January 16, 2013

Jeremiah Rigsby

Student, Class of 2014
I feel as though I have an opportunity to celebrate my culture through student groups or on-campus activities, such as the events that Lewis and Clark organizes each year for Black History Month. While the student body is respectful and appreciative of the different cultures and backgrounds represented by each individual student, one’s minority status is only as prominent as that student desires.

I have been fortunate to live in a couple of different places with different cultures, and I am happy to now call Portland my home. I was born on the west coast and spent most of my life in small town Texas. After college, I moved to Washington D.C. to work as a policy aide in Congress. In the my last job before attending law school, I was a legislative assistant to a Member of Congress from Oregon. My job allowed me to travel to Portland periodically, and with each visit I grew to love Portland more and more. Though I loved the diversity, culture and energy that accompanies living in the larger cities of the east coast, visiting Portland felt like taking a break from a quick moving treadmill. Most people in Portland understand how important it is to strike a balance between work and life. This city has a collective appreciation for the effort it takes to enjoy the small things in life, and people are highly respectful and tolerant of the individual’s attempt to find their own happiness in their own way. 

I think one of the reasons that the pace in Portland is different then that of cities in the East, or even San Francisco or Los Angeles, is because there are less people–less people also means less diversity. While there are communities of color in Portland, they are small and may take effort to seek out. One thing that I have noticed is how aware Portlanders are of the limited diversity within the city. People in Portland are curious about other cultures, but often have little exposure to these cultures. Many are not comfortable or are unsure about how to talk about race issues simply because they have not been presented with many opportunities to live among a large population of minorities. I don’t count this as good or bad, but it is certainly different and took some adjustment. 
The Lewis and Clark community does a good job of recognizing some of the issues that incoming minority students may face while attending school here. Before deciding to come to Lewis and Clark, I was lucky to have a long conversation with our Assistant Dean for Diversity & Academic Resources, JB Kim. We had a candid conversation about student life as a minority at Lewis and Clark, and it was nice to know that the faculty and administration were both aware of some of the potential issues newcomers to Oregon may encounter. This awareness has made my time at Lewis and Clark enjoyable. I feel as though I have an opportunity to celebrate my culture through student groups or on-campus activities, such as the events that Lewis and Clark organizes each year for Black History Month. While the student body is respectful and appreciative of the different cultures and backgrounds represented by each individual student, one’s minority status is only as prominent as that student desires. In my opinion the general feeling regarding our student body is that we are motivated, we are respectful, we are ambitious, and some of us happen to be minorities.