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J Michael Kearney

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Diversity is NOT a Strength
By J Michael Kearney   

Last edited: Monday, January 27, 2003
Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

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Diversity, unlike merit, is, in and of itself, neither a strength nor a weakness.

We hear the mantra “Diversity is a strength,” all the time lately, but in reality, this is not a fact, not even a valid opinion, in truth, it is poppycock.

The fact of the matter is, there are far more drawbacks to diversity than there are to homogeneity.

Don’t get me wrong, there may be some positive aspects to a diverse workforce, a diverse student body, etc, but diversity is not, in and of itself, a strength.

Generally a “diverse” workforce is more often than not, a divided workforce as well. The real strength of America lies in its common culture and its unifying language, almost a universal or global language – English. Without them, our economy, our medium of exchange and our cherished way of life would be lost.

Today, in New York City Public Schools only 55% of the students speak English at home. Of the rest, 28% speak Spanish, 2% Cantonese, 2% Russian, 1% Bengali, 1% Korean, 1% Haitian Creole, 1% Mandarin, 1% Arabic, 1% Urdu and 7% Other. In most public high schools, language has become a divider. FOB – “Fresh of the Boat” is the term US-born students tag immigrant students with. It’s a label that both unites and stigmatizes.

A recent article in the NY Daily News by Jesse Graham, chronicled Jin Fan, a newly arrived immigrant from China, an FOB. She explained how language barriers create social groups. “If you’re learning English, you hang out with other students that are learning English too, but if you get into classes that are mixed, your friends change. It all depends on your English level.”

Graham described another scene, “As Jin began to walk away arm-in-arm with her quiet giggly group of friends – all recently arrived Chinese immigrants – a tall and confident Lisa Wang brushed by with her posse of African-American and Latino buddies. “I don’t have a lot of Asian friends, they get intimidated by me,” Lisa shrugged.”

America’s strength is not its population, but its Founding document the Constitution which has survived Irish political thuggery and Bossism...Italian, Jewish and black ethnic politics and maintained the essence of its original character, that is to say, the Bill of Rights still enshrines the individual OVER government and subjugates the state as a servant NOT a master.

Will our newest immigrants embrace our unifying American culture? If the past is any gauge, the answer is yes. We can expect the vast majority to immerse and eventually become absorbed into the vast American culture.

My own fiancée arrived in America from Jamaica just over six years ago and has better diction than I do and is more deeply interested in American politics than many people who were born here. She comes here as a Chartered Accountant in the English system and has recently completed an Accounting degree from Baruch College.

Will all this new energy and new ideas be a good thing? Almost certainly, but just as surely there is a limit to how many newcomers any nation can absorb and we are fast approaching that point.

Further, the idea that “diversity, by itself, is a strength,” is a foolish one. No reputable studies have shown a diverse workforce to be as efficient, let alone, more efficient than a homogeneous one.

Is diversity a bad thing?

Not at all. Is it, by itself, a strength?

Is it superior to homogeneity?

It certainly doesn’t appear so.

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Reviewed by Dave Corbitt 4/28/2003
Well done, JM,

Well thought out and written.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 3/21/2003
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 2/17/2003

wOw. If my future husband came up with this pretentious wanna-be-manifesto, I would certainly think THRICE, before joining his tirade!

Let me get this one straight: you are to marry a black woman, yet you think diversity is NOT a strength?? hello? how are your children (if you decide to procreate) going to fit into this equation? will they be a strength or a detriment?

It is well known that MUTTS (animals) create the most intelligent --expression.

Neurotic, and defective --progeny are produced from homogeneity.

Goodness Joseph, you cannot be serious.

Show me a HOMOGENOUS society TO-day!! (And tell THAT ONE to 'Lucy' --our ancient 'science approved 1st mother!)

OKAY, here we go: HOMOGENEITY?

McDonald's great big chomp in to Pret a Manger. Everywhere I look I see the same logos. People are stamped by Nike. Their individualism is displayed by the colour of their mobile phone facias. I go into town to drink in bars swept by an invasion of Ikea/Habitat interiors. Beechwood chairs, grey glass, wooden floorboards, chrome.

Endlessly reproducing as though these things - these symbols of 'american homogeneity- taste - are actually breeding.

I'd love it if they were. Minimalist chairs humping madly after lights out.

Bars in Hockley are almost indistinguishable from Waterstones, take away the books and you'll find chrome and beechwood veneers, tasteful sofas, grey glass, wooden flooring. You'll find these in the cinema (Warner Village), and even the bus shelters have adopted this style.

Same, same, same, same, same.

I find it empty. The beech wood is only a veneer; underneath the surface it is hardboard or MDF. Does it matter? Maybe not, but perhaps it stands as a metaphor.

The inoffensive simple good taste of 'Swedish' design is a facade, just as the beech wood is a facade (beech wood is an expensive 'tasteful' wood). Bad taste doesn't lie underneath the surface, but more a lack of any taste. Any developed, individual, creative taste, good or bad.

Perhaps that is the point. These are places to take your labels and logos, your lifestyle 'affiliations' without fear of conflict or clashing. A void to be filled. Or not. An assertion of sophistication and intellectualism pervades these places which is utterly FALSE. FALSE. REPEAT: FALSE!!!

So what does it matter? This is the question I return to, again and again. I return to it because I can't quite find the answer. I feel it in my gut - an insistent sense that homogeneous culture is dangerous - but to articulate why brings up inherent problems.

WAS Individuality and creativity a staple of Your childhood? Innovation an imperative? because your care-taker took risks (like coming to America!) with their careers and lifestyle, and money was often very short of supply.

Were you brought up to value yourself in terms of creativity, in terms of exploring and expressing your individuality??

It is, a shock to find that not only do most people not do this, but they don't want to. They actually want the comfort of homogeneity. I remember asking a friend why everyone at a party was wearing virtually the same shoes. "Why do they all want to look the same?" I asked. "They don't," he said. "They just don't want to look different."

Therefore my own discomfort with homogeneity may be just that. Mine. And if it is just me (and a few others) then perhaps it is my opinion that is wrong. After all is homogeneity such a bad thing? It makes society run smoothly. People know their place within their chosen cultures (because there are different identifiable 'groups' within the main), which is comfortable. It doesn't make people automatons. They still have their distinctive personalities. And isn't it simply elitism to view oneself as different? A trick of the ego, or a way of avoiding the pain of feeling an outsider.

I don't really know, and yet I do. Deep down in my gut, I do.

I'm not advocating anarchy, or the end of capitalism. I'm not saying we should walk around asserting our individuality in outlandish ways, or avoid fashion or styles or design or 'lifestyles'. I'm not saying we shouldn't prefer one brand to another (if you're really sure who controls that brand). But does it all have to be chrome and glass? Do I have to see the Nike swoosh everywhere I go?

Please, oh please, just make it all a little less FUCKING boring.
- - -

Snake Eyes, Yours Truly...

Reviewed by Claywoman 1/1/2003
I disagree with almost all you have stated in this article, unless your ancestor's came from English Speaking countries before they immigrated, they too could not easily learn the language!

Do you realize that we are the only country that does not require our students to learn at least three different languages to do international business?

I for one, feel that learning two or three languages is wonderful and I feel that Spanish especially should be taught our children from Kindergarten upward! Unless you want to live in an insulated society, you must be adaptable enough to realize that the sun, moon and stars do NOT stop at our borders!

Do you realize that BEFORE contact and afterwards in the southwest, there were no borders? Mexicans moved freely here and all over the southwest. Most Mexicans ARE Indians or at least a part, and even with the passage of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidelgo they were guarenteed full access to the 'states'? Study up on your history before you spew your racist brand of history, would you please?
Reviewed by susie harrison 3/20/2002
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Respecting ones heritage and culture here in America should be an honored trait, but lets put things into perspective as you have. This is the melting pot. That means that if you are American, no matter what color you are, you are an American. Martin Luther King spoke of equality. I agree with equality for all people of all races. However the key word is 'equality'. There are cries from certain American's that because of their heritage (and once minorities in this country) that they know deserve special rights and freedoms. I believing treating all American's EQUALLY. No more, No less. The more our nation concentrates on diversity the more divided this nation becomes.
Another good peice!
Reviewed by Victoria Murray 12/30/2001
A very thought provoking article and well presented...
Reviewed by vulcaneer S (Reader) 12/19/2001
I appreciate your point of view. However, I think we're missing some very important points here. For starters when we talk about diversity we need to be clear what kind of diversity is being referred to. I think that in this article you are referring to racial/cultural diversity and I somehow cannot understand how you think that diversity leads to an inefficient workforce, when it is universally known that even today more than HALF of USA's working population belong to different nationalities, especially in key areas like Software. American companies come to India to harvest bright crops of software engineers to meet the demands back home. To begin with the American Nation as it is today was initially formed by migrants. Therefore diversity is nothing new, but actually a TRADITION in USA. And somehow I am not certain what you mean by American Culture because as many people see it- there is none. American culture is what survives after it has borrowed from various other cultures. And the antecedents of "American Culture" are European in origin. Further, when it comes to speaking English and in the case of students in particular it is a well known fact that students have to give exams like TOEFL to get selected in US universities. Therefore, all of them are FORCED to learn English. While I am not hinting that learning English is not correct, my point is simple- Is it MORAL to force a group of people to conform to the standards set by a majority community or face rejection? I don't think so. Culture is something that cannot be forced upon anyone and if it is then it shows that the imposing culture that is forcing this conformity on other cultures is very less evolved. I think diversity/multiculturalism is something to be revelled in because it is more than a fact; it is a VALUE! And to relate the existence of diversity to a lack of efficiency is in my view fallacious because efficiencies rest on the skill of people, not their cultural inclinations. Thank you for this piece, it made me think... :)
Reviewed by vulcaneer S (Reader) 12/18/2001
I strongly disagree with you but this politically incorrect article certainly got me fuming! Good work! I'm looking forward to seeing more from you.

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