If there’s one word that’s overused — when it comes to our campuses, our communities, our cities — “diversity” takes the crown bar none. Always garnishing any statement of commitment or goals, “diversity” has become the penultimate, unchallenged — yet ambiguous — goal of many.
But a question few are willing to ask is: Is diversity always necessary? Are diverse communities or workplaces always best? Is diversity good for anything?
In short, yes. However, we are collectively lacking the dialogue that is necessary to have a successful and productive working environments or communities that are diverse in the best ways.
For one, diversity of ethnicity or origin — while a major focus when it comes to diversity — is a surface level issue compared to cultural and ideological differences. One of the major concepts the U.S. embraces is that of the “melting pot;” that immigrants of multiethnic backgrounds can take up the ideals of liberty, opportunity and social mobility and coexist with their neighbors no matter their ethnicity.
However, cultural and religious friction can make integration — and coexistence — difficult. Focusing on cultural and social integration is important because those factors are more pertinent when it comes to the interactions that take place between conflicting cultural or religious groups. If two or more different communities can uphold or respect the common values that define their citizenship, then the ability to have a dialogue about their intercommunity issues becomes easier.
Another issue concerning diversity is its focus. “Diversity” is often used as a slogan word on campuses and in workplaces to reference ethnic, cultural or religious diversity. What goes unnoticed — and what we should be more focused on — is the diversity of experience and opinion these aspects provide. Religious groups coexisting in close proximity helps us develop peaceful interfaith relations. Opposing political organizations hosting speakers from a wide variety of political stances allows for a plethora of opinions to be explained and debated for the public benefit, as these events allow differing groups to explain their beliefs and ideologies. Differences in ethnic diversity provide insight as to how families from all over the world made their way to our nation and what sacrifices or experiences they faced getting here.
We shouldn’t just use the term “diversity” lightly. We should focus on why that diversity is important rather than focus on how good it makes us feel to be diverse. We also shouldn’t focus solely on surface level variables such as the diversity of skin color. Diversity should be seen as a amalgamation of experiences, beliefs and ideas that allow us to confront challenges with boundless philosophies and ideologies.
Diversity is an admirable thing when viewed and practiced correctly. When several communities come together, fight friction between factions and find ways to appreciate their diverse outlooks on life, diversity becomes what we want it to be: people coexisting and understanding their differing perspectives and experiences, and how that defines who they are.