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The Case For and Against Diversity

Updated on June 8, 2021
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Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

In the Western world within the last fifteen years, there has been a greater call for more diversity in society and more praise of it. Equally, there has been more opponents to diversity as well. So I wanted to look at its pros and cons, just to get a gist of the empirical truth of where these views are coming from.

Diversity and democracy are paired up as if they were naturally tandem. Both would seem to support the rights and humanity of the individuals, and protect against the injustices of one group over another. Though not always referred to it as ‘diversity’, this has been the clarion call since the 1960’s, when everything traditional and familiar about the world we lived in was challenged. In many cases, was even turned on its head.

But what is it?

diversity noun

BrE /daɪˈvɜːsəti/; NAmE /daɪˈvɜːrsəti/

​[uncountable, countable, usually singular] a range of many people or things that are very different from each other


The Root

In a strictly dictionary sense, diversity simply means a wide variety of things. There is no moral, social, or political implication beyond that and can be applied to anything: from the fore-mentioned, to food. In other words, it's just a wide range of options that are all different from one another. However, that is just the dictionary definition. The social and applicable definition is entirely more complicated.

When it comes to how society defines diversity, it can mean many different things depending on who you ask. For example, the word might mean when applied to race, every other color other than White. When applied to sex, can mean other variations of gender definition than just hetero and even gay. How people define it varies just as much along the human spectrum as the human experience does.

Today, it is applied to mean the embracing of more than just one standard in all levels of society. It is representative of the realities of this world where humanity is no longer divided into tribes that have no contact or knowledge of each other. Rather, that the human world has now become so integrated that anybody trying to keep to themselves or their own is just about impossible. Globalization is one example of this.

Now enter the spider’s web.

The Need For Revolution

The case for diversity comes from the near global recognition that humans have not always treated each other with respect like many of our laws, constitutions, and religions say that we should. In fact, mostly we haven’t at all, committing a number of crimes that cover every grotesque crime that our darkest imaginations can create. As society developed, there was a slow recognition that this was no longer desirable: emphasis on ‘slow’. The ancient laws of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt started the shift that certain actions need to curtailed. Religions such as Christianity and Islam started canonizing ideas where different peoples and cultures could come together and even transcend their parent cultures, albeit under one banner: at least at first. Philosophies both rediscovered and newly born out of the Renaissance period, began to self-examination what it truly meant to be human and just. And laws like England’s Magna Carta and America's Constitution tried to implement these shifts in attitude.

The catch was that these were still obstructed by our biases. Be it nationality, race, or economics, the idea of embracing a more civilized and diverse humanity only went so far before it hit the proverbial wall of humanity’s limitations. Many atrocities and injustices that all of the above sought to eliminate or limit, still happened and continue to happen regardless, often making many of these attempts hypocritical because of loopholes that were found, or aspects of them that were just ignored because of personal inconvenience.

Therefore, when Counterculture and revolutions of colonies worldwide began to occur, it was more than just a series of major historical events. They were watershed moments of accumulated and conflicting human experiences that had not been reconciled.

Since then, though crimes still happen, there has been more and more of a harder push to stop behaving like our predecessors.

From  The Cyrus Cylinder, dated 539 BCE is considered the first recorded decree institutionalizing human rights under the Persian king, Cyrus the Great.  Its declarations were so progressive that it was paralleled by the UN.
From The Cyrus Cylinder, dated 539 BCE is considered the first recorded decree institutionalizing human rights under the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Its declarations were so progressive that it was paralleled by the UN. | Source

Diversity is seen as the answer to that eon-long issue. Through this its proponents argue, the rights and equality of all people are acknowledged and accepted. All people can live according to their choice without fear of violence or prejudice. And its is seen as the way society can grow and evolve. There are many historical validations for this. The Roman Empire was known for taking both the ideas and the manpower from conquered people to employ in their own armies. The Mongols also were known for fostering new ideas and culture for a time to better their own empire, as did the Persians as well.

People recognize something that they like in something they have not seen before, or perhaps is superior to their own interpretation, and add it to their own repertoire. The United States is believed to be the international summation of this ideal, as it is literally a jigsaw puzzle of differences that both by choice and by force, have to get along and have done so for over two hundred years. It goes without saying that many of these ideals have not come to fruition as well.

Slavery still happened and continues to this day. Inequality still persists in economic class, gender, and race despite laws in place designed to protect them. Religion and laws continued to be loop holed by corrupt parties, and it seems in many ways that proponents for diversity are becoming more extreme and radical in reaction to these obstacles. Enter now the case against diversity.

"I feel my heart break to see a nation ripped apart by it's own greatest strength--it's diversity."

— Melissa Etheridge

The Changing of Identity

The main reason that the Far-Right organizations have been growing in Europe, South Asia, and America has been the fear of their loss of identity. To them, diversity is not only a weakness, but signals the end of their culture as they know it. It ties back to when people were defined by borders that they rarely crossed. Everyone inside more or less shared the same values, nationality, and race, and the society progressed in one direction as a whole.

Once new groups began to enter into that homogeneous mix, it is believed the culture becomes less focused. Sense of identity is forced to change because of the different values that aliens bring in with them. An ability to recognize where someone is from gets lost because of mixed-race. Competition becomes more intense because more people have come onto the market who may or may not have better skill sets than the locals. And all of this puts a strain on the national system overall because of both the new problems that come in, and because of how some natives react to these changes with hostility or violence. Bottom line is that what is familiar is disappears and the people under that belief fall into a survival mindset. And there is proof for this need for familiarity within diverse communities themselves in that it is common for sub-cultures to form their own mini-communities within the larger, diverse one.

Think of major cities like New York, San Francisco, and London: and then how each of these has neighborhoods like ‘China Town’, ‘Little Italy’, and ‘Londonistan’. Some of these slangs are not complementary, but they speak to small communities of people gathering together in a diverse world because it is familiar to them.

Morality is aligned to whichever serves your end to survive as who you identify yourself to be.

Unfortunately, there are historical points for this as well. Hundreds of empires across Europe and Asia have arisen and fallen due to the intrusion of another rival onto their territories. Native Americans who were once numerous across the continent have dwindled so that to meet one is practically a rarity. Refugees and immigrants fleeing their homelands for safer places have forced their hosts to figure out how to deal with their new values coming in that might be contradictory to the established ones, and how to employ those people as well.

Despite all this, the biggest problem facing diversity is its own nature. A wide range of different flavors can be a wonderful thing, when it is congruent to the direction the nation as a whole is moving in. However, if any of those parts stop cooperating and start prioritizing their own ends and goals, then it can create pull effect in opposite directions: or several if you are dealing with more than one group like America is. The end result being that the whole stops its progress and can eventually tear itself apart. It is said by some that this was a major reason for the fall of the Western Roman Empire, when those who were naturally-born Roman began to mistreat German tribesman integrating in. Which then created resentment from those tribes that eventually led to them sacking Rome.

by Keith Lewis/Getty Images.  Immigration is the human form of animal migration.  All creatures will seek new lands when changes are forced upon it and humanity is no different: from the Huns and Gauls, to Latin migrants and the Rohingya of Myanmar.
by Keith Lewis/Getty Images. Immigration is the human form of animal migration. All creatures will seek new lands when changes are forced upon it and humanity is no different: from the Huns and Gauls, to Latin migrants and the Rohingya of Myanmar. | Source

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

So is diversity worth the risk? Afterall, it seems we are incapable of making up our minds on not only what direction we want to go in, but what that direction even looks like.

For my small part, I would still say yes, and this is why.

I don’t see diversity as some kind of political or social movement. Rather, that it is the natural result of history and biology continually moving forward. Through increasing population, technological growth, and looking for the best lands to prosper in, diversity is inevitable to happen because the changes in society globally are currents too powerful to resist and has been an instinctual motivation for animals since animals could move. Just the increasing factor or population alone would force the issue.

Grant it, there are many people who are trying to resist. Far-Rights group have been on the rise over the last few years. Part of that is just from stubborn groups refusing to let go of their prejudice and ethnocentrism, but a larger portion I feel is driven by fear of change and the unknown future. Humanity is a paradox in that we are both the most adaptable species on planet Earth, and the least adaptable because we don’t like it.

Our cultures evolve more so from changes that are forced upon us by outside forces than they are by natural choice. And even those changes that are natural are more for furthering our own comfort than pushing boundaries: with only a daring few who do so for the latter. If it were the opposite, then why do so few people care about or get involved in science programs to increase our knowledge of our world and the universe which it exists in? Why instead do more of focus on binging Game of Thrones or The Mandolorian on our streaming services?

Diversity has more to offer than it does to take. New ideas keep a society from growing stagnant and dying from rot. They both open up new doors not seen before, and create new avenues for our imagination to take to create doors that were not formerly there. However, that is dependent on how we treat each other. America’s biggest problem with diversity isn’t diversity itself, but the manner in which we responded to it.

We choose to take land. We choose to lie to people. We choose to remain ignorant and believe in our own superiority. We chose slavery and we chose to rationalize our apathy, violence and injustice to each other. The consequence of that is the legacy of injustice that still persists in many corners of our institutions today and within the people themselves. Our now-natural distrust and suspicion of each other, and fear that one faction or another is going to take control of our lives and force us down a road we don't go, is a constant obstacle and lens that we have great difficulty seeing through.

Our diversity is not naturally cursed, but tainted with how we chose to respond to it. I don’t believe that this can't be overcome, but there needs to be a lot of digging into old wounds and soul-searching that pushes everybody involved to get to a point where diversity can move in harmony with society.

© 2019 Jamal Smith


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