Thursday, February 20, 2020

Two kinds of diversity

The word “diversity” took on its current role in American discourse only after a 1978 Supreme Court ruling (U.C. Regents v. Bakke) that the use of racial preferences to achieve racial quotas at universities was unconstitutional, but that it was permissible to use racial preferences to increase diversity in the student body.

Since then, diversity has been widely celebrated, on bumper stickers, in campus diversity days, and in advertisements. For many liberals, diversity has become an unquestioned good—like justice, freedom, and happiness, the more diversity, the better.

My research on morality, however, spurred me to question it. Given how easy it is to divide people into hostile groups based on trivial differences, I wondered whether celebrating diversity might also encourage division, whereas celebrating commonality would help people form cohesive groups and communities.

I quickly realized that there are two main kinds of diversity—demographic and moral.

Demographic diversity is about socio-demographic categories such as race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age, and handicapped status. Calling for demographic diversity is in large measure calling for justice, for the inclusion of previously excluded groups.

Moral diversity, on the other hand, is essentially what Durkheim described as anomie: a lack of consensus on moral norms and values.

Once you make this distinction, you see that nobody can coherently even want moral diversity. If you are pro-choice on the issue of abortion, would you prefer that there be a wide variety of opinions and no dominant one? Or would you prefer that everyone agree with you and the laws of the land reflect that agreement?

If you prefer diversity on an issue, the issue is not a moral issue for you; it is a matter of personal taste.
Source: The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

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