Thursday, January 15, 2009

Celebrating Diversity - Don't we mean unity?

I got an email today from my employer- it’s an invitation to a “celebration of diversity” in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King.  As I get emails like this, there is something that doesn’t sit right with me about them, especially surrounding this term- “diversity”.    Don’t get me wrong, I’m against discrimination, but I think this focus on what makes us different is counter-productive and it is ultimately tears us apart.   Yes, we are a divers people, but that isn’t what makes us great.

To illustrate- if diversity is so great- consider the following things which can all be considered “diverse”:  

100 people banging on different instruments


An Orchestra

A zoo


A Wildlife refuge

A crowd of random people


An Audience

A garage full of junk


A storeroom

A Refrigerator full of leftovers


A Carefully stocked refrigerator

While I admit that singular, isolated arguments can be made for each one of the former items as being interesting and beneficial, we have to look on the face of the matter and admit that each of the former items is the inferior  version of the latter.  The difference is the unifying purpose that gathers together diverse elements into something wonderful and productive.   If we get hung up on celebrating our differences, we’ll end up creating meaningless, mundane mish-mashes and leave ourselves wondering why we are so dissatisfied with the result when it is clearly “diverse”.  

A friend of mine brought this quote to my attention from Monroe’s inauguration, 1817:  “Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion which pervades our Union. Discord does not belong to our system. Union is recommended as well by the free and benign principles of our Government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other eminent advantages attending it. The American people have encountered together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. They constitute one great family with a common interest.”

The diversity is not what makes an organized collection of things great, it is the unity of these separate parts that sets them above other collections.   What was Martin Luther King’s dream?   It was that we can all ride the ­bus in the same­ seats.  Attend the same schools.  Eat at the same restaurants.  Do the same jobs.  All regardless of our race and color.    His message wasn’t “celebrate me because I’m black”, it was “Let’s stop being divided because of my race.”   His plea was for a unity, not diversity.

That’s  my plea too.  All this talk about diversity, I don’t think it helps.  On the contrary, I think it divides us further.   Let’s talk about coming together and being unified.   Let’s create a common American culture of high moral values that elevates the qualities of honesty, courage, industry, thrift, chastity, humility, respect, and charity.