Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Our Diversity Makes us Great!

I recently saw one of those ugly half-truth slander attacks on a relatively new government employee. The attack went along the lines of "Look! Obama has appointed a MUSLIM to work in the immigration department! Part of Obama's attempt to make the US a Muslim nation!" That sort of vicious, vacuous idiocy. I believe in confronting slander and mean-spirited gossip with truth and respect, so, here's Fatima Noor's inspiring story...

She was born in troubled Somalia and raised partially in a refugee camp in Kenya, amongst the poorest of the poor. Thanks to just and merciful immigration rules, she eventually made it to Tennessee and eventually, working with the US Immigration Department.

Here's her inspiring story in her words...

"...soon, due to a combination of wildfires and overpopulation, our [refugee] camp was ordered to shut down. My family, like many others, faced tough decisions. One was whether to return to Somalia in the height of civil war. Another was whether to send their small child — me — to live with a relative in a far-off land in hopes of better opportunities...

In 2005, my whole family reunited in our new home: Memphis, Tennessee. We soon adapted to Southern living (and yummy Memphis barbecue). We bought a house down by the Mississippi River. My brother even attended the same middle school as Elvis Presley. I graduated from the University of Memphis...

Now, I felt like a true American. And today, as we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month, I reflect upon the mosaic nature of my own immigrant roots: the melting pot that is my American identity contains equal parts Somali, Danish, and Memphian.

A year later, I would take a different kind of oath. On July 28, 2014, I was sworn in as special assistant to the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS naturalizes more than 700,000 new U.S. citizens each year, along with processing millions of other immigration-related requests. USCIS is the very agency that made it possible for my family to immigrate, and for all of us to become citizens...

Today, I am honored to serve on a White House team advancing the President’s efforts to fix our broken immigration system. I want to show my appreciation to this country, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than by being there for others who want to earn the privilege to celebrate their Day One."

Good news beats bad slander, every time. Congratulations to Ms Noor!


Craig said...

I'd be curious to see what her qualifications for the position are. Presuming she's qualified I see no problem at all with her appointment.

Dan Trabue said...

Well, I have to assume she's got the qualifications or else, she couldn't do the job, but yes, I certainly agree she should be qualified. Reading a bit between the lines (she's a recent graduate with relatively little work experience, one would assume), I am thinking the job isn't one that requires a lot of experience - It doesn't sound like she's responsible for making arrests of illegal immigrants or anything like that. It sounds as if she's promoting assimilation and citizenship from a refugees/immigrants point of view, which she seems extremely well qualified for.

Marshall Art said...

I'd be interested in an explanation for the statement "Our Diversity Makes Us Great!" In what way exactly. No one thus far has felt compelled to defend this feel-good statement.

I would say the opposite is true, in that what made us great was the many diverse people who came to this nation set aside their ethnicity in favor of becoming Americans and adapting to American ideals and the American culture. I wonder if you could come up with an example where a specific concept improved our lot that couldn't have come from anyone from anywhere, as opposed to being a trait or concept unique to one ethnicity only. I doubt it.

Craig said...

Art, I also wondered the same thing. I fail to see why "diversity" in and of itself (especially when calculated on such meaningless criteria as skin color or religion) has such intrinsic value. I've always thought that one aspect of our national greatness was summarized by "Out of many, one" and how we see so many disparate cultures come to the US and meld into a new culture without completely getting rid of their old culture.

Dan Trabue said...

If we have one culture (Western/Anglo/Waspish/American, for instance), we have a very limited, shallow view of the world and human thinking.

If we have a wealth of cultures, we have a wealth of views, of experiences, of food, of music, of colors, of beauty, of literature, of humanity, of philosophy, of history, of styles, of approaches to learning. We are exposed to more than a small slice of life, but we get a more vast swath of human tradition and knowledge, of grace and wisdom.

If you disagree, that's fine, I don't mind. I disagree with anyone who would say that a monoculture is a good thing in and of itself. I'd rather have a great rainbow of humanity in my life.

For what it's worth, Scientific American reported a couple of years ago about how diversity makes us smarter...


"Need more proof? There are countless studies by reputable organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers that show how socially diverse groups are more innovative vs. their non-diverse counterparts."


You are free to disagree. I have no desire to argue with you about this. It is my opinion that diversity makes us great. One of the great things about America is that we ARE a melting pot. We are not merely a bunch of people who all become the same, bland vanilla ice cream. We are a gumbo and I believe that to be a great thing.

Feel free to disagree, I'm not arguing with you about this.

Marshall Art said...

If we are a "gumbo", then we haven't really melted into one, now have we? I intend to read your links as time allows. I've been waiting for someone to explain how diversity is the wonderment fans of diversity say it is. I will say at this point, however, that I do not consider Scientific American to be the last word just because "Scientific" is in the title. I'm hoping I do not read something that is nothing more than strained attempts to show causality between "diversity" and being "smarter".

I would also point once again to how having an opinion without basis is not really so much an opinion at all, as much as it is a personal fantasy.

Dan Trabue said...

There are multiple scientific studies that support the notion that diversity improves education, makes us smarter and improves the workplace.

"There is increasing evidence that “diversity makes us smarter,” a finding that selective colleges long ago embraced and increasing numbers of young parents are coming to appreciate at the K–12 level. The authors write: “researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.”"


"The studies presented here indicate that racial and ethnic diversity on campus provides educational benefits for all students—minority and white alike—that cannot be duplicated in a racially and ethnically homogeneous setting."


How much research would you like to read?

Dan Trabue said...

More importantly, if I can produce research that shows that diversity "makes us smarter," improves the educational process, improves workplace productivity, etc and if you can provide no research that can counter the idea, will you accept at least what the research demonstrates?

Or will you hold to your skeptical view in spite of research?

For me, the research only shows what I think can be rationally extracted by simple observation: Having many backgrounds represented, many viewpoints considered, many talents and skills and wisdoms added to the mix... that this will almost always be helpful and valuable.

Now, I do think that one can reasonably make some other assumptions on the other side of the fence:

If, for instance, you have ONLY students from well-off, well-supported homes where the families all value and support the educational process, then it will be easier to score high on tests. There is a benefit, one could guess, that could come from that sort of homogeneity.

Or if one is from a culture/sub-culture where nearly everyone agrees on most points/hold common values (consider Asian cities with no diversity, or Amish subcultures, for instance), there may be an ease of life in many ways that could be cherished and make for a sense of solidarity and community in a nearly effortless way. So, I can see how in some limited circumstances, homogeneity could have its limited benefits.

The problem, of course, is that we don't live in a homogenous world, thus the reason I value diversity. These various research projects just support what seems intuitively rational to many of us.

Dan Trabue said...

If we are a "gumbo", then we haven't really melted into one, now have we?

Well, yes, we have. That is the history of our nation and part of what makes us great. We have had Irish and English and Italian and Greek and other settlers from across Europe to become part of our melting pot. Now, of course, the "melting" isn't instantaneous nor complete. Many folk from Europe who spoke Italian or Spanish may not have completely or effectively learned the language for a generation or two, but eventually, yes, they became part of what made us great, not by abandoning who they were, but by adding some of what they were to what existed and making a new Thing, a new flavor of Americana.

Same for the Africans cultures (who came primarily against their will and in a flow of great injustice) - Man! What a rich contribution to the world of music they added to our culture. Can you imagine a US... a world! - with no blues? No spirituals? No rock and roll? No bluegrass? (Did you know that what the banjo has become is part of the contribution of African culture?)

And, in just the same way, we are seeing/have seen Hispanic contributions, Asian contributions, Arabic contributions, etc, to our culture. Yes, yes, of course we are a melting pot and what a wonderful thing! Do you actually disagree? I can't imagine that you do.

Dan Trabue said...

(and where I point out the contributions of African culture to music, I in no way mean to limit it to that, just offered it as a for-instance...)

Marshall Art said...

"That is the history of our nation and part of what makes us great."

No. No it isn't. At least not quite. Those Irish, English, Italian, et al, had a definite goal of "being American". Most strove to abandon their mother tongues in favor of only speaking English so as to be more "American". In my own family, my grandparents spoke no English, my mother and her siblings spoke two languages, but most of them did not pass down the language of their parents to their children, because they wanted us to be Americans.

But their ways of preparing food is a superficial contribution, and not necessarily one that would lessen a thing by its absence. The same with music. You act as if nothing would have filled the void had we not had krusczyki, mancotti, tacos or won ton. Yeah, I dig most foods from around the world. How are we "great" by having gyros?

And that's the issue. We find new foods, music, literature, etc, pleasurable, but how does it make us "great"? That someone from Holland might teach us something about holding back high waters, does not mean we wouldn't figure out a way to do it without the Dutch.

Diversity is a consequence of immigration from multiple countries. As a goal it has no meaning, no discernible advantage, particularly once immigrants "melt" into the culture. Then they are simply Americans each sampling from the foods, music, etc as pleases them.

And here's the thing. All of your examples...without anyone coming here except one group, we are still likely to adopt and adapt that which tickles our fancy or interest. We'd still have sauerkraut, baroque dance and cricket if it suited us to get into it.

So, what more can you offer in support of the contention that diversity makes us great? I'm not trying to be argumentative here. I'm just not digging why anyone makes a big deal of diversity. It seems a concept that is way over-hyped beyond any real tangible value.

Dan Trabue said...

Most strove to abandon their mother tongues in favor of only speaking English so as to be more "American".

You, of course, can not support this claim, can you?

So, what more can you offer in support of the contention that diversity makes us great?

Well, there are the many studies that I've offered that demonstrate that diversity makes us smarter, better workers, etc.

No more comments here, Marshall, until you deal with the data.

Or does the data not matter to you?

Craig said...

This is interesting.

On the one hand to simply announce that "diversity makes us great" is facile and simplistic.

On the other hand the fact that American culture has been able to absorb all kinds of different cultures and turn that into something unique, while still allowing those who wish to maintain as much of their old culture as possible is quite amazing.

maybe this is not so much either/or but both/and.

Dan Trabue said...

Both having a wide range of diversity and striving for common goals? Yes. Or what do you mean by "both/and..."?

Craig said...

I mean both/and.

Dan Trabue said...

Then, I would agree.

Dan Trabue said...

But we can't do "both" if we don't have the diversity to begin with, hence, our diversity makes us great.

Craig said...

Sorry to nitpick, but if we do "both" then it's impossible that our "diversity" is the one singular thing that makes us great.

I'm confused, you said "I would agree" to "both/and", then specified that "our diversity makes us great", so is it "both" or is it diversity, or did your comment lack precision?

Again I'll defer to folks long before me who said it much better. "Out of many, one".

Dan Trabue said...

sigh. Craig, by saying "our diversity makes us great..." that is not to say that there are not other things that make us great. I'm not saying "Our diversity and our diversity alone is the one singular thing in all of heaven and earth that makes us great..."

If nothing else, if we were diverse but always warring between the diversities, then our diversity is not making us all that great. So, of course, having ROOM for diversity also makes us great. Having the ability to function together as diverse people also makes us great.

Does that clarify?

I notice that neither of you two have responded to the studies cited that have determined diversity makes us smarter, better workers, etc. Our diversity quite literally makes us better. I assume your absence indicates that yes, you are fully prepared to acknowledge that yes, studies DO show that diversity in the work place and in places of learning makes us smarter and better workers...?

Craig said...

Since when does asking you to clarify get you so testy?

The reasons no one has responded are
1. It seems to make some intuitive sense that there is some value is diversity (at least diversity of ideas)

2. No one is suggesting that diversity is negative.

What is being suggested is that to say "diversity makes us great" is a simplistic statement. It seems obvious that it is impossible that one single thing makes us great. I don't understand why you are so defensive about this.

Craig said...

One reason I didn't respond to your studies is that I didn't have the time to spend to dig in as see if the study actually says what you claim it says (which has happened before) and since it seems like a pretty uncontroversial premise I didn't see any point in addressing it.

If you'd like, in the future I'll try to address every single point you make if that would make you happier.

Dan Trabue said...

Look, I make what seems like (as you admit, now) a fairly obvious point: Yes, our diversity makes us great, it makes us better, it improves things. It's an obvious truth.

I get testy when you and Marshall appear to come here to dump on simple, obvious, good and moral truths. Marshall takes a big dump and you take little digs, stirring the pot. Rather than just celebrating and saying something nice (as my Mom used to say, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all") and supportive of obvious, self-evident moral goods, you all snipe and pick and, oh, how does Paul put it?

"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."

You all come across as nitpicky and attempting to knock down good and moral ideals. If you want to engage in a respectful conversation about some specific angle of the work to bring peace and human rights to the Middle East or about diversity, why not begin with, "Amen! Indeed, our diversity DOES make us great... we have so much that is so much better thanks to our diversity! But, one question, do you think that it is ONLY diversity and diversity alone that makes things great? or do you think it is some combination?"

Why not try something more positive, more loving, more gracious and helpful?

Man, we all need more kindness in this world. That's what I am saying. Why don't we try that together, you and I?

Craig said...

Yes Dan, how about you try it.

"...simple, obvious, good and moral truths."

So now "diversity makes us great" is a moral issue? It's now objective truth? Really?

Look, no one is disagreeing that "diversity" is not a bad thing. It's not the be all and end all, but it's not bad. Nobody has said it is.

What has been said is the "Diversity makes us great." as a stand alone statement is simplistic and ignores other factors that have also "made us great".

So lighten up, you are one of the few people that can take agreement and make it something that pisses you off.

You know your whole "hurt" that "no one acknowledge my study" would be a whole lot more compelling if it weren't for comment after comment in thread after thread that you fail to acknowledge.

You want nice, I'm all for nice. How about you start with consistent, then see how much nicer people are when yo ditch the double standard.

Dan Trabue said...

Well, since I have never said ONLY our diversity makes us great, and since you and I agree that there is truth to the statement, maybe you'll let it go and quit giving tacit support to Marshall, who does disagree with the statement.

Look, here are some flowery truths:

Our diversity makes us great!

We are a nation founded upon and united behind the idea of human liberty!

The cord of three strands, who can break?

For we live by faith, not by sight!

And so on. Now, each of those are powerful, but some may say flowery, truths. Good, basic, decent, moral truths. There is nothing to disagree with in any of them, they stand on their own.

Now, does that mean that we don't also need sight? That you can't break a cord of three strands? That we don't always successfully adhere to the ideals of human liberty? No, they are meant as a powerful way to make a statement. Of course you can find exceptions to them.

No one can break a cord of three strands is not a scientific statement. It can be disproved. The same for "our diversity makes us great..." It's not a scientific formula.

It is an inspiring Truth, when rightly understood and not taken as an absolute rigid fact. Those who try to turn Truths into rigid facts miss the point. And those who only complain about beautiful powerful truths, they too, miss the point. And those who go out of their way to take a dump on someone stating a powerful truth, they just come across as petty, weak and weak-minded.

I'm encouraging us to embrace grace, not petty weak-mindedness.