Diversity doesn’t mean just the diversity you’re thinking of

June 22, 2019 by Joshua
in Blog

People say they value diversity.

Business school leadership classes taught me that diversity of opinions in decision-making processes led to better outcomes, though the diversity introduced into that process produced divisive conflict. I didn’t ask the professors for the research they based their teaching on, but it’s consistent with my experience.

But there is a greater issue than that conflict.

I suggest to people things like, “If you want diversity, you’ll also have to include Trump voters.”

They react nearly with horror: “I don’t want someone on my team like that. Or in my life.”

“Why not? You wanted diversity.”

“Yeah, but they’re just wrong.”

The irony of calling someone wrong to reject them as diverse never seems to strike anyone. I’m not sure how to call the emotion it gives me, a mix of sadness, pity, curiosity, and lament.

I feel those feelings as much for myself in the past — and today, though less — since I kept people I considered wrong at a distance most of my life too, even after learning what my professors taught.

Working with someone who feels a design should be blue instead of red feels different than with someone who feels, say, teachers should carry guns in school.

Experience changed my practice and perspective. Speaking to and considering views of climate skeptics or Trump supporters led to some of my greatest growth. I wrote about the knowledge, perspective, self-awareness, and friendship that my seeking and creating relationships with Trump voters, since I think lower Manhattan makes publicly supporting him scary. I wouldn’t feel safe walking through Washington Square Park with a MAGA hat.

I don’t think most people get the idea of diversity.

I think they think only some types of diversity. I can think of communities with diversity of skin color, gender, and sexual orientation but not viewpoint.

Some types of diversity they dismiss as crazy, contemptible, or wrong, not realizing or accepting that others view them the same way, not seeing how others might be as happy and supportive community members as themselves.

They don’t grow, though I envy the warmth their feelings of self-righteousness give them. I know it from experience. I may be feeling it now.

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