Identity & Difference
"Celebrate Diversity!" posters aside, diversity is neither inherently good nor bad... it just is. In other words, human difference is
simply a fact of life.
Whether diversity is good or bad is a contested, mostly subjective value judgment. As such, people (with diverse and often incompatible beliefs and commitments) are unlikely to agree on any such conclusive assessment.
Some people love diversity, and it stands near the top of their particular value hierarchy. Others don't love diversity or place a particularly high value on it - that is, they are quite content with homogeneity. Most people probably have mixed feelings about engagement with diversity and lie somewhere along a continuum between these two extremes.
Thus, romanticized narratives about how "diversity is our strength" aren't particularly helpful guides for responding to difference and conflict in a multi-racial, ethnic, and cultural constitutional democracy. Neither are romanticized narratives about homogeneity very helpful in that regard.
In instrumental terms, diversity can be beneficial - for instance, when our lives are improved through cultural exchanges or when people with different perspectives challenge each other's prejudices and enhance the accuracy of each other's understanding of the world.
Sometimes, however, diversity can be a major source of division and conflict - for instance, when people from different groups have mutually incompatible worldviews or when they are unable or unwilling to agree on fair terms of cooperation across difference.
Likewise, it is difficult to maintain a romanticized view of diversity
when people sharing the same political and geographic space
fiercely disagree about what factors contribute most to disparities of outcome or how a free and fair society should respond to them. In other words, diversity is much more complicated than it is typically presented today.
The challenge, then, is finding out if and, if so, how or whether
people with very different identities, worldviews, and commitments can peacefully, sustainably, and constructively coexist in the same political and geographic space.
Prominent responses to these questions don't seem to be offering very constructive or realistic solutions. Just look around... There is a great deal of division, distrust, and disengagement among various political factions within our country.
I recognize the need to think differently about these questions and work toward better, rather than worse, plausible versions of the future. It is unlikely that there will ever be universal agreement about how human beings should respond to the challenges of diversity.
A Plausible Vision for the Future
If a society with as much diversity as ours is to function well, it has to have some clear and reasonable terms of cooperation. Otherwise, it will fail to motivate some groups to maintain their political ties with others, which typically leads to some form of political separation. Often, it leads to political violence.
Today's America, however, is not united by any clear guiding principles or overarching philosophical framework. As such, I am increasingly pessimistic about the ability to bridge the growing gulf between the far-Left and far-Right, between urban and non-urban populations, and among the squabbling identitarian and other militant groups in our deeply divided country.