its potential to ruin the cohesiveness of the town. This community pressure forces many to keep their distinctive identities a private matter.
It is important that people are aware of the amount of diversity that exists within their community. If we do not acknowledge the various groups, we may act in ways that pressure individuals to remain invisible. This may in turn, lead to their exclusion from the broader community. It is especially significant for a growing community such as Knox County to recognize diversity due to the recent influx of newcomers to the community as a result of urban sprawl.
We want to caution readers against assuming the personal stories provided in our essays represent the feelings and thoughts of all people within the minority community with which they are associated. To do that would be a perpetuation of our misunderstanding of the word diverse. We need to keep in mind that not only is our rural community made up of several smaller groups, but within these groups we find diverse individuals. Our goal for this project was not to create spokespeople for each group, but to give voice to individuals in the community who wanted the opportunity to share their perspective.
In order to understand diversity in Knox County, it is important
to understand how Knox County community defines diversity. What is considered diverse depends on what is considered normative.
|Back to Home|