Monday, December 31, 2018

Diversity vs. Diversify

A big push in today's society is the "need for diversity." Different people from different groups use this in different ways, many of them a bit deceiving in or because of their motives.

I pose that the real need in many cases is actually the need to diversify.   For the two words, while are nearly identical given the complexities of the English language, are very different in their application.  So, why does that impact what we do as a society?

First, the definitions* so we know where we start - 

 Diversity -noun, plural di·ver·si·ties.

  1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion.
  2. variety; multiformity.
  3. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.:

Diversify -verb (used with object), di·ver·si·fied, di·ver·si·fy·ing.

  1. to make diverse, as in form or character; give variety or diversity to; variegate.
  2. to invest in different types of (securities, industries, etc.).
  3. to produce different types of (manufactured products, crops, etc.). 
Yes, the two are very similar words; some would even say they mean the same thing - just noun and verb forms. But today we use the word "diversity" as a weapon of class warfare.  The word class in this case is not constrained to an economic term, but as any defined group of people. It's to this that I refer in this case.

Diversity in today's society has become a catch-all phrase used to pit minorities against majorities here in the USA. It is meant to divide the argument into two groups - for and against. If someone of the population majority says something that happens to be about someone of a different origin, then they were against diversity regardless of their reasoning for saying what they said.  If a member of a minority group were to say anything, it may be blindly accepted under the guise of the "need for diversity" regardless of the merit of the statement.

This leads to a very different conversation now because of the manner in which it is used.  Because it's an application of "fairness" - meaning that the minority statement or opinion should be weighed more heavily because its origin is less represented.  And if a statement is contrary to it from a majority group, then typically the statement or opinion is given less weight simply because of it's origin.  The holder of the opinion is labeled as anti-diversity, or worse.  Names like "bigot" or "racist" are hurled at them in order to discredit the argument they make.

On the other hand, diversify has been relegated to refer to nothing but a financial meaning.  We diversify our financial portfolio in order to stabilize the investment gains. (And yet valleys in stock markets are viewed as harbingers of certain doom.  Well, we'll leave that for another day.)

We don't include things like ideas when we talk about diversifying things.  What about popular notions such as work or career choices? We label people based upon how they look as working certain places or types of jobs. Dirty clothes? Must be blue collar. Flip flops? Must be a lifeguard. Ethnic minority wearing dry-clean-only clothing? Must be an "Uncle Tom."

We should diversify everything.  We should look for variety at every level: CEO's should be able to wear T-shirts; tomato-pickers should be able to wear button-down shirts. An idea or opinion is valid regardless of the color of skin of the speaker.  Regardless of perceived strata.  We should each be heard regardless of opinion; this is what makes a melting pot.  The ideas co-mingle; the opinions have a certain amount of merit and apply to everyone in some fashion.

Expand the idea of diversity beyond social.
Beyond financial.
Beyond ethnicity.
Beyond anything.
Make it mean everything. 

The next time someone tells you to "embrace diversity" tell them to diversify their mind. Ideas come from every direction.

* - unless otherwise noted, definitions on this site are thanks to

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