Questioning Diversity

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Essay asks the question if "diversity" is really a good thing and are we even allowed to question that notion in the current social-political environment.

Submitted: January 26, 2011

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Submitted: January 26, 2011



Am I allowed to say, or even think that diversity can be a bad idea?

I’m sorry if suggesting this offends people.  I apologize if questioning dogma is out of vogue.  I certainly don’t mean to slaughter the sacred cow and I have no intention of throwing out Mom’s apple pie. I know this is a big issue for a lot of people and there are plenty of feathers to ruffle.
I don’t know if diversity is a bad idea but I’d like to be able to entertain the thought without being flogged.  And I hope it doesn’t seem too sacriligious to pause a moment before worshiping the sacred calf, just long enough to ask, “What’s so special about this bovine?”  If you haven’t stopped reading by now, then maybe there’s a little hope for both of us.
Of course, someone smarter than me is going to come along and ask the same question. And if they come from the right schools, if they have the right letters behind their name, then someone just might listen.  Blasphemy is only an instrument of change when it comes from the top.  Lower-eschelon heritics don’t become martyrs, they burn in ignomony.  So excuse me while I make my way to the pyre and don’t mind that annoying sizziling of my flesh.  Tomorrow this inflamatory rant will be forgotten and I’ll be a lost corpse under the pile.  
America has been affectionately called “the great melting pot.”  We have more cultures than any nation on earth.  French fries, collard greens, humus, and sushi somehow come together with rap, reggae, country, and classical to give us a giant collage called the “American experience.”  There is an endless world to explore within our borders.  The only question is, “Where do I begin?”  
And that is where I begin.  Because while it is a simple question, it’s implication is profound.  When you ask “Where do I begin?” you could mean, “Where am I going and how am I going to get there?” But you could also mean, “Where did I start and how did I get here?” In other words, you could mean, “Who am I?”  
My point is this.  Is there a possibility that children need less diversity in their lives?  Could too much diversity be harmful for human development?  Does make it difficult to develop a cohesive and stable self?  Are we so intent on stopping our children from creating a world of  “us” and “them” that we impair their ability to create a “me.”  
For almost a million years, human beings have been raised in monocultural environments.  99.9% of all the messages that our forefathers received were about “us”.  And the purpose of “them” in these discussions was to establish a clearer understanding of “us”.  “Who are we?  We are not them.” We are not “savages” in the words of the Romans, Sioux in the word of the Pawnee, Catholic in the word of the Protestant, Capulet in the words of the Montague.  And while this method of identification has the unfortunate, and sometimes tragic effect of creating a focus of animosity, isn’t it possible that there is some benefit to the stability of the human psyche?  Shouldn’t we at least entertain the idea?  What if hating someone else makes it easier to  love yourself?  I’m not saying that would advocate hatred, but it might make it critical to try and replace it with something.  
The generation before ours has been called, “The Greatest Generation.”  And in many ways, the nation was very close-minded in this period.  There was more bigotry, chauvinism and stubbornness.  Racism and sexism were a welcome part of institutional America.  Overall there seemed to be less tolerance in the world.
But these individuals have a clear understanding of who they are and maybe a greater love for themselves and their country then people today.  Our fathers and grandfathers seen to like themselves more than our children do.  They seem comfortable in their own skin even if we cannot imagine how anyone could be comfortable in such a skin.  
When I interact with kids today, there is a sense of confusion.  They seem to have no idea who they are or where they come from.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  But I do know they are not raised within one culture, or even two.  They are raised in a thousand.  Exposed via the internet and television to a thousand different sets of values, dreams, and expectations.  And while they are more tolerant, they are more lost.
I’m not saying we should go back.  I’m not saying we threw the baby out with the bath water.  But is it possible there were some important toys in the water we threw out?  Shouldn’t we consider that?  Shouldn’t we take another look at that water?  In our fervor to create tolerance, are we losing sight of identity?  
I know this.  Children in mainstream America today have less a sense of who they are than any generation before them.  Does diversity have a role in this?  I don’t know.  But if we can’t consider that possibility, then we are the ones being closed-minded.  And if we’re afraid to look for answers in certain places, then there are some answers we’ll never find.

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