From coast to coast and from mountains to bayous, we are more diverse as a people than any other country in the world. That is true in religion, in language, in politics and even in how we look.
What a shock it must be for a visitor from India or China to visit the United States. In his country, almost everyone he meets on the street will look like him with black hair, dark eyes and similar skin color. Not so here. Really not so. The first four people he meets here are likely to look Hispanic, Asian, African or European with black, brown, red or blond hair.
The 2010 Census tells us that despite our diversity, we tend to cluster by ancestral origin. Our Hispanic population is heaviest in the Southwest and Southern Florida, Asian in the New York region and on the West Coast, and African in the South and the inner cities of the North. Those of European descent are spread all over.
One of the truths of humankind is that we tend to gravitate toward where there are others like us. That is true with where we chose to live, whether red states or blue; where we send our children to school, whether public or private and where we go to church, whether Catholic, Protestant, or “other.” The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” holds true. The acceptance of that premise is step one in holding our loose knit federal union together.
As diverse as we are, should it surprise us that residents of Arizona and California who must deal with illegal immigration every day would want more restrictive laws than Minnesota or Wisconsin? Should it surprise us that New York City, with a Muslim population of 450,000, would approve the building of an Islamic Culture Center on Manhattan Island? Should it surprise us that the people of Nevada want to have gambling and legalized prostitution? These things may be offensive to us and not something we want to have in our community. But, the fact that those who live in Arizona, California, Nevada and N.Y. want to be different, just shows our diversity.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called America a “melting pot” and listed diversity as one of our great strengths. Other great strengths are The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a healthy respect for the rights of individuals, local government, and states to express their individuality. America is not a “one-size-fits-all country.” We are a diverse people and, with patience and tolerance, we can accept our diversity and celebrate our strengths. And, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Of course we can. (They do read this column in Washington, D.C., don’t they?)
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.