How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Cultural Diversity: a Fait Accompli
Guest articles > Cultural Diversity: a Fait Accompli
by: Gary D. Rubin, Mercer University
This short essay briefly defines cultural diversity in terms of its advantages and then explores two recent events from the popular press; both of which exemplify the complexities associated with living in a culturally diverse society. This author argues that businesses as well as society as a whole are strengthened, in part, though cultural diversity and if a society is to be regarded as civil, its members must demonstrate tolerance toward those who are different from themselves.
Cultural diversity signifies differences in race, gender, age, religion, and nationality in terms of their influence on businesses and society at large. There are many benefits achieved through culturally diversity. Among the advantages are: Greater openness to new ideas, multiple perspectives, multiple interpretations, increased creativity, flexibility and wider problems solving skills. (Adler, 2008) And while there are clear advantages to organizations and society that effectively embrace cultural diversity, doing so is not always without challenges. Two very recent news events highlight some of the difficulties. The first issue has to do with the subtleties involved with simply recognizing, versus judging, differences. The second example speaks to statements made which are clearly and blatantly judgmental and, which in this writers view, are unproductive and harmful.
Recognizing versus judging
To begin, we consider the plight of journalist Juan Williams, a ten year veteran of National Public Radio who was recently fired from his job with NPR as a result of comments he made on the Fox News show, “The O’Reilly Factor.” Williams stated, “Seeing people in ‘Muslim garb’ on airplanes made him nervous.” (Journal, 2010) Some mistakenly argue that “Managers make every effort to see people only as individuals and judge them based purely on their professional skills….managers blind themselves to gender, race and ethnicity. …”(Adler, 2008) This logic seems virtuous enough on the surface, however it is flawed since, “This culture-blind approach causes problems by confusing recognizing culturally based differences with the judging of those same differences.” (Adler, 2008)
Recognizing differences is a benign acknowledgment that there are differences. This essayist argues that is from these differences that valuable attributes, such as those described in the first paragraph of this essay, are derived. In the case of Williams’ statement, he went beyond just recognizing differences when he described feeling nervous seeing people dressed in traditional Muslim attire while boarding airplanes. His comment incites others and reinforces tacit feelings of mistrust of others, not like us and is reminiscent of the kind of fear-mongering rhetoric used by white racists of the 1960’s, especially those located in the Deep South of the U.S. The statement, “They make me nervous.” really means they make me nervous because they are Muslim and everybody knows Muslims threaten our wellbeing. And if they make me nervous they should make us nervous too! Thus from the precipice of good intentions – just expressing personal feelings, Williams slides down a slippery slope straight into the realm of judging and not just acknowledging.
Problems with accepting cultural diversity as a positive influence have been a part of American culture for many years going back at least as far as the early 1920’s and 1930’s with waive upon waive of European immigrants. There was a backlash from the dominant population then just as there is today with Mexican and Latin American and especially Muslim immigrants to the U.S. However, American’s have no claim of exclusivity in their ability to be unwelcoming toward those who are not like us. Take for example this recent comment made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This approach has failed, totally…. We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.’ Merkel said the long-vaunted goal of multiculturalism — the concept that “we are now living side by side and are happy about it” — has failed in Germany. (Ethics, 2010)
In conclusion, clearly, any uncertainty about the relative advantages of cultural diversity is irrelevant. Cultural diversity is a fait accompli throughout the globe. Those who feel otherwise, and believe the “genie” can and should be stuffed back into its bottle are practicing self-deception at best and in the worst case racism. In any event, to have such a desire ignores the awesome beneficial power we all receive through cultural diversity. Instead of them versus us, (whoever they may be) isn’t it time We, with a capital W, recognize and embrace the advantages of cultural diversity? And rather than judging others, We – everyone, must simply remember to be kind. After all, kindness toward all, but especially for others – not like us, is fundamental to the existence of a civil society.
Adler, N. J. (2008). International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior (Fifth ed.). Mason: South-Western.
Ethics, T. I. f. G. (2010). Failure. Retrieved 10/22/2010, 2010, from http://www.globalethics.org/newsline/2010/10/18/failure/ b
Journal, W. S. (2010). NPR Firing of Analyst Sparks Media Debate. Retrieved 10/22/2010, 2010, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303339504575566494186869492.html?KEYWORDS=national+public+radio
Contributor: Gary D. Rubin, Mercer University
Published here on: 31-Oct-10
MSWord: Cultural Diversity.doc