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Posted on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 : 6 a.m.

Diversity at Huron High, in everyday life, at U-M Hospital

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

I am standing under the arch when the bell rings dismissal time at Huron High School, and I am swept up by a sea of young faces—Hispanic American, African American, Arab American, Asian American, Caucasian American, multiracial, more. What an incredible environment in which to grow up. I see young adults of every hue, every size, every background, every religion, every culture. I hear different accents, different languages, different slang. I knew Huron High was diverse, I have studied the school’s statistics on paper, but to stand in the middle of it and let it wash over me…

I am struck, however, by the thought: Where are all these children’s parents in my life? Why do I not see them every day as I walk through this same city? Why do I not swim in a similar sea of colors and cultures? How have we segregated or stratified our adult lives through work or socio-economics or class or neighborhoods or churches so that diversity can even be an afterthought or relegated to a once-a-year show-and-tell for MLK Day? Clearly the people are here. Where are they in my life?

Media watchdogs and the ethnic media have long decried the white-washing of American television and movies. Think about all those television shows set in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Boston that have no or only one Asian or Hispanic character. The thing with television is that it all looks so real, that unless you are watching critically you do not even notice that great swaths of our population are missing. I used to joke that ER was courageous for casting one Chinese American doctor AND one Indian British doctor. Honestly, had those television producers even been to Chicago lately? Or a hospital?

I came across this video on YouTube, Pink Glove Dance for Breast Cancer Awareness from Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. It was created to generate breast cancer awareness throughout their hospital system, but what strikes me is how completely integrated every level and department of the hospital is, from lab techs to surgeons to food service, and how happy everyone looks working and dancing together. Look at the faces. This is a charismatic and hopeful celebration of life. It makes me want to go wander around the University of Michigan Medical Center just to imagine what kind of life it could be.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at


Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Fri, Nov 27, 2009 : 1:30 p.m.

There's a great line in this video from Time Magazine in which Rich Benjamin, the author of Searching for Whitopia, says that there is a difference between diversity and integration. Diversity is different kinds of people just milling about. Integration is different kinds of people living and working and going to school together. He talks about how segregation is as socially engineered as integration, and often disguised under issues of safety and class and neighborliness. Thought provoking. How integrated are our lives really? Video: Searching for Whitopia: America's Whitest Communities Rich Benjamin, the author of Searching for Whitopia, talks to TIME about his journey to the most segregated neighborhoods in America,32068,52332656001_1942613,00.html