UCLA Law School - Diversity Essay

Any Iranian will tell you, we love our proverbs and aphorisms; my father was no exception. Whenever I’m asked about who I am, I can’t help but think of one of his favorites: “the loveliest of faces are to be seen by moonlight, when one sees half with the eye and half with the fancy.” My life has been one of halves, of two worlds. My parents emigrated from Iran after the revolution and arrived in Canada at the age of twenty five. With nothing more than a high school education, they worked odds and ends just to provide for me and my sister. At the age of five, I remember being packed into a car with everything we owned and driving down to California. The reason? My aunt had just moved and was willing to rent out her house far below its worth and our destination, Irvine, had much better employment opportunities for my parents.

                Irvine is quintessential suburbia. With a median property price of nearly a million dollars, Irvine had consistently been voted one of the safest, best places to live in America with one of the greatest public school systems. Irvine was a dream neighborhood full of “ideal” American citizens. Then, there was us. From a young age, I knew better than to ask why things were different for our family. Efforts to fit in and to keep up appearances were not easy, especially while I navigated the legalities of being undocumented. Half of me fit in, as I could dress and act the part, but the façade crumbled under close scrutiny; my peers were quick to point that out. Vacations outside the country, driving a car, and getting my first job were all things that were off-limits. My parents had done an amazing thing in giving us access to great public education, in giving us a way up and out. We owed it to them to change things for the better.

                Working my way through community college while taking advantage of the flexibility granted by the recent Deferred Action Child Arrival Program, I made it into CSULB. The university had a reputation for its diverse student base and I was excited at the opportunity to take part in any and all programs to fight for undocumented and disadvantaged students. In attending the first meeting of these organizations, I immediately felt out of place. I was met with furrowed brows and confused glances. People dismissed me somebody who just wanted to pad their resume. I was a Persian from Irvine what could I know about their struggles as undocumented students? The same efforts I had put into my appearance, posture, and composure in Irvine exposed me as an outsider, a poser. To the other members of the club, I wasn’t a “real” disadvantaged identity. To them, I had never experienced hardships worth fighting for. I didn’t stay with the organization much longer.

                It’s hard to see past appearances, I understand that. But, I want to change that. Prejudice, discrimination, being disadvantaged, it doesn’t have a face. It doesn’t have a certain voice, it doesn’t take up certain hobbies, it doesn’t walk a certain way nor does it fit into neatly delineated boxes. Some consider my identity illegitimate, either on legal grounds or socially. I can’t even live my life out in the open, I’m forced to live it by moonlight. In this, my identity is half determined by my external appearance and my actions. The other half? Occupied by people’s preconceived ideas at their own fancy, as either undocumented or privileged. I want to succeed, I need to succeed, to change this. I want to fight for those in the margins, those for whom bureaucracy and goodwill often overlook . I need to enact change, because the loveliest of faces are to be seen by moonlight.