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What Is Diversity?

by

Anita Nahal

The answer to this question can be simultaneously challenging and confusing, depending on one’s frame of reference. However, it is essential that we grapple with the meaning of diversity in order to understand its challenges and complexities. In seeking the definition, we are propelled to think, contemplate, analyze, and begin the process of addressing its problematic and positive aspects. It might be helpful to first try to give structure to this vast topic, defining it broadly as the varied existences of the full range of inanimate and living beings, ideas, beliefs, situations, policies and/or institutions at any given moment in time and in any given environment. In fact, there can be diversity in almost anything we can think of: what we wear, say, do, eat, and the list goes on indefinitely. Diversity is also a state and conditioning of the mind. And this, in turn, frequently leads to misconceptions and biases. This website attempts to examine diversity from a global structural standpoint.  

Structure

Diversity can be viewed from numerous standpoints (not listed in any specific order):

Country Of Origin
Race
Ethnicity
Religion
Class
Gender
Disability
Caste

Color
Sexual Orientation
Education
Community
Political Affiliation
Culture
Language
Veteran Status

 

Majority vs Minority Language
Affiliation Through Marriage
Marital Status
Belief System
Accent/Pronunciation
Dress Code
Features, Hair
Age, Height, Weight

An amalgamation of all of the above, and other variables, can allow us to perceive ourselves in various ways; therefore, deriving an image of who we are and, based upon that image, deducing what we might signify to others. At the same time, we can use the above criteria also to view others and to form images of them based on possibly preset notions and mental images. We also might use the same criteria to create new images or to redefine images, depending upon the characteristics, circumstances of meeting, and personal interactions -- whether positive, negative or indifferent. Thus, there are two things at work here: First, it is helpful to understand that there is diversity/difference all around us. Second, diversity /difference is a state of the mind, a conditioning that seems to be subjective and self centered at worst or relatively objective at best, depending upon whether or not we agree that our thinking is largely influenced by our desire to please those outside our immediate circles. George Hegel, Standpoint theory proponent, stressed that depending upon who we are and how we position ourselves in social groups, our standpoint is expressed. I would add that in any group in which we position ourselves, be it social, political, religious, cultural and so forth, we are bound to have simultaneous common and diverse viewpoints and standpoints. We can benefit greatly by sharing them with each other. Each time old and new ideas are intermingled, there is an opportunity for newer ideas to develop and existing ideas to reemerge for the benefit of humankind in many ways. Frans Johanson in his ground breaking book, The Medici Effect, points out strongly and repeatedly that diversity sparks innovation and that if companies and institutions promote diversity and execute the promotion properly, then they will reap the benefits of new ideas that will bring myriad rewards to the institution and all its constituents -- majority and minority. ‘When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas” (Johanson, p.2). However, that alone will not lead to a productive diverse environment with successful ideas to boost. “If managed right they will, in fact, generate exponentially more new and unique idea combinations” (Frans Johansson).

These standpoints resemble somewhat a Radial Venn, based upon the British mathematician John Venn’s diagram, with the standpoints overlapping and at times running simultaneously and at times standing singularly and separately, some assuming larger or smaller proportions depending on how we perceive ourselves and others. And, many of us also identify ourselves in more than one way giving rise to the concept of "layered diversity" wherein individuals do not consider themselves as monolithic.


Diversitydiscover.com will leave doors open for presenting and discussing all definitions, perceptions, viewpoints and standpoints. We are on a path of discovery that will allow us varied and different ways of understanding, comprehending, and appreciating diversity; seeking and developing solutions to everyday challenges that confront us in diverse environments and with diverse individuals. In the process we will continuously endeavor to celebrate the beauty of diversity.

All submissions will be reviewed prior to publication. The founder of diversitydiscover.com retains the right to publish, reject or remove published submissions at any time.

Submissions that are derogatory to any one given viewpoint or speak against, incite or threaten any one view point or any persons will not be considered.

 
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