In Search of Cultural Diversity
“ethnic,gender,racial,and socioeconomic variety in a situation, institution, or group;the coexistence of different ethnic, gender, racial, and socioeconomic groups within one social unit”
“We talk diversity, and then get in our cars and drive like hell to get to the suburbs.”
Observations During My Lifetime
There can be no doubt that I have seen a great change in cultural diversity during my lifetime. When I was a child there were still signs that declared “whites only” on public restrooms and restaurants. Today those are gone, and we see interracial dating and marriages, and that is all good and as it should be.
However, I do not believe for a second that cultural diversity is universally accepted. I believe, for many, it is simply a matter of social diversity being politically correct, and that the old ways of thinking have been relegated to the closet, out of sight of the mainstream. No one who has any desire to be accepted by the general populace would dare speak out against diversity. No, those thoughts and actions are saved for the living rooms when it is safe to speak to those who have similar beliefs.
I remember talking to my dad about cities he had seen when he was in the army. He spoke of different ethnic neighborhoods within the great cities. He spoke of Little Italy, Chinatown, and other sections of town where the Irish, Jewish, Russian and Mexican people lived. It was understood that you did not roam into a neighborhood that did not contain “your” people, and the neighborhoods were clearly defined by street names, almost invisible boundaries that separated one from another.
Is it any different today?
Look Again at the Second Quotation
“We talk diversity, and then we get in our cars and drive like hell to get to the suburbs.”
I saw that quote a few weeks ago and it has stuck in my craw ever since. Have things changed that much in the past sixty years? Why do people live in gated communities and out in the suburbs? We need an honest answer to that question. Is it for safety? If so, then safety from whom? Is it safety from “those people,” or is it safety from crime?
It is an interesting question is it not? It can only be answered by each individual during quiet times when honesty is allowed because no one else will hear the answer.
When I was teaching I would eventually have a teaching unit about cultural diversity, and I would always ask my students a rather simple question: would they be willing to marry a person of a different race? I would also ask them if they have any “best friends” who are of another race.
The answers were quite often as you would expect them to be, for who has the fortitude at that age to speak the unspeakable? Every once in a while, though, there would be a student who would actually say that there was no way they would marry across racial lines and they did not believe that was a good thing to do.
From the mouths of babes! What makes it interesting is that a middle school student does not form that opinion on their own; chances are excellent that they are parroting what they have heard at home from their parents.
It has to begin with acceptance
At the Workplace
Wage statistics would seem to argue that cultural diversity is not as established as we might think. According to the U.S. Census, the median weekly wage of African Americans in the United States is 65% of their white counterparts, while that of Hispanics is at 61%. The most common reason given for this is the lack of educational opportunities for Hispanics and Blacks. Interestingly, Asians are 1% higher than Whites when comparing median weekly wage.
Can these disparities in wage be looked at as examples of a lack of cultural diversity? According to the definition of cultural diversity, namely the coexistence of diverse groups, then no, wages really do not apply in the discussion. However, the concept of cultural diversity implies, does it not, that there is an equal playing field in all facets of life. If that implication is true then we have to say emphatically that cultural diversity is falling short of its lofty goals.
A little history for you teachers out there
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The National Archives Digital Classroom: Primary Sources, Activities and Training for Educators and Students.
What Should Be Done?
I am going to stray a bit from my Liberal friends. I do not believe that cultural diversity can be legislated. It has been tried many times in the past, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Act. Yes, each piece of legislation has achieved some good, but in my humble opinion it is a Band Aid covering cancer. The real problem of acceptance is being overlooked, and you cannot legislate acceptance.
True cultural diversity will only be seen when we as a society embrace it. When every man, woman and child chooses to concentrate on our similarities rather than our differences, then we will see cultural diversity and all of its benefits. When every man, woman and child sees a human being in front of them rather than a Black, Hispanic, Asian or White, then we will live the spirit of cultural diversity.
What should be done? Spread the word. Educate your children. Become a living example of cultural diversity. We have seen huge strides in this societal area, and we will continue to see further strides made as we come together for the common good.
Shangrila, Bill? Really?
I have been called a cynical optimist. I prefer to think of myself as a realist. I do not believe for a nano-second that cultural diversity is accepted in the hearts and minds of the entire country. Do I believe it is possible to improve? Most definitely, but it will take a great many years.
Unfortunately, as the income gap increases, and the rich continue to distance themselves from the poor and the economy worsens, I believe fear will lead to blame and then we will truly see how strong this cultural diversity idea really is. Fear is the wild card that cannot be ignored, and fear is born of ignorance. If we do not make a concerted effort to educate ourselves about other cultures and races, then we will continue to fear, and then we are doomed to fail.
H.O.W. can there be true cultural diversity? It begins with each individual. No government can do what a determined group of citizens can do. No legislation can reach into the hearts of man and change decades of misconceptions. Only we can do that, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will see true cultural diversity in this country and around the world.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)