What in the World is Diversity?

Just what in the world do “they” (presumably the government) mean by diversity? It’s all the rage now–government, universities, public schools, businesses. It’s supposed to be the goal of  the segmented institutions in a U.S. society which is an already highly blended country of many nationalities, cultures, religions, united by language and its own culture known as American.

Curiously, the more we begin to pigeon-hole people by any one, two or three or four government-defined categories of race, diversity and interest, the more we promote segregation instead of integration which was the Holy Grail of the civil rights movement after years of slavery and its extension, southern Jim Crow laws and northern red-lining. The weapon against that was anti-discrimination. It was all about skin color.

However, now we’re into diversity which is more than not discriminating. I read an editorial the other day in my hometown newspaper in western Pennsylvania that called for greater diversity in the region. The term was not defined. However, this is an area settled originally by Scot-Irish-Germans then later flooded with peoples whose names ended in ic or ich, or e, i, o, ski, and sometimes z. Nearly every group still has an ethnic club or organization celebrating its national heritage.

Lately, with the advent of hyrdaulic fracking and the drilling for gas and oil, people with names ending in ia and ez have been coming in so I can only assume that this is the needed diversity, but I don’t recall anyone calling for names ending in hin, ei, ho or hi. I guess it’s a matter of perspective as was indicated when a group at the Italian club in a small coal-mining area was asked about their opinions about fracking. One man said it was ok except for the foreigners coming in. Asked what he meant, he said, “You know. Those people from Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.” And, he didn’t mean Latinos.

Diversity, however, is more than skin color or looks. It includes beliefs and it includes how one acts out about those beliefs. This is shaky ground for government interference. In the last 10 days, I spent time traveling for family get-togethers and I reflected on the diversity in these almost all white gatherings. The non-whites, by the way, included a newly wed couple Indian-American (India). One was Hindu and the other Muslim. They included Christians (white) in their wedding party, too. I talked also with a woman of color – originally from Canada who said she liked where she lived except for its being conservative. So much for liberal diversity.

Others in these get-togethers were of Italian, Serbian, French, and United Kingdom derivation. Religions in and out of the family included Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Jews, aetheists, agnostics, not-sures, and Muslim and Hindu. Political beliefs included Democrat/liberal/progressive, Republican/conservative/tea party/establishment, Independent/Democrat/Republican, and pure and partial Libertarian. Age categories ranged from 19-month-olds to 83 years old. Health conditions, mental and physical, ranged from very good to not-so-good with a variety of afflictions, past and present, and histories of happiness, woe and loss.

Diversity and political correction police would probably have labeled the groups non-diverse because of the absence of African-Americans, or because the groups were economically too tightly grouped (though not necessarily at birth). We didn’t sit around talking just politics or religion although one man did confess that he doesn’t talk politics with his wife because she’s a totally committed, life-long Democrat and it’s useless. Conversations instead focused on family, children, friends, relationships, health, common interests, occupations, making a living, the economy, the medical system, weather, travel, communities, the past and  future.

These were real conversations of people bonded in a hundred different ways not defined by government ideologues and idealists who, I suspect, define “diversity” as people of mixed background, all of whom agree politically with them.

 

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