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Home  > Article

Diversity: Another Perspective

By Theodore Sares

Are we afraid to be ourselves? By speaking candidly, we may redefine diversity completely, on and off the job.

Some believe we are fast becoming a nation of control freaks who seem to mind everyone else's business. We don't want anyone to smoke, drink, eat meat, wear leather, fish, own guns, hunt or shoot. We are told what books to read, what religions to follow, what parts of history to rewrite, what movies to see, what words to use, what television shows to watch, what safety equipment to wear, and what signs to have in front of our homes. According to this thesis, we should sit in a corner like a potted plant, devoid of free will and the ability to think or discuss controversial issues or express intellectual curiosity unless, of course, we are attending appropriate community meetings, thinking politically correct thoughts, or listening to holier-than-thou politicians spew their duplicity. People need to find more reasonable and open ways to discuss difficult social issues without feeling such constraints. We need to cut through the artifice and get to the nub of issues if we are to move forward. It's time for analytical debate; not hyperbole or finger pointing.

As just one of many examples, how can we inform Human Resources people that they may be spending too much time on matters concerning diversity and multiculturalism without having accusatory fingers pointed at us? Yet, if we cannot get through this barrier with reasonable discussion, how can we possibly depend on HR people to deal with the more critical business-related tasks associated with their responsibilities, such as work force planning and compensation? Indeed, if you need to spend your time on something, how about working to reduce the obscenely generous severance payments given to top executives who fail, or how about trying to slow down the inappropriate erosion of traditional retirement plans?

And speaking of diversity, maybe it's time we slowed down the "celebration" and began accepting it as an inevitable, natural and welcomed result of ever-increasing demographic and generational shifts in our population and an ever-increasing understanding of its value added. Maybe it's time we put the consultants (who have created their own self-serving and lucrative industry in this arena) out of business.

There is nothing particularly celebratory in watching interns, doctors, nurses and case workers from a myriad of different origins performing as a team to save lives in the intensive care unit of New York City. That's just the way it is down there because it's reflective of the highly diverse population from which the members of this medical team come. In short, it's human behavior, and I don't need HR consultants or diversity "experts" to tell me this is some kind of carefully orchestrated result achieved by the "skills" of organizational development people. That's pure rot. In large, urban areas, it just happens, and any implications as to diversity are simply incidental to the happening. Maybe it's time we stopped celebrating it, because every time we do, we call attention to what we are celebrating in a contrived way, and the more we call attention to it, the more likely it seems it will not be accepted in the natural progression of things. Celebrate it if you must -- but for gosh sake's, accept it. It's here and it's not going away.

In 1964, I reluctantly had to change clothes in a "white only" locker room in the company I worked for in Southern Illinois. This, thankfully, stopped in 1965. In 1975, it was a fading memory. Today, it's hard to even fathom it happened. I believe diversity is fast moving in the same manner. When something changes for the good and you begin to accept it as a natural and inevitable step forward, you begin to move forward. This is all the more so as a new generation of Americans begins to materialize. But the real point here is that we need to debate this in a reasonable and analytical manner without being subjected to ridicule from those who fear to discuss intellectually difficult topics. Otherwise, there will be slow progress indeed.

When graduates from rural high schools throughout the country move on to jobs in urban areas or on to colleges which have a diverse population or enlist in the armed services, they hopefully will realize they are functioning in a different but natural kind of demographic?one not contrived by some quota-driven socioeconomic formula. Hopefully, they will be intellectually prepared to thrive in this environment, because it is what it is and it's not going to change. And hopefully, they will do this because they are part of a new and more enlightened generation.

"Diversity is really a misnomer. The word is really a hindrance. Our language makes us small. Diversity is really the dynamics of understanding human nature in the workplace. I accept the word diversity, but it is really an old fashioned, buzz word. It is really human behavior." - Juanita Smith (retired human resources director)


Ted Sares, PhD, is a private investor who lives and writes in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and Min Pin Jackdog. He writes a weekly column for a local newspaper and many of his other pieces are widely published.

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