Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Diversity is at the heart of much of the agitation that has gripped the United States for some time and reached a head in the 2016 presidential election.
There have been sharp debates about affirmative action, equity, interracial marriage and immigration. Diversity has been decried as reverse discrimination and threatening to American values. Support for diversity has been dismissed as misguided politically correctness.
“Making America Great Again” is a not-so-subtle allusion to making America less diverse again.
Like lots of claims on the campaign stump this year, the notion that America was once not diverse is false. America has been diverse from the start. Moreover, the constitutional government Americans adopted is based on a continuing argument among diverse interests in the nation. The arguments were supposed to be messy.
Aspiring to a less diverse America is a pipe dream. America in so many ways is based on ever expanding diversity – and the combustion exploded by that expansion.
Americans marched west to settle new lands that were purchased from warring European monarchies, but stolen from the diverse Indian tribes that inhabited them. For better or worse, America became more diverse. Kansas farmers aren’t anything like New York bankers or Silicon Valley high tech workers. They worry about different things and see the world differently and benefit from different policies. By and large, we think that kind of diversity is good.
The kind of diversity that tends to stick in some people’s craw is racial and religious diversity. That is the source of “us” versus “them” rhetoric.
But racial and religious diversity isn’t new either. African-Americans didn’t originally come to America on cruise ships and chose to stay to pick cotton. Many Chinese Americans were originally recruited to build railroads. Religious reformers, free thinkers and members of religious sects came here to escape religious persecution. Lots of people from lots of different places showed up because of the promise of opportunity, a meritocracy and a better life for themselves and their families.
That’s basically how America became a melting pot, brimming with energy and ambition and raw talent.
Over time, the faces of diversity have changed. The Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, Japanese and others have taken their turn in the dunk tank of American scorn. The Japanese dunk tank took the form of internment camps.
Muslims and Mexicans top today’s hit parade list of “bad hombres.” But African-Americans seemingly have never escaped the list.
One of the more fascinating turns of the screw on the issue of diversity has come from DNA testing. Groups such as Ancestry.com have made it relatively easy to use DNA to track someone’s ancestors. The results have shocked some, but shouldn’t really surprise anyone. DNA tests have shown, for example, a person who thought he was Italian actually has more Scottish bloodlines.
More interestingly, many people have discovered they share Jewish, Negro and Native American heritage. Their ancestors got around a lot more than they realized. And that really shouldn’t be a surprise either.
From all the natural evidence, mankind has been on the move for a long time – escaping, exploring and intermingling.
All that movement and congealment comes naturally since our very life form appears to have been the result of cells cohering into colonies to do more, go farther and conquer enemies. And it isn’t likely to stop, as the world grows more diverse by the day.
Mankind isn’t alone in diversification. The earth itself is a hotbed of diversity. Plants, animals, minerals, waters and volcanic rubble. All of it, when reduced to the most basic elements, may just be electrons, protons and neurons, but it is a splendid array of outputs. Diversity is the natural reflection of evolutionary adaptation.
People who endorse diversity aren’t politically correct, they are historically, culturally and scientifically correct. People who lust for a world less diverse have no idea what that world would be like. Luckily for the rest of us, it is a world they have no ability, God-given or otherwise, to create.
“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
John Donne, poet and clergyman (1572-1631)