Diversity: Some Questions

Recently, a Confederate heritage apologist blogger posed the following questions of a fellow New Yorker:

The diversity you appreciate… Is it cultural? racial? something else?

And do you consider it superior, morally or otherwise, to prefer dissimilarity over similarity? That a group of people who are diverse is better — in some ways, in all ways? — than a group of people who are alike? I’m sure you’ve heard the meme, “Diversity is our strength.” Would you say that diversity is always strength, and homogeneity is always a liability?

Would you advise me how important it is — compared to other important things in life — to have a level of comfort with people of all cultures? 

I find these questions most revealing of the person who asked them. Doubtless one could point out that they are problematic and reflect assumptions that one might reject. But let me offer a few observations:

First, one should not define diversity too narrowly. There’s gender, race, ethnicity, faith, ideology, sexual preference, and class, for beginners. All too often diversity’s reduced to race, which is a rather narrow view of diversity.

Second, diversity depends on interaction: it is not only who one is (and who everyone else is) but how the people in the group interact that tests a commitment to diversity. Let me offer an example: say you like to take and circulate pictures of your group, and in those pictures you feature a non-white face in a sea of white faces. Does that make the group diverse? Of course not. Now, what if that non-white person wants to date someone within the group … that might test the group’s commitment to diversity. Moreover, let’s not limit those dating choices to people of the opposite sex. Now how diverse is the group? How tolerant is it? How accepting are its members of diversity, and how comfortable are they with it?

The question as to whether diversity is “superior” to sameness betrays the questioner’s fears about diversity and its consequences. Some people will argue that diversity is indeed superior to sameness. For example, major league sports benefit from embracing diversity in assembling their talent pool. You want the best athletes, regardless of race or ethnicity. Take the recent IIHF tournament. Teams represented nationalities, but many of the players were under contract or were draft choices of NHL teams. You could spot future NHL prospects on many of the teams.

One could also argue that what’s important here is what one makes of that diversity that tells us whether it’s a strength or weakness. Again, diversity is more than a matter of descriptive demography. That said, I haven’t heard much of an argument about the superiority of sameness unless someone assumes that they belong to the group in question: thus the superiority of sameness is a treasured belief of white supremacists. Such people reject not only diversity but also equality. I think that’s a weakness born of fear: a fear that one can’t compete in an open field against other people. Thus white supremacy barely conceals a fear of white inferiority.

Intellectual sameness leads to staleness: it is the interplay of various ideas that helps advance understanding. As for the impact of diversity, that depends on how people address the opportunity offered by that diversity to learn from each other, engage in new experiences, and understand how other people think and act. I don’t think those are bad things.

Finally, I think it is very important to have “a level of comfort” with people who are not like me. Otherwise I shut them out and betray my own fear of the different (that the questions are framed as exercises in “superiority” and not “enrichment” tells me that fear is at the root of the questioner’s questions).

Those are some of my thoughts in brief.

What say you?

22 thoughts on “Diversity: Some Questions

  1. Al Mackey January 6, 2014 / 11:19 am

    As you said, Brooks, there are a multitude of factors to consider regarding diversity, including backgrounds. It’s a conclusive fact that highly diverse groups deliver higher quality solutions to problems posed in the workplace. That’s why Kaizen teams in the Toyota Production System must consist of workers drawn from all areas of the operation, not just the one undergoing the improvement. Having a diverse group look at the problem means you have people of different backgrounds, orientations, and ways of thinking and relating to the problem all bringing their perspectives to bear. Excluding people on the basis of being different artificially limits the potential for a higher quality solution.

  2. Thelibertylamp January 6, 2014 / 1:09 pm

    Diversity has always been the bases of progressive thought. To join together cultures, races and nations to unify in progression in the arts, music, literature, peaceful societies, science and engineering and other areas that will advance humanity.

    The tribalist mentality is very threatened by “others” their fears are usually based in ignorance and remain closed minded to progression. They tend to fancy themselves “traditionalists” and if most of them had it their way they would be turning back the hands of time to serve for their own selfish advantages.

  3. Buck Buchanan January 6, 2014 / 2:10 pm

    One of the most diverse groups I have ever belonged to was my mechanized infantry battalion. We had folks from all over the world….truly all over the world. Samoans, Irish (actual from Ireland, not from South Boston), Korean-Americans, Armenian, WASPS, Eastern Europeans, African Americans, Native Americans….the list went on and on.

    Of the six company commanders we had an Italian American, 2 African Americans, a Scottish American (yours truly), a German American and a Vietnamese American. Operations Officer was Irish American, intel officer Native American, Battalion Comamnder was African American (spitting image of Bill Cosby). We were products of West Point, ROTC, OCS and 1 direct commission

    Our NCO corps was just as diverse as were all of our soldiers.

    And we were a kickass bunch….and we proved it in training AND in war.

    Our differences, in many ways, made us better and a more cohesive team.

  4. B Parks January 6, 2014 / 3:30 pm

    I could not agree more. The question that ‘she’ poses reveals an answer in itself. It presents a disturbing thought-process that implies an obvious distaste and/or discomfort with the premise of diversity. How can that not be rooted in racism? (BTW: I feel honored as it appears I have an entire post of my own over at Miss Connie’s blog. I did not know she was so attracted to me. Maybe we can hook up for a pint sometime.)

      • Thelibertylamp January 6, 2014 / 5:00 pm

        HAHA! BParks- She is obsessed with me too, she keeps thinking she is going to make our heads explode with her idiocy, when all we do is laugh at her.

        Her latest post of the sample of her trashy novel only says to me that she probably needs to get laid, and that is a most unattractive visual.

        • BParks January 6, 2014 / 9:15 pm

          Ha! Yes I know Liberty! It’s not hard to speculate that Connie was that angry and bitter girl who sat in the corner of the girls locker room judging all of us, especially those of us who were not descended from the same peoples. I know her kind and it’s sad to see that kind of immature insecurity and prejudice last into adulthood. She may be in her 50s but she has yet to grow up.

          • Thelibertylamp January 6, 2014 / 10:43 pm

            50s? As if! She is in her 60s!!

            I don’t know why she thinks her bad attempt at writing about vanilla soft core porn is going to make heads explode.

            Maybe it will explode out of boredom?

          • BParks January 7, 2014 / 11:57 am

            BTW: I read as much of that dribble as I could stomach and I had to say it was not only an example of poor writing, it was about as titillating as a handshake. That is her idea of hot romance? I thought someone who constantly fantasized about these strong southern white men could come up with something better than that. Forget birth control, all you have to do is read Connie’s version of sexual interplay and the mood is long gone.

          • Brooks D. Simpson January 7, 2014 / 12:31 pm

            There’s a reason she continues to give away her prose for free.

          • Al Mackey January 7, 2014 / 12:39 pm

            To be fair, I think her point would probably be that she doesn’t have any sex in her writing in order to rebut criticism of it as “trashy,” as if that’s the only criterion.

          • BParks January 7, 2014 / 1:19 pm

            I would have thought that Al, but her post clearly states “Sexy Excerpts from Southern Man
            by Connie Chastain” BTW, It appears she’s already replied to this post with another tiresome rebuke.

          • Brooks D. Simpson January 7, 2014 / 3:51 pm

            Anything to keep her writing. No need to read and respond to her efforts at “clarification.”

          • Thelibertylamp January 7, 2014 / 5:15 pm

            The Wrath of CON = 50 Shades of Grey-coat

          • Al Mackey January 8, 2014 / 9:34 am

            My old pal Connie fancies herself an expert at sarcasm. 🙂

          • Thelibertylamp January 7, 2014 / 1:16 pm

            Tell me about it, it reads like a bad Life Time movie.

            Oh Xaviera Hollander, where are you when we need you?

  5. John Foskett January 6, 2014 / 4:17 pm

    A couple of points. (1) As you correctly suggest, too often the word “diversity” immediately conveys a narrow meaning restricted to race/ethnicity. That is probably for historical/legal/cultural/political reasons in this country. (2) Whether the concern is race/ethnicity or any other category, the benefit of “diversity” is that it eliminates “sameness” as a barrier to recruitment/enlistment regardless of the area of endeavor and maximizes the chances that merit/skill/talent will cull the best – not that one have “diversity” simply to be “diverse”. The hockey analogy is a good one. Played at its highest level (the NHL) hockey features the best players in the world because there has been no rule that bars Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenian’s (Kopitar, I salute you!), etc. It’s not because there is an artificial rule which requires that there be skaters from Korea, France, or New Zealand come hell or high water. That is the fallacious ground on which the “sameness” folks like to play.

    • Brooks D. Simpson January 6, 2014 / 4:45 pm

      Remember Jim Paek! Richard Park!🙂 But again, the issue was talent, not diversity for diversity’s sake.

      • John Foskett January 7, 2014 / 8:19 am

        I should have known that you of all people would trot out the Tiger of the AHL. I guess I should be happy that you didn’t add Cristobal Huet.🙂

  6. Patrick Young January 6, 2014 / 7:38 pm

    The Original post by the Heroitage advocate said:

    _________________________________________

    [1] “The diversity you appreciate… Is it cultural? racial? something else?

    [2] And do you consider it superior, morally or otherwise, to prefer dissimilarity over similarity? That a group of people who are diverse is better — in some ways, in all ways? — than a group of people who are alike? I’m sure you’ve heard the meme, “Diversity is our strength.” Would you say that diversity is always strength, and homogeneity is always a liability?

    [3]Would you advise me how important it is — compared to other important things in life — to have a level of comfort with people of all cultures?

    I don’t really expect you to answer, but these are things I’ve always wanted to ask a champion of diversity, but never had the opportunity to.”
    ________________________________________

    My response:

    You flatter me by calling me a “champion”. I agree with you that I probably won’t “answer”, but I will respond [Note: Numbers in brackets above were inserted by me for your convenience]:

    [1.] In the last year I’ve been the official host of the largest charitable function in the Korean community in Flushing, Queens. Just 20 minutes from my home in Westbury N.Y., I can visit that community and see literally hundreds of friends and colleagues, enjoy dinner at a variety of Korean restaurants, and pray at a Korean church. The culture is not at all the same as my own Irish American culture, but it is welcoming, loving and supportive. And lots of fun to be part of.

    Many of my neighbors in Westbury are immigrants. Abutting my property are families from El Salvador, Mexico, and West Africa. A few blocks away is an Italian community of 1,500 people. Within three blocks of my home I can go to two first class Italian restaurants, a real Mexican restaurant, a Salvadoran pupuseria, two Chinese restaurants, a Turkish restaurant, a bagel shop, a Korean grocer, and a Latin Market stuffed with vegetables and baked goods that you won’t find at a Piggly Wiggly. I can attend Mass in English, Spanish, Creole, and Italian at my local church

    Is this racial diversity, etc., etc.? I call it enjoying differences.

    [2] I am a Catholic, so my views on morality were formed by my religious upbringing. I believe that openness to all of God’s children is a mandate we receive from God, if we believe in God.

    Acceptance of other people is a strength. Sowing divisiveness, walling ourselves off from those who appear different, weakens a society.

    America is a strong country because we have worked at ways to incorporate folks from very different backgrounds.

    [3] If you live in the 21st Century and you are uncomfortable with diversity, you are going to get a lot more uncomfortable real soon.

  7. bryanac625 January 6, 2014 / 8:15 pm

    ” All too often diversity’s reduced to race, which is a rather narrow view of diversity.”

    Not only do I believe this to be very true but too often, this racial definition is confined to race regarding African-Americans.

    On Christmas 2012, my wife gave me a book called “Every night & every morn : portraits of Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, African-American, and Native-American recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.” The title is self-explanatory. Anyway, I shared my receipt of the book to an online message board for scale plastic model airplane builders. The site is overwhelmingly middle-aged, conservative White men, nothing wrong with that. Some saw the importance of the book and thought it was a great addition to the library of military history. Others objected about the mention of “hyphenated Americans” and felt any book should only include all Medal of Honor recipients with no focus on cultural differences. But what I found so funny was the whole multicultural discussion was quickly reduced to objections about African-American history as opposed to simply American history. it was just interesting to me that even though the book includes the stories of Audie Murphy and Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, both Included for their Native American heritage, All some of these people could see is another “divisive, unecessary” book about Black history.

    http://www.amazon.com/Every-night-every-morn-African-American/dp/0979957206/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389063442&sr=8-2&keywords=every+night+and+every+morn

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