My Diversity Revelation

Not many people know because it was a long time ago, but I spent a year teaching English and studying Korean in South Korea when I deferred a year before entering Georgetown University Law Center.

There is one memory I will never forget. I had been there for several months and my friends from UVA who had visited over the summer were long gone, back to school or their first jobs.

I was waiting at a busy bus stop, just watching all the people and it suddenly dawned on me…everybody — here — looks — like me.

I’m the majority!

It was a mind-blowing kind of moment.

One caveat. Any local who would take one look at me, based on my clothing, posture, general demeanor, and hairstyle (I still had hair back then), would know in a split second that I wasn’t from South Korea.

That said, from a more basic physical features perspective, it was weird to realize this was the first time ever I didn’t “stand out” in the way I do in America.

I still “stand out” in Korea in a slightly different way so as a second generation immigrant from Korea, I’m sort of in-between worlds. Still, this didn’t take away from the eureka moment.

Now that I’ve had many years to reflect back on this experience, I realize it is not so much whether we “look” different or even that people notice the differences or not.

It’s the meaning we give those differences that matters.

In other words, what differences do I notice and which do I not? And of the differences I notice, what do they mean to me, at a conscious and unconscious level?

None of us can change what we look like or our history (and we should honor them in any case), but we can change our perception of others and whether we celebrate or fear our differences. To me, that is the real point of #diversity.


Published By Joe Kwon, the Connection Counselor

Originally published at



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Joe Kwon

Joe Kwon

Keynote speaker on Leadership and Executive Presence, with a heart for promoting diversity