Top 10 Reasons to Be
Thankful for Diversity
Our Nation Prospers from Our Diverse Heritage
by Julie Ajinkya | Center for American Progress
Americans this holiday weekend will gather around family
dinner tables across the country to give thanks — thanks for family, food,
health, and whatever else they hold dear. As the country changes and rapidly
becomes more diverse, we can also be thankful that the immigrant experience
that launched our grand and sometimes painful experiment in freedom and
democracy over the past several centuries lives on today.
Today’s immigrant experience further bolsters our nation’s
diverse racial and ethnic heritage and prepares our country for yet another
century of prosperity and cultural flowering. Here are 10 reasons why Americans
can be thankful for our rich diversity.
10. We’ll actually
still have a growing workforce in 2050. Unlike the shrinking labor forces
of Japan and much of East and Southeast Asia and Western Europe, the labor
force in the United States will continue to grow, largely due to immigration
and the children of immigrants. Between 2000 and 2050 new immigrants and their
children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population.
A recent report demonstrates that immigrants are following the path of their predecessors and
assimilating just as rapidly today as they did in the past. Immigrants are also
driving small business creation across the country — in fact, immigrants are 30 percent more
likely to start a business than a nonimmigrant.
9. Diversity puts the
Turkey in Turkey Day. The United States owes its food culture to the
amalgamation of different communities’ tastes and traditions. Can’t wait for
the big bird this Thursday? You can thank Native
Americans for introducing this staple in their diet to the pilgrims in the
17th century. If it weren’t for the constant food innovation from diverse
communities that developed our national tastes, we’d still be eating boiled
cabbage, with ketchup as our favorite condiment.
8. We can roll green,
thanks to public transit. Even if economics was the driver, communities of
color embraced green transportation way before hipsters made it cool. African
Americans are almost six times more likely to ride mass transit than
whites, while Hispanics are three times more likely to use transit to get around. In urban areas,
African Americans and Latinos comprise over 54
percent of transit users — 62 percent of bus riders, 35 percent of subway
riders, and 29 percent of commuter rail riders.
7. Try to play a
piano without the black keys. Black
musical creativity fueled much of the modern music industry in the United
States. African Americans have created and driven various musical genres,
including gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, funk, hip hop, and others, yet the
shortage of African American executives belies a significant disconnect between
the industry’s management hierarchy and its artistic composition and influence.
Even Justin Beiber names Usher, Michael Jackson, and Boyz II Men among his
greatest role models.
encourages students to “experiment” in college. In his controlling opinion
in Regents of University of California v. Bakke,
Justice Lewis F. Powell noted that a diverse student body promotes an
atmosphere of “speculation, experiment and creation” that is “essential to the
quality of higher education.” Empirical studies also
show that socializing across racial and ethnic lines is associated with
widespread beneficial effects on a student’s academic as well as personal
development, irrespective of race.
5. Diversity results
in better solutions to problems. When confronting a problem, people’s
perspectives are accompanied by ways of searching for solutions — something
scientists call heuristics. In plain English, this means people have diverse
approaches to solutions. Studies show that the diversity of approaches on any
given team outperforms the overall ability or talent of the team’s members. In
other words, diversity results in better solutions. In an increasingly
competitive global economy, diversity is good business.
4. United we stand. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme
Court in 2003 upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action
admissions policy after hearing from a group of former high-ranking officers
and civilian leaders of the U.S. military. The military leaders asserted that
“[b]ased on [their] decades of experience… [a] highly qualified, racially
diverse officer corps … is essential to the military’s ability to fulfill its
principle mission to provide national security.” They also submitted an amicus
brief arguing that "full integration and other policies combating
discrimination are essential to good order, combat readiness, and military
effectiveness.” In other words, diversity equals “United we stand.”
3. Still trying to
sell that home? As the ratio of seniors to working-age residents rapidly
increases, the boomers who try to sell their homes after retirement are going
to increasingly rely on the growing youth population to come to their rescue. By 2019, the
majority of the nation’s youth will be youth
of color, which means their educational and workforce preparation will be
crucial to avoiding economic stagnation.
2. Play ball! Looking forward to the big match up between brothers Jim and John Harbaugh when
their teams the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens meet on
Thanksgiving? In 2010, we were thankful for 70 percent players of color in the National Football League. And at the beginning of the
2011 season, the National Basketball Association reported 83
percent players of color, Major League Soccer reported 48 percent players
of color, and Major League Baseball reported 38 percent players of color.
1. The promise of
First Amendment protections for all. The United States was founded on
ideals of diversity, from the principle of religious freedom to the
marketplace-of-ideas metaphor that are enshrined in our Constitution’s First
Amendment. Though we have, at times, struggled with ensuring these freedoms in
practice, the First Amendment’s protections are based on the fundamental
premise that we as a nation are only as strong as all of our parts.
Julie Ajinkya is a
Policy Analyst for Project 2050 at the Center for American Progress.