Diversity as a Word
“Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe” (Elie Wiesel, survivor of Nazi concentration camps and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize).
The world changed on 9/11; President’s have been elected and/or reelected; companies have closed; bridges built and destroyed; mountains have erupted; hurricanes have wiped some towns and hamlets off the map in Japan, New Zealand, Waveland, yet, diversity has not been definitively defined for those seeking answers to something that may not be definable. Diversity is a “stand-in” word for multiculturalism, inclusion, and equity and replaces, somewhat, A.D.A. So, how are all of these words alike and/or different; and how do they fit in today’s global economy? How are the terms merged to make meaning of what is trying to be accomplished by so many?
This post will discuss in a very limited way the terminology of diversity, inclusion, equity and multiculturalism as well as ADA and break it all down to the lowest common denominator so that all may begin to understand the interrelationship between the words and their supposed meanings. Perhaps they do not belong together; however, it seems that every university beginning with Harvard has appointed committee after committee to address this question. Perhaps diversity is a word that needs to be erased from the map of the world and in its place a new word with new meaning for all.
The task is to make everyone feel welcome no matter who they are or where they may be. Now why is that so hard to do? All blood is red; mankind is one race; everyone wants the opportunity to realize their fullest potential, without abuse. So, how can this be so hard to accomplish? Words seem to proliferate and exacerbate the problem.
Perhaps definitions can be agreed upon and from there a workable plan will emerge…at least a compass point for all to follow. There are already enough laws in place without creating new ones; therefore, a plan appears to be a reasonable point of entry.
The major definitions are thus:
ADA (the beginning)
ADA is defined as a commitment to a policy of educational equity. Activities and employment practices are carried out without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, marital status, ancestry or disabilities. Any person having inquiries concerning this policy should refer to Title VI (Civil Rights Act of 1964), Title IX (Amendments to Education Act banning sex discrimination of 1972), Section 503, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990. Any person may also contact the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, regarding what institutions must do to comply with regulations implementing Title VI, Title IX, Section 503, Section 504, and A.D.A.
This word, multiculturalism, can be a tricky word to define because multiculturalism depends on the context in which it is discussed as well as which country one may be discussing the “word.” The more voices heard in the audience the more the word seems to change. The only country this article will attempt to deal with is the United States where it may seem to many that this is a social and political movement. The definition might read thus:
Differences between individuals and groups is a source of strength and renewal rather than a source of strife and war where through the experiences and background people of diverse perspectives, i.e. racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and/or class differences, develop and uphold the ideals of our society as set forth in the Constitution of the United States: equality and equity regardless of class or station within society…bringing to mind the phrase “all men are created equal.”
Several Western nations, from the 1970s onwards, for a variety of reasons, adopted multiculturalism as an official policy. Because more and more great cities are becoming a mosaic of cultures, government policies may include, but not be limited to:
1) recognition of multiple citizenship usually resulting from the nationality laws of another country, i.e. if one can prove that their ancestors were born in Ireland, one can have dual citizenship;
2) minority languages being supported by government in newspapers, television, and radio, which of course we, in America now have to choose, at every turn, to hear things in English, we press 1; Spanish, press 2;
3) festivals, holidays, and celebrations are all supported for minority cultures;
4) music and art from minority cultures are not only supported but welcomed:
5) traditional dress from other countries as well as religious dress is accepted in schools, the military, and society in general;
6) instituting programs encouraging minority representation not only in politics but also in the work force, science, engineering, technology, mathematics and education in general;
7) and in some countries different codes of law for members of a certain ethnic group might be enforced rather than the countries law….something America already has in the form of diplomatic immunity.
The fundamental principle of inclusion is the valuing of diversity within the human community (Berlinger and Hull). When inclusion is fully embraced, “normal” has no meaning because one must look beyond what is called typical in order to contribute to the larger community, thereby, realizing that the achievable goals of all are what this authentic sense of self and belonging is all about (Kunc, 1992, pp. 38-39).
The Inclusion Breakthrough by Frederick A. Miller and Judith H. Katz is a must read for those who are working to diversify a corporation or university. The book begins by making the case for inclusion and then defines the elements of what they call an “inclusion breakthrough.”
Mr. Miller and Ms. Katz, President and Vice President, respectively, of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. has worked with many major corporations and universities to “remove the blanket and open the box” to diversity.
Excerpts from the book:
“Diversity is a way of framing diversity that captures one’s similarities and differences”
They posit that:
“We are all like people: As human beings we share similar needs and wants – to experience joy and love, to be safe.
“We are like some people: We share culture and experience.
“We are like no other people: We are each unique unto ourselves (p. 3).”
Miller and Katz, in discussing inclusion, state that: “To achieve an inclusion breakthrough one cannot go straight to inclusion. First, the boulder of bias and oppression must be removed; as must the self-fulfilling expectation that difference is a deficit” (p. 181).
For inclusion to occur, an organization must ask:
- “How much of themselves are people allowed and enabled to contribute?
- “How are their different perspectives, talents, skills and style allowed and enabled to interact to create enhanced results.”
Katz and Miller explain: employees that try to suppress their individual differences to “fit in” to the workplace culture are not able to fully contribute to organizational objectives; and employers must learn to capitalize on these individual differences.
The authors address diversity in terms of race, religion, sexual preference, age, gender, national origin, and multicultural individuals. They also speak to the issue of subtle forms of sexual harassment. The book describes eleven required inclusive behaviors for an organization to follow gleamed from real life example by Katz and Miller.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Today let us become one race – one people – people of the human race.
Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul. — Carl Jung