The Positive Side of Cultural Diversity
Can communities flourish with cultural diversity? Yes, according to an interesting
article by Livezey (2001) which discusses West Rogers Park in Chicago and the extremely varied residents of the area. This
area consists of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus who are living in ethnic enclaves and working together in harmony.
The religious bodies in this case do not seek walls between their respective groups, but rather include the whole community
in their various ethnic events. Their overriding concept is to let everyone in the community feel welcomed and informed about
the rituals and meanings of each religion and its value to U.S. society. “While the religious organizations help create
and perpetuate the enclaves, they also help ensure that they are defined by the concentration and cultural self-identification
of similar people, not by the exclusion or subordination of others” (Livezey, 2001, p. 62).
Should the Davis County Senior Centers try to become “color blind?”
Assimilation, or the melting pot theory, asserts that all people should become like the majority members and act appropriately
to fit in. It assumes that problems will be avoided if differences are minimized or ignored. Howze and Weberman (2001) argue
that there is need, at least among African Americans, to have a sense of racial membership and a sense of racial pride. In
their call for delighting in diversity, they suggest that in some cases racial kinship “is often—though certainly
not always—coherent, ethically legitimate, and politically prudent” (p. 419). Members of the majority community
can understand this if they ponder on the rites, rituals, and holidays which they themselves hold dear. If these were to be
ignored, how would the white majority define itself? It is the same for minority
members; they need some unique attributes to help identify their uniqueness in “the first world nation in this history
of humankind” (Jones, 2004, p. 12).
In an enlightened article by Tsubata (2004), the mass media presentations of minority
groups in America where discussed. As mentioned earlier in this paper, many older people living in the southern portion of
Davis County, Utah, have had little experience with minority groups. They may believe the portrayals of the mass media or
may still cling to ideas of segregation from the past. In either event, the current media ethnic coverage is slanted in favor
of the white population, according to Tsubata. Not only are minority people’s issues usually being ignored in many media
stories, but the stories that do portray minorities are usually negative ones on crime or other issues that seem to put minority
members in an unfavorable light as a whole group (p. 63). “Ironically,
even on supposed ‘minority issues,’ the spokespersons chosen were Caucasians on 87 percent of the stories”
(p. 62). “Just 1 percent of network stories focus on Latinos, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. populace, and they
focus largely on crime, immigration, and welfare reform” (p. 67).
and Bowen (2004) discuss how schools can incorporate multiculturalism and increase tolerance for ethnically varied students.
It begins with the staff measuring themselves and then committing to leave no child behind.
1. Understand and accept as legitimate the world view of others. Be aware of and avoid stereotyping people. Respect the religious
values and beliefs of others.
2. Recognize the results of oppression, discrimination, and prejudice towards others. Purposely
gain specific knowledge of other groups of people.
3. Appreciate the barriers that may hinder minority
4. Seek out training and experiences for the purpose of understanding and working with diverse
populations. Be willing to consult local ethic religious leaders for help. (Lonborg and Bowen, 2004, p. 322)
In Philadelphia, public schools are beginning to require at least one African-American history course as a prerequisite
for graduation, according to Reid (2005, p. 10). Some of the school districts will also have courses on Hispanic history and
Asian-Americans, although the article did not say that those classes would be required for graduation. Changes such as these
will, over time, positively impact the Senior Centers in that state. Weatherspoon (2005) also suggests that Black history
be not only taught on Black History month (February) but all year long “in our schools, homes, streets, churches all
the time and not be restricted to a certain day of the month” (p. 10).
In most states, however, misunderstandings between racial and ethnic groups are
still inherent in the culture, according to Sampson, Morenoff, and Raudenbush (2005). From their study, most of the violence
and unrest was not genetically racial, but was found to be due to the social context of the neighborhood, of immigration and
of the marital status of the parents (p. 224). Simply stated, any racial or ethnic group will increase in violence as they
increasingly feel the effects of poverty and discrimination. The solution is not in the minority members’ genome, but
it is in the fair treatment and employment of all people in America. Furthermore, Barry (2005) reports on anti-immigrant movements
focused upon “Latin American legal and illegal immigrants” that has especially grown since the terrorist attack
in New York City on September 11, 2001 (p. 28). From his perspective,
current concerns over terrorism have reinforced ethnocentric viewpoints that the United States of America is more morally
and culturally superior to other nations. He further suggests that prejudice is on the rise in America due to the fear that
the United States is losing power and influence in the modern world (p. 31).
Liberal arts colleges, even some that do not naturally have a diverse student
body, have become known for incorporating diversity into the college experience. In an article by Kuh and Umbach (2005) these
colleges “leave a distinctive diversity imprint on their students” (p. 16). This is achieved by diversity-rich
learning environments that not only include class time spent on ethnicity issues by also activities devoted to the positive
aspects of multiculturalism. Of course, those schools that have a diverse population of students can also sponsor face to
face activities designed to let minority and majority members interact one with another. These colleges purposely “encourage
and value(s) interaction with people from different backgrounds” (p. 17).
However, Kuh and Umbach felt that “the institutional climate for diversity
is even more important” (p. 17). This commitment to diversity includes
many activities that “keep diversity on the front burner” (p. 19) including connecting people of differing backgrounds
via programs such as pen pals as well as holding ethnic holidays on campus. Due to those efforts, “students at liberal arts colleges report more frequent experiences with diversity than do their peers
at other types of institutions” (p. 20).
For the purposes of this paper, some of the positive ideas used by liberal arts
colleges and other institutions are listed in the next section to help guide the Senior Citizen Center staffs of Davis County,