Diversity

In this module of U.S. Cultural Values and Ideals 101, we will discuss how American diversity plays out in society. 

 

 

American Diversity Explored

America, Home to All

The U.S. is known throughout the world for its cultural diversity.  It continues to be the defining marker and the biggest challenge of the society.

America is history’s exception. It began as a republic founded by European migrants. Like the homogeneous citizens of most other nations, they were likely on a trajectory to incorporate racial sameness as the mark of citizenship. But the ultimate logic of America’s unique Constitution was different. The United States steadily evolved to define Americans by their shared values, not by their superficial appearance. Eventually, anyone who was willing to give up his prior identity and assume a new American persona became American. The United States has always cherished its “melting pot” ethos of of blending diverse peoples into one through assimilation, integration, and intermarriage. National Review

The United States of America thrives on diversity. A synthesis of the world’s plentiful and varied races, religions, and cultures, America is a home to all, such that no one group can call itself more “American” than another. And the fusion of cultures here is so unique and so exceptional that citizens can be just as proud of their original cultural heritage as they are to be an American. WorldAndI.com

Although America is deeply rooted in the idea of rugged individualism, overtime that individualism has enabled a unique kind of diversity to develop. 

U.S. culture has also been shaped by the cultures of Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans and Asians. The United States is sometimes described as a "melting pot" in which different cultures have contributed their own distinct "flavors" to American culture. LiveScience.com 

History of Immigration to the U.S.A.

This video looks at where US immigrants have originated from in the past, how the US population has defined itself within government census data and how these patterns could change in the future.

Click here to see the video. 

Many famous American cities such as New York and L.A. are known for their cultural diversity.

Located in Southern California, Los Angeles is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with people from approximately 140 countries speaking 86 different languages calling it home. With immigrant-friendly laws, it is a popular place for those seeking a new life in the USA. The city also has the distinction of being a place without a majority population creating a true vibrancy. Between Los Angeles itself along with the cities that inhabit the county, the area is brimming with cultural neighborhoods, such as Korea Town, Little Tokyo, and Boyle Heights — an area popular with the Latino community. Festivals celebrating all different cultures are also to be found throughout the area. TheCultureTrip.com

Learn more about America's most diverse cities here.

What is your impression of the American "salad bowl of cultural diversity"? What has your experience been living among such diversity ? Discuss your thoughts with your instructor and/or group.

America's Ethnic Makeup

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2014, the American ethnic make-up is roughly as follows: 

  1. White 62 %
  2. Hispanic 17%
  3. Black 12%
  4. Asian 5%
  5. Mixed race 2%
  6. Native American/ Native Hawaiian 2%

Census Bureau

Watch the video below for an explanation of the changing face of America.

Learn more about America's ever changing diversity here.

 

How do you think you would respond if the ethnic makeup of your country dramatically changed? Discuss your thoughts with your instructor and/or group.

America's Linguistic Makeup

The Languages of the USA

The United States does not have an official language, but English is spoken by about 82% of the population as a native language. The variety of English spoken in the United States is known as American English; together with Canadian English it makes up the group of dialects known as North American English. Spanish is the second-most common language in the country, spoken by almost 30 million people (or 12% of the population). Wikipedia

In spite of all the linguistic diversity in the U.S., few Americans are bilingual.

The United States is largely monolingual. In fact, only about 15-20 percent of Americans consider themselves bilingual, compared to 56 percent of Europeans surveyed in 2006 by the European Commission. DailyTexanOnline.com

Read more about the various languages spoken in the U.S. here

Religious Tolerance; Made in America

In addition to ethnic diversity, America is also known for its religious diversity. Among American values, freedom of religion is rated #2. 

See "21 Charts that Explain American Values" from The Atlantic here

The majority of Americans are still identified as Christian yet the freedom to practice other religions is strongly protected.

Watch the video below to learn more about America's diverse religious landscape:

America the Beautiful

 

America's founders established a society that would embrace diversity and celebrate the differences that various cultures would bring to the United States. But, as different as the many cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds of the American mosaic are, there is a core of values that all share. This is the glue that has led to the success of the American experiment. "Diversity in America"

 

What do you think about the "American Experiment" ?  Share your opinion with your instructor or group.

Diversity and Conflict

Diversity has the potential to UNITE or DIVIDE.  

Problems of cultural diversity include difficulties in managing people from various backgrounds. Language may be a barrier for communication across people from different cultures....the majority group may feel that the minority group is given attention at the expense of the majority. At the same time, where there is no cohesion among the diverse groups, mistrust and stereotyping can occur. Reference.com

 

 

Sixty-one percent of Americans now say race relations in the United States are bad, the highest percentage since 1992, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, which finds that majorities of both whites and blacks now view race relations negatively. CBS News

 

Watch a CBS video about the state of race relations in the USA today. 

 

Discuss with your instructor and /or group your thoughts about racial tension in the U.S.

 

Diversity Defines the USA

Diversity comes at a price, but most Americans still believe it's one worth paying. 

Diversity in society allows for richness and variety, boosting innovation which leads to economic growth, improving access to jobs, producing culturally vibrant and varied communities and preventing stagnation. Early exposure to ethnic and economy diversity prepares children and students for a multicultural world, with studies demonstrating that this type of socializing contributes significantly to their academic development and level of cultural awareness.

Dr. Charles Taylor, professor emeritus at McGill University in Montreal, studied the benefits of diversity in society and cautioned that an overly homogeneous community that demands assimilation risks fragmentation from those who refuse and stagnation from the lack of contribution. He indicates that the chief advantage of diversity is the opportunity to learn from someone with a different background and perspective and to share that knowledge. Reference.com 

How do you view American diversity? Do you see it as a strength, a weakness, or both? Discuss your opinion with your instructor or group.

For Further Reflection

The Academy Award winning film, Crash, is an honest look at the racial and social tensions in Los Angeles.