In some ways, this might be a lesser companion to Sebastian's recent post. Unfortunately, as I've been working on it, lots of interesting comments and observations have come in the thread which have me thinking, but I'm not able to address them by acknowledging the people who said them. Apologies for that.
This post started with a recent exchange in the comments about the value of diversity that had McKinneyTexas ask me
when/where/how do differences in thinking that are a result of ethnicity make a "huge difference"?
I replied that it is not ethnicity that makes a difference, it is a byproduct and I cited this link
which gives several studies, but I was expecting the argument that if diversity is so good, why doesn't everyone jump on board? Someone could also point out that the country I live in (Japan) has made homogeneity a virtue, and there are ways to make homogeneity work. So, a few more links.
This article suggests that:
“The more homogeneous offices have higher levels of social capital,” the authors say. “But the interesting twist is that … higher levels of social capital are not important enough to cause those offices to perform better. The employees might be happier, they might be more comfortable, and these might be cooperative places, but they seem to perform less well.”
and cites this research that underlines that "whilst a diverse workforce had strong performance benefits, it tended to result in an unhappier workforce."
This reminds me of the debate about trigger warnings and whether universities should make students feel uncomfortable. I think there is a subtle difference between what a trigger warning is meant to prevent and what discomfort is, but if you feel that people should never be pushed out of their comfort zone, then I suppose you could argue that diversity is bad.
But diversity is not the killer app, so one has to ask why isn't it?
This article argues that there are three kinds of diversity, informational diversity, demographic diversity and diversity resulting from goals and values. Informational diversity tends to aid in constructive debate, but demographic diversity "can sometimes whip up interpersonal conflict. This is the kind of conflict people should fear. "People think, 'I have a different opinion than you. I don't like what you do or how you do it. I don't like you,'" says Neale. "This is what basically can destroy a group."
The final type of diversity, diversity of values and goals, can produce both, but if there is no agreement on values and goals, diversity becomes a net negative.
This article, discusses "2-D Diversity", which is the idea that there are two types of diversity, inherent and acquired. This is why simply populating a work group with a bunch of different ethnicities isn't really the best way to go about it. It also observes that
When minorities form a critical mass and leaders value differences, all employees can find senior people to go to bat for compelling ideas and can persuade those in charge of budgets to deploy resources to develop those ideas.
Without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of color are 24% less likely; and LGBTs are 21% less likely.
This helps explain why affirmative action is only a part of the solution. If these different ethnicities are always kept at a lower rank, there is little chance for others of the same group to be able to prove their worth.
I'd suggest that there is a link to the situation we find ourselves in now. The election was won by a candidate who successfully whipped up prejudice and bigotry. By getting people to believe that somehow, foreign cultures have totally different values and goals from us, it becomes easy to claim that their entry into our country is going to break something. 'Taco trucks on every corner' is invoked. Yet, as Russell pointed out, things change and the world has changed. Do any of those Trump voters wants to go back to when their small rural town had no Walmart, no fast food and no internet?
The sad thing is that it worked so well. And it worked so well because people don't have an opportunity to mix and that lack of contact results in a lack of empathy. Does anyone think that Trump or his supporters actually knew any of the non-citizen workforce (with the exception of Melania, I suppose). While this is part of globalism, it is not a necessary part. Globalism isn't the reason that we don't know who picks our vegetables, it isn't the reason why African-Americans were systematically discriminated against in Ferguson and other places, with their fines providing the economic rationale for increased policing. It's the way that globalism has played out, but it doesn't mean it had to or has to be that way. Globalism may be the reason our manufacturing base was simply replaced with white resentment but dealing with globalism so we don't have so much white resentment really only gets us a little bit of the way there. The solution is not simply dealing with white resentment, which has been whipped up in the context of the fight between the left and the right, the solution is to either go all in on diversity or prepare to create our enclave. The latter is, in my estimation, impossible, so somehow, some way, we are going to have to create opportunities to bring people into contact with each other. We also need to recognize that particular policies, like a refusal to deal with immigrant labor, or civil forfeiture, have as one of their effects the reduction of contact. We should also recognize that an environment where expressions of prejudice become normalized also serves to reduce contact, insofar as people tend to keep their head down (with very good reason) when these situations come about. It seems to me that the relative speed that same sex marriage came about is because it suddenly became apparent that people had a lot of contact with gays. On the other hand, Islamophobia is a lot tougher because the majority of Americans have probably never met someone who is Muslim that they were aware of.
A lot of commentary seems to revolve around the idea that we should be either take into account the feelings of a minority of people who have not considered the logical outcome of their beliefs. That is dealing with a symptom rather than a cause. The bottom line is that, as Sebastian suggests, we need more contact. To me, that means the paradoxical challenge of protecting the people that are at risk and letting everyone know that they are there. Cause if things get really bad, the way you generally protect people is to make sure that bigots don't know they are there.
For most of our country's history, we've had no problem with informational diversity. We've also had a lot of demographic diversity that we've dealt with more or less ok, with notable exceptions and screwups. HOwever, diversity of values and goals, not so much and when it has raised its head, (cf gun control and abortion), it generally kicks us in the ass. We'll have to see if it is winding up to deliver another boot.