Recently, I heard a serious TV commentator ask the profound question, “What are the benefits of diversity?” If we humans could actually isolate these illusive benefits, then we would be smart to pursue expanding diversity in everything we do in society. However, instead of identifying how promoting a more diverse social group actually improves individual lives in the United States, our leaders have taken it for granted that diversity is automatically better than uniformity. That issue supposedly being settled, they can direct us to achieve more conformity and equality in our unwieldy diverse society.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, “diversity” is nothing more than a simple noun defining “the condition of being different!” Each of us is different from one another, including a pair of identical twins. (Cloned humans may end up more similar than identical twins, but exhaustive scientific experiments and studies are needed.) So in a small group of 100 persons, there are exactly and absolutely 100 different members of the homo sapiens species. Surprised? Just simple arithmetic. By adding more souls, could we create more than 100% diversity? Would doing that somehow improve any group of humans or the performance of this group?
No one can answer those questions objectively without understanding the reason why this particular group was formed in the first place. If the group indeed has some unique mission, then adding additional people who are qualified to assist in accomplishing the mission would likely enhance the outcome. Let’s take a charitable group supposedly formed to raise money for some worthy cause. If that group decides for diversity’s sake to add paupers who have no money and no friends with money to donate, the group will hardly benefit from adding these new members and “diversifying.”
If we take a class of average students and add disruptive delinquents, the education of the original group is not likely to improve. If we take the same class and add students who do not speak English, again the learning process is likely to be slowed down. Are there some small side benefits? Of course there may be, but they are not relative to the material covered in that class. If we have an assembly line with work stations expecting a certain production from each worker, are we enhancing the output of that line by adding a lazy worker who can’t handle his specific assignments? We have more diversity, perhaps, but what is desired is uniformity of contribution.
Does an orchestra want a uniformly proficient group of instrumentalists? A football team, a balanced group of athletes with a strong desire to win? A battalion of soldiers, a unified esprit de corps? Does any business want a group of employees who are late to work, malingerers, and liars? The roster of employees might be more diverse, but would there be any benefits from such diversity? Would any group of citizens welcome an outside imposition to add undesirable people to their group? An “undesirable person” being defined as anyone who is unqualified to participate in helping the group attain their objectives.
Qualifications should be honestly and fairly determined. Extending equal opportunity to all candidates should be a major consideration once the desired qualifications for membership have been approved. But should there be a requirement or a quota for diversity? Should 80% of the National Basketball Association be white players? No one thinks so today. Should the sum of all the coaches achieve a racial quota? In each job there is work for only one person. That person must be competent, or he or she can expect to be fired sooner or later.
There can be one conductor for an orchestra, one director for a movie, and one President of the United States. Obviously, diversity is not an issue in those circumstances. Diversity only becomes a divisive issue when some outsider aggressively demands conformity from others in accepting a specific quota of unqualified participants into a social group. It is not natural for animals to include creatures from other species into their pack. Many animals are normally solitary. Of course there are parasitic and symbiotic animal relationships, but these are exceptional relationships.
To meld groups of diverse humans forcibly is counterintuitive to the human personality. Humans make few long term relationships outside of their family, religious, business, or cultural group. Ask yourself how many close friends you have in the neighborhood, from your high school days, and your college days? In today’s modern, highly mobile society, individuals move more frequently to locations farther away and stay rooted for shorter periods. There isn’t the incentive today to build lasting ties, especially when it is likely that a relationship will be broken by a transfer, a lay-off, or even a promotion.
Expanding a close-knit association may result in a wider appreciation of other ethnic cultures, languages, religions, etc., but there is no guarantee that any benefits will be gained by the parties involved. Most likely the differences between each of the parties will become more obvious and lead to the strengthening of personal stereotypes. Another problem derived from promoting diversity results from ignoring the fact that the bigger the group of any individuals, the less homologous it is automatically. Even in large families, the various individuals are unique and different from one another. Closeness throughout the lives of these members is unlikely.
Why is divorce so prevalent today? Mostly because a couple doesn’t naturally share the same opinions, habits, background, and orientation. When it is hard for two people of the opposite (and even the same) gender to remain together during their adult years despite the obligations of a growing family, can we expect to build an inclusive society of diverse individuals who are not inclined to maintain close, enduring relationships? Aren’t we actually kidding ourselves that diversity should be a goal of society? Tolerating diversity is a more realistic social goal. Understanding why people from other cultures behave and think as they do, too. But requiring every group to have a rainbow constituency of races, religions, ethnic cultures, and educational inequalities does what to promote a unified social group? Create more problems than it solves?
Cliques will form naturally inside any grouping of people. Some individuals want to become the leaders of the group. Others seek the job of the spokesperson or know-it-all. And still others want to be just fringe members who use the connections, the reputation of the group, and the association of attendees at the meetings for a variety of selfish reasons. Let’s not forget whom we are dealing with when we promote the idea that diverse “elements” ought to be included into a group setting. Many human beings are solitary, insecure, timid, and reserved in social settings. They don’t “fit in” unless copious amounts of alcohol are served.
Friendships can be built over time when two individuals are genuinely seeking to do so for some mutual purpose or perceived benefit. These relationships can endure if the purpose continues to be shared. New members can be admitted to a group of friends, but the relationships in the group will be altered some. If the goal of a group is to achieve a diversity of membership, then all the original members must accept that goal, not just a majority. Orchestras break up, athletic teams change their personnel, and offices have constant turnover. Unity and harmony are difficult to establish and maintain in any group. Success of the group is problematic, since there are so many diversions that disrupt the concentration of the members in achieving their objectives.
We can make an issue out of “diversity,” but is that our first priority as a society? Aren’t unity and harmony more important? Adding diversity to the mix of people only makes achieving unity and harmony more difficult. If we can add just one more person to an organization and maintain unity and harmony, we have accomplished a lot. Normally, folding each new person slowly and deliberately into the group is more desirable. Just like when a cook is baking something that requires a periodic, gradual addition of different ingredients.
Yes, adding the right person to an organization can do much to helping that organization progress, providing that person “fits.” Adding any number of a variety of people complicates finding a new level of compatibility, harmony, and unity. Even with the best of intentions, a leader of a group has more stress, more disorientation, and more inter-personnel issues to resolve. It is much more likely that the group leader will be able to build a positive and successful team if he or she determines the type of individuals that are needed as carefully as possible and seeks the candidates that most closely fit the requirements. If diversity results, good. If unity and harmony are achieved, better.
Of course the criteria for desirable new candidates are subjective and dynamic. Finding the ideal person is highly unlikely. So, the criteria for the “openings” should not be too exclusive. However, we should be aware that seeking diversity may be counterproductive. Our real goal as a society should be to build tolerance and friendly personalities in more people. Then, more individuals will be free to hunt for and recognize the talents of others which their individual groups need.
Many of us may want a strong, prosperous, and growing community, religion, and political party. To achieve those objectives, we may have to reign in our efforts to incorporate all the diverse and conflictive ideas and personalities that present themselves to us.