A dictionary definition of ‘Diversity’ is – “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements”. With regard to the US we can typically site racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and sexual orientation diversity. Racial and ethnic diversity are most commonly discussed. The country was founded by whites and black slavery, and then there was emancipation and all the associated political unrest and conflict. Early America attracted many immigrants, but mostly from white predominate countries. More recently things have changed. In the 60’s and later there was an uptick in immigration both from latin America and Asia. In 1950, whites were ~90%of the population but by 2014 that number was closer to 60%. The Census Bureau projects that whites will be a minority by 2044. Most of these new immigrants have associated with the Democratic Party while the Republican Party has become dominated by whites, and mostly white males. This is a relatively rapid change in diversity while at the economy has entered a period of less robust growth. I believe that this is a formula that has fueled the simultaneous rise in polarization and associated conflict in our politics and society in general.
Most liberal, progressive thinkers believe diversity, of all types, is good. I agree. One gets a much broader array of perspectives on all issues and deliberations over compromise solutions. Different cultures and ethnicities have differing experiences with a wide range of issues, problems and solutions. Incorporating these into our own deliberations avoids repeating mistakes of others and opens new approaches and possibilities. All for efficiency and the greater good of society. From this perspective, diversity is good for democracy.
In our current environment we are experiencing huge polarizations. It is no longer legitimate policy differences between liberal and conservative. Politics has turned to combative sport – no holds barred – throttle the opposition at all costs. The quality jobs that supported a vibrant middle class a half century ago have and continue to disappear. The ranks of the middle class are shriveling. This is the middle class largely dominated by ‘whites’. These ‘whites’ now largely support extreme right wing politics, the politics that is racist and anti immigration and anti muslim. These are demonized because they threaten the return of the good old days of a vibrant middle class. Never mind the relentless advance of technology, and the effects of unbridled capitalism. From this perspective many would say diversity is a negative for democracy.
I believe that the truth lies somewhere else. Diversity on a huge scale (such as we are headed toward) is a cultural change for society. Experience has taught us (on a smaller scale such as corporate or small communities) that culture change , to be successful, must proceed at a generational pace. We are trying to move to a very diverse society at much too rapid a pace. Diversity is good. We have to put more effort into how and how fast we try to change. This argument is even more important in a polarized environment such as the one we live in today. So lets focus on resolving the polarization. A good first step in this direction is policy change that addresses the huge financial and wealth disparity – the financial elite vs. the huge majority must be broken. We can not continue on the path to a class based society – the elite and privileged vs the majority.
Photo by LAD0T