Orange County’s diversity journey is on its way to enrichment through the creation of an equal sense of belonging for each student

Media art of diversity concept composed of the use of computer graphics. Courtesy of Kelly Crane

As a society our generation has come a long way in the understanding of diversity but we also conceal the topic in fear of its taboo essence.

“It’s a proven fact that a lot of us hang out with or surround ourselves with people of our own racial group not because we are consciously doing it but because we have that shared identity,” said Amani Husain, professor of ethnic studies at Saddleback College. “Think about even your social media, follow people who are not like you, who are different, and don’t share your same perspective: different colors, genders, and creeds.”

Orange County is not the only guilty community of using racial ideologies to cause diverse groups to disperse into their own self-segregated pockets, Husain said. As college students in a majority-minority state we must fill in the gaps of our history that still affect all ethnic groups to this day.

A majority-minority state means that California has a larger population of non-white people than white people. The demographics for Orange County reports that the white population with no other backgrounds is at 38%, with Hispanic at 34%, Asian at 23.3%, black American at 2.3% and white of European, Middle East, or Northern African descent at 69.1%, according to the website The United States Census Bureau.

With the U.S. Census Bureau estimating that the U.S. will become a majority-minority country by the year of 2050. This prediction in place has pushed officials to make changes to be able to work and meet diversity demands, said Jose Lumbreras, professor of introduction to ethnic studies and intro to Chicanx/Latinx studies at Saddleback.

However certain states are pushing back against nourishing a more diverse society.

“In places like Florida, diversity, equity, and inclusion offices are being shut down across university campuses,” he said.

As an already majority-minority state California needs to take the lead in showing how a diverse state can inclusively steer the country into the right direction for acceptance of the demographic changes. Actions like from AB 1460 mandate for all students to take ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Striving to educate the country on this paramount subject.

Husain said to fully understand Southern California’s diversity we must first understand the history of how most of California’s current residents are not the state’s natural population. The true natural population would be the numerous indigenous tribes that once inhabited California such as the Tongva tribe. 

Throughout the centuries of history the Los Angeles area has been home too numerous different communities through colonization.

“It’s an issue of access, inflation, legacy of colonization and racial segregation,” Husain said. 

Historical laws and events leave ripple effects into the economic advancements of minorities. During the main migration to California from the 1848–1855 gold rush the U.S. government established laws that were made specifically to not benefit Hispanic or Mexican Americans economically. California’s 1940s-50s was also subject to racial segregation, making unwanted communities in O.C. spread to pockets with shared identities; contributing to the phenomenon of white flight.

“You think about East L.A., historically the Chicanx area. Watts L.A., historically an African American area,” Lumbreras said. “With white flight, South and East L.A. became a home for black and brown families as well as some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Islander families.”

The 1965 Watts riots accelerated O.C. transition of white migration. Leaving South and East L.A. left behind without jobs and less tax revenues due to the mass deindustrialization process. Contemporaneously the 1965 immigration act opened the gates of the U.S., making L.A. the place to go for jobs and cheaper living conditions. 

Then came the imaginative idea in 1968 of Disneyland simultaneously to Saddleback College opening their doors. These new institutions encapsulated the idea of the good old American town within the O.C. community. 

“I think it is Main Street where there are the clean streets, white picket fence, and a place just away from all the troubles that places like South and East L.A. had to experience,” Lumbreras said. These ideologies in history set forth a domino effect of self-segregation. 

Still in modern day you see self-segregation which Saddleback is striving to change this historical habit by starting with the culture of the community, Husain said, educating and diving yourself into other cultures and perspectives enhance your connective understanding of society and to how it should be.

Since AB 1460 mandate of ethnic studies Saddleback has hired three professors for the ethnic studies department and plans on advancing the program even more in hopes of getting more students to continue their studies past the mandatory course. 

 “Ethnic studies is for everybody,” Husain said. “Does a good job of filling in the gaps of things we didn’t learn in schools, which everyone benefits from.”

The baseline goal for most faculty at Saddleback is to start changing the culture into an even more welcoming and encouraging place where every student can find a sense of belonging, she said.

“The best thing for Saddleback to continue to do is to attend local schools and community centers to let the community know that Saddleback College is here to help elevate the community. That Saddleback has resources for all people, and if they don’t, they will find a way to obtain the resources that are needed,” Lumbreras said.

Saddleback has instituted new programs and clubs to better increase the student’s avenues of shared identity. Such as the program Rising Scholars which supports students who have been negatively impacted by the U.S. judicial system and the club Immigrant Student Alliance whose mission is to advocate for all students of the community affected by the immigration policy at Saddleback.

The ethnic studies department hopes for all students to practice opening their communication with Saddleback’s faculty and other students. For students to open their world to things that are different to what they are used to. Life is about more than being comfortable in your surroundings; test yourself and learn something new.

“The more you expose yourself to differences, the more you grow and your world expands. All in all don’t make your world smaller, make it bigger!” Husain said.