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Rethinking diversity

By By Craig Ziemba / guest columnist
June 8, 2003
I walked into the break room after returning to my civilian career this week and noticed the latest company newsletter was devoted to the celebration of diversity. Glossy pictures of happy employees were carefully arranged black, white, yellow, red, boy, girl, boy, girl to ensure that the company played no favorites. That's fine with me.
In the corresponding articles, however, the newsletter appeared to be a tortured attempt to see how many times the words multicultural and diversity could be used in a sentence. We were encouraged to increase our awareness of those who are different from ourselves by learning about their cultures and religions. Recommended activities included attending multicultural festivals and watching ethnic movies and plays.
While reading the newsletter, though, I couldn't help but wonder if we aren't creating more problems than we're solving by emphasizing what makes us different rather than what makes us alike.
Continually focusing on our various ethnicities defeats the purpose of the American motto, E plurubus unum ("Out of many, one") and reduces our society into a jumbled collection of tribes competing for cultural domination. Our ancestors may have come from all over the world; they may be all different colors; but they became one people. Our common trait has become a love of freedom.
Dream of
a better life
Where you came from isn't half as important as where you're going. I don't love or respect a person any more or less if his ancestors came from Africa, Malaysia, El Salvador or England. What matters is whether he shares the American dream of passing on a better life to his children and is willing to work for it. Being American isn't a color; it's a mindset of freedom and individual moral responsibility.
There's really no need to classify Americans as Hispanic, African or European. I don't consider myself to be a Polish-American even though my nose (and my IQ) tells where grandpa came from. I'm just an American, no more and no less. My heritage is European, but my home and my heart are American to the core.
Some people harbor a longing for their "mother country" like lost children looking for a biological parent. That may be a part of a natural curiosity, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I've traveled all over the world and I'm pretty sure there's not a single adopted American who would trade places with with his biological brother on any other continent.
Let's be honest, the poor in America would be considered wealthy anywhere in Asia, Africa, or South America. Here all Americans have the opportunity to succeed. We have been blessed.
What concerns me about the recent fad of multiculturalism, however, is that no nation ever succeeded by pulling itself apart. Without a common culture, a common language and common ideals, we will cease to be a people with a common future.
America's experiment with freedom and democracy survived wars and economic depression, but it cannot survive the polarization of our people along ethnic and racial lines.
Martin Luther King's dream of a world where people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character is deeply rooted in the American dream. America's future rests not on our race or our past, but on our hopes for tomorrow.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian.