Diversity in America

In my post on Leveraging Diversity the Right Way, I referred to several independent studies* that found groups with diverse members did better at complex problem solving and decision making tasks than homogenous groups. It’s significant to note that all of these studies were focused on groups working toward a common goal, and specifically demonstrate the benefits of diversity where there’s a unifying purpose and shared understanding of the reason the group exists. It’s also worth noting that, though participants in each study were selected for diversity, they all spoke the same language, as it was necessary for members to be able to communicate effectively with one another.

Because of our unique history, America is the most diverse nation in the world. That makes these studies particularly interesting to us. One thing we can learn from them is that, in order to leverage that diversity to work to our advantage, it’s important that we all share a common belief in the principles that define our nation. That’s the bond that serves as our unifying purpose. It’s also important that we speak a common language. It’s wonderful for people to be multilingual. But English is the linqua franca of our nation that allows us all to communicate with one another.

America has always been a nation of immigrants. Traditionally, immigrants have come here because they believed in the principles that make America great, and they appreciated the opportunity to work hard and build a better life for themselves and their posterity. Many of them didn’t speak English, but they learned enough to get by, and made sure their children learned it well. Each subsequent generation managed to work their way a little higher up the economic ladder and sacrificed to make sure their children could get a better education than they had. This has been a pattern throughout our nation’s history, and our economy and culture have benefitted greatly from the contributions of immigrants from all parts of the world.

Today, there’s a concept that immigrants should strive to preserve their cultural traditions rather than assimilate into the “melting pot” of America. Some even think it’s unfair to require people who come to live in our country to learn English. Acceptance of diversity is fundamental to the principles on which this country was founded. But accommodation of diversity is a courtesy, not an obligation.

Acceptance of diversity is the acknowledgement of everybody’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of whatever happiness may mean to them, in whatever manner they choose to pursue it, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. Accommodation is subsidizing elements of a particular culture or lifestyle at somebody else’s expense. If an individual or private enterprise chooses to accommodate another culture’s traditions at their own expense, that’s fine. But the government should not be in that business. One example of unwarranted accommodation is requiring all government printed material and recorded information to be provided in both English and Spanish, at taxpayer expense. Another is installing foot washing basins in restrooms at certain airports and universities, at taxpayer expense, to accommodate a Muslim purification ritual. These expenditures do not serve the majority of the population, and should not be funded through general taxation.

Preserving cultural traditions is good, and I would not suggest that anybody deny their own heritage or the culture in which they grew up. That’s part of their identity. But it’s possible to preserve cultural traditions and still adopt the values and language of the country in which one chooses to become a citizen. If someone adopts a new country, should they not feel a sense of pride in the country they’ve chosen as their home, and to which they’ve sworn allegiance? Should they not show as much respect for its culture as for the culture of the land they left behind? Becoming a citizen of a country means adopting that country’s heritage and culture as your own, in addition to the culture and heritage of your ancestry. Changing one’s country isn’t like changing one’s shoes. One must expect to adapt to the new environment, not the other way around. Most immigrants are more than willing to do so. If some are not, one has to wonder why they chose to come here.

*Sources : Stanford Graduate School of Business, Leiden University, Tufts University, University of Michigan

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “But accommodation of diversity is a courtesy, not an obligation.”
    – Where’s the petition to get rid of the “obligated Cinco de Mayo” celebration? Let’s do our due diligence and stop it before it gets out of hand.

    “.. example of unwarranted accommodation is requiring all government printed material and recorded information to be provided in both English and Spanish, at taxpayer expense.”
    – We should stop all movie subtitles while were at it. Hey, if farm hands want to see our movies… they can see it in English. Best way to run our white bread society is to make damn sure everyone speaks, reads and understands the Queens English. Last thing we need to do is spend valuable tax dollars on foreigners who don’t understand our tax code system or DMV.

    “Another is installing foot washing basins in restrooms at certain airports and universities, at taxpayer expense, to accommodate a Muslim purification ritual.”
    – Thank god that restroom foot washing basin ballot measure got shot down last year. Good Lord, if that would have passed… who the hell knows what Muslim type of act would follow next. We just have to stay vigilant against unprecedented threats like this that are coming at us from all sides.

    “One must expect to adapt to the new environment, not the other way around. Most immigrants are more than willing to do so. If some are not, one has to wonder why they chose to come here.”
    – They MUST adapt. If they don’t ADAPT then let’s ship their asses back home. Even those white people who don’t adapt to our way of thinking should be shipped back to Africa or Europe or even Australia, anywhere but Canada. Everyone has to adapt to OUR WAY of thinking and speaking because this is OUR country and if they don’t have Christmas lights on their house 3 days after Thanksgiving… well then they just might be waking up to a burning cross in their lawn in the mornin! Our way or the highway mister.

    Our way or the highway mister! Amen and God Bless, Brother!

  2. Welcome, Batman. You’re certainly a lively one, aren’t you? Come on in and have a cup of coffee. It might perk you up a little.

    So, it isn’t enough to guarantee everybody the freedom to live however they want, practice their religion, celebrate their traditions, and pursue whatever (legal) form of happiness they desire; we have to subsidize it, too?

    I’m a big fan of diversity. Whether it’s cultural traditions or individual idiosyncracies, it’s the differences between us that make life so interesting. Homogeneity is boring. But what I don’t understand is why you think I ought to subsidize other people’s lifestyles. They don’t subsidize mine.

    And where do you draw the line? Why only translate everything into Spanish? There are literally thousands of languages in the world; over a hundred and fifty are spoken in the U.S. alone. Why not translate everything into every language? Why discriminate?

    And why stop at foot washing basins in airports and universities? Why not in all government buildings? In fact, why not pass a law that every public restroom in a city with a Muslim population of more than 1,000 must have at least one foot washing basin? And why single out Muslims? Why not install spirit shrines in every government building, along with icons, crucifixes, and Buddha statues? All at taxpayers’ expense, of course. Where do we stop? Two things bother me about our current policies. One: They’re arbitrary and, therefore, discriminatory. Two: Why do I have to pay for it?

    What exactly do you think is so draconian about asking people to learn the language of the country they live in? If you were to move to another country, wouldn’t you assume you would have to learn the language? Even if you travel in another country, don’t you get a phrase book and figure out how to ask common questions in the local language so you can be understood? I truly do not see what’s so unreasonable about this expectation. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

  3. I just love people who live in towns that are 93% white telling everyone else about what diversity is supposed to be. Gawd, I love Grants Pass.

  4. Well, Charlie, as it happens, I’m a relative newcomer to Grants Pass, so don’t blame me on them. I’m not their fault.

    I grew up in a suburb of Washington DC, and have lived in NYC, Los Angeles, and most recently, Seattle, among other places. I’ve traveled in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as Mexico and Canada. So I’ve seen some diversity in my life. And I’m a big fan of it.

    I’m also a big fan of this country and the principles on which it was founded. I see no inherent contradictions there. This country is the most diverse country in the world. That’s great. But it’s still one nation, and anybody who doesn’t believe in the principles that bind us all together as a nation is free to live in any country that suits them better.

    Is there something wrong with that?

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