9.08.2008

Another Aspect of Diversity

A lot of times, we hear about the importance of different ethnic
groups working towards fairer participation in something, like
politics or entrepreneurship or entertainment. The perspective is
usually focused on the gains to that racial or ethnic group: Hispanics
need to mobilize to make sure they are a political force, or African
Americans need to start more small businesses because they are
under-represented, or there aren't enough Asians on prime time TV
shows. Or substitute any racial or ethnic group above.

But what about the gains to society as whole? Shouldn't we make sure
that different groups are as unimpeded as possible in getting involved
politically or commercially or artistically, not just so that they
aren't discriminated but also so that we all don't miss out on the
unique perspectives and talents people from different groups
represent?

To use a fairly parallel example, imagine baseball if blacks, Latinos,
and Asians weren't allowed to major league teams, or basketball if NBA
teams couldn't have non-US players on their rosters. It would be
exclusionary, yes; but it would also result in an inferior product, to
the detriment of the other players, the leagues, and the audience.

What this point also means is that for those of us who walk in the
footsteps of others who opened doors for our race and ethnicity, we
owe an obligation, not just to them or to ourselves, but to society.
Each of us has an unique contribution to make - to the political
process, to the economy, or to the arts - and if we don't make that
contribution, we're all the worse for it. May those who would
consider diversity efforts a nice PR move but ultimately subsidiary to
real issues consider anew the vital importance of opening doors for
all participants, and then encouraging all participants to walk
through those doors.

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