In the U.S. these days, everyone talks about "diversity," but no one seems to do any thinking about it. "Celebrating diversity" has become our civic religion, but few seem to understand that there are two opposing kinds of diversity.
Consider the logical knots the press ties itself into over the state of Utah.
Salt Lake City's staging of the Winter Olympics has been a triumph. Yet it's worth remembering that the prospect of having to spend two entire weeks in Utah covering the Winter Olympics had a lot of media folk feeling royally creeped out, because, you know, that state is … weird.
And in fact, Utah is significantly different from the other 49 states. For example:
And why is Utah so unusual, do dissimilar, so, well … diverse, relative to the other states?
Because it's not diverse relative to itself. It's the whitest state that doesn't border Canada. And it's the most religiously homogenous.
Fortunately, just before the Olympics, Time Magazine reassured the rest of America that Utah is becoming less diverse and more like everybody else … by becoming more diverse:
"The puritanical, homogenous white-bread community of Deseret—as Mormons used to designate their geographical base—is going multigrain, with people of different races, faiths and outlooks moving into the state. … The 2000 Census showed a 138% increase in the Hispanic population over the preceding decade … And the clean, crime-free, wholesome society envisioned by the founders of the Mormon church produces spike-haired, nihilistic punks (depicted in the movie SLC Punk!), black-clad goths and the highest rate of Prozac consumption in the country… Salt Lake City has an internationally known lesbian underground scene."
Whew! I feel better already! How comforting to know that this island of nonconformity, with its annoying lack of social decay, is being leveled into national homogeneity by the iron juggernaut of diversity!
Soon we will all be rejoicing that Utah has become so diverse that it's no longer diverse!
Obviously, there is a verbal paradox here. How can that be? The answer is that there are two kinds of diversity: external and internal. And they inevitably conflict with each other. When there is more of one, there must, mathematically speaking, be less of the other.
Utah is an example of external diversity. It's not particularly internally diverse, so therefore, when observed from the outside, it's obvious that it has a distinct character of its own.
In contrast, internal diversity is the only kind we are supposed to favor these days. The people in every state, company, college, or club must "look like America."
Of course, when that great day arrives - and the membership of every institution Looks Like America - then every state, company, college, or club will look like every other state, company, college, or club.
February 22, 2002