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Unity in Diversity: The Effects of Cultural Diversity in America

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Diversity may seem as only a ‘modern buzzword’ full of nonsense and hierarchy to some, it certainly is not an original concept; theoretically, it predates civilization’s creation. In practice, the evolution of diversity – and, more specifically, the support around and emphasis placed on it – is a much older development. Recent developments of this theory, have brought new beliefs to light negatively connotating the theory as some sort of “hierarchy” or “unequal” based ideal leading to conflicts between generations. Many have stated how diversity as a concept has overall molded and shaped the country for the better but, the truth is, diversity has become a stereotyped and negative ideal of American Culture.    

From the earliest explorers and settlers to the modern day, America has been a nation of immigrants. Different waves of immigrants have washed ashore in the United States at various junctures, helping to shape and build America in critical ways. Initial forays, and then later settlements, were orchestrated by the colonial empires of the British, French, Spanish, and Dutch. They coexisted with Native Americans and those of the enslaved African peoples they brought over. There were three other major waves of migration, closely linked to crucial periods in the growth of America. Irish, German, Scottish, Scandinavian were the most notable groups among that came next. With the opening of the West to the relentless march of American expansion, these people would be the backbone of settling the Western frontier, as well as providing cheap labor on the eastern seaboard. They also were frequently the ones starting new settlements and states out on the Western frontier.Major waves of diversity led to many of the successful moments in America’s history books, this did not allow the solidification of diversity as a completely accepted concept to all Americans. A poll ran by Pew Research Center in 2019 stated that, “Most U.S. Adults (66%) – are satisfied with the racial mix in their area. Although, when their area was surveyed only 1 out of every 11 neighbors (11%) – were either of Asian, Middle- Eastern, Hispanic, or other Non-White ethnicities or cultures”.   

The Pew Foundation shocked with the results found, returned to interview many of those who participated in the poll. A man who agreed to be quoted anonymously, stated “Education is our key solution for change, for peace, and for help to fight against those who believe racism and discrimination are still an issue, when in reality, they simply cannot get over the past. Diversity is simply an ideal built upon emotional, day-dreamers who cannot get their heads out of the clouds and into the books”.   

Readers flocked to comment sections wherever The Pew Foundation’s – Race in America 2019: Revisited poll existed. Major waves began to ripple throughout the country once more, leading to the question, ‘Is Education a catalyst for negative Diversity ideals?’ Digging deeper into the concept of Diversity in Educational aspects, The Journal of Higher Education found worrying results in a study titled Engaging with Diversity: How Positive and Negative Interactions Influence Students’ Cognitive Outcomes. The study sought out to, “Advocate for the conversation on diversity on schools’ campuses’ by examining incidences and influences of negative diversity experiences”.   

Yielded results concluded that, “In a sample of 2,500 students at four-year institutions, 43 percent of African – American students reported having “high” numbers of negative diversity interactions, followed by 56percent of Hispanics, 53 percent of Asians, and 15 percent of White – Americans. These ‘negative experiences’ counted – reflected hostile, hurtful, or tense interactions with other students who are categorically different from them”. Others argue, that most research in this specific area has identified over the years as more positive or neutral when classifying diversity experiences on campuses, but because of that, these people choose to clearly ignore an important dimension of diversity experience, due to lack of knowledge in this area and lack of understanding of the overall definition of Diversity. As stated by Josipa Roska, lead author of Engaging with Diversity and professor of sociology as well as education at the University of Virginia, “Higher educational institutions really have not delivered their promises of diversity, it is a wonderful thing for them to have a diverse student body – this can be a crucial first step – but you have to ensure that interaction between groups is positive in all aspects before stating you are truly a diverse institute. To me, this is about intentionality, higher education institutions followed by workplace institutions are not helping citizens develop the skills to navigate that diversity, to engage it, to embrace it, or to make it a positive experience” (Roska – Page 204). Roska later claims, “To me, this data recalled in this article is a call for educational and career-oriented companies to engage diversity on a deeper level – not just by admitting diverse bodies but, by helping other embrace and benefit from all sources of diversity due to the historical facts, that these two are the roughest places for the spread and acceptance of Diversity for all”.   

Leading to another question, ‘Is the Workplace the true catalyst for Diversity Issues?’. Due to an increase of globalization in the world, cultural diversity in the workplace has grown as a trend. Although the media and contemporary literature embark upon the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace, citing enhancements to employees’ competence and creativity, this recognition, does not reflect, in actual practice, as strongly as in theory of miscommunication, creation of barriers, and dysfunctional adaptation behaviors. These factors, lead to personnel indulging in interpersonal conflicts, leading to the speaking of different opinions, thoughts, beliefs, norms, customs, values, trends, and traditions.    

“The analogy of an iceberg comes to mind in the face of these potentially endless dimensions; the obvious characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and disability relate to the small, visible portion of the iceberg and are the basis of much anti-discrimination legislation around the world”. When culturally diverse workers are placed in a group specifically to achieve a goal with mutual effort or collaboration, these differences of opinions and beliefs can hinder the development of unity. Leading to more of a hinderance on the mutual goal to be met, instead of fixing the issues at hand.    

The impacts of cultural diversity in society, education, and the workplace can be both favorable and unfavorable. Some negative effects could include dysfunctional conflicts, lost productivity, and difficulty to achieve harmony in group settings. Positive effects include strong knowledge base created by a variety of experiences, an in-house resource of cultural trainers and informers, and a greater tendency to expand the institute in foreign cultures.    

For the most part, the effects of cultural diversity in all cases depend upon how well they are being managed by the organizational leaders. Without this top management in these cases, the ability to continue a healthy balance of proper-diversity will fail, this management can be managed by proper meetings between higher-ups and their staff on diversity and the issues, proper education on diversity and the main ideals of diversity as a theory. With proper strategic planning, top management, and overall willingness to enhance the positive effects towards diversity this can allow the reduction of negative effects towards diversity placed in society, education, and the workplace.  

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