But What Is the Question?
Some Americans have a problem with diversity. That problem dated back to Roger Williams who was a Puritan minister in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. The colony banished Williams because he had different ideas. His beliefs ran counter to that colony. However, he raised questions about religious freedom and wanted to separate church and state issues. Interestingly, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the place where Puritans from England came for religious freedom. It wasn’t long before the colony banished Williams in 1635 due to his religious beliefs. While the Massachusetts Bay Colony was mostly Puritans, the larger group were Anglican Puritans. They dissed Williams for his Puritan belief that was different from their Anglican Puritan theology.
Williams left and created the Colony of Rhode Island by buying the land from the Narragansetts in 1636. That colony became a place where other Christians could find a home without being prosecuted. Groups like the Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonites, Baptists, and others came to Rhode Island and function in a diverse colony.
Diversity was critical to the development of our nation. I’m teaching two online classes this semester. I posted an announcement about the first thing that I do even before the class begins. I look at the names on my student rosters. The fewer names that I can pronounce, the happier I am. The greater the diversity will result in greater learning during the semester.
In the announcement, I mentioned Bobby Kennedy, who was the most important mentor in my life. A half-century ago, Kennedy wrote, “America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity….”
Kennedy’s comment seems contradictory. Nonetheless, hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and violence will be quelled by diversity. That raises the question, what is the benefit of diversity? People with diverse backgrounds like race, ethnicity, sex, religions, or sexual orientation will add to the pool of information and insight of any group, whether a handful of students in a class or a nation.
I told my class that as soon as they get their degree, they need to travel. George Santayana warned us, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” In that announcement, I told my classes that they are wasting a great deal of time and money getting an education unless they go overseas to further it. They can pick any country outside of North America to spend two weeks. When they return to the States, they will know more about that country than what they could read about or by watching videos of the place on the Internet. They have a two-dimensional education about those countries. Unless they travel, they are not getting much more of an education than a bunch of facts.
Ibn Battuta’s love for travel. “Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” This is a map of his three lengthy journeys, which covered thirty years during the first half of the 14th century. Imagine the diverse cultures, religions, and mindsets that Battuta discovered.
Battuta traveled 75,000 miles during three decades through much of Dar al-Islam. The Islamic world is made up of over forty present-day countries.
In his travel journal, A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling, حفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفار or merely The Travels, he wrote:
I set out alone, having neither fellow-traveler in whose
companionship I might find cheer, nor caravan whose party I might join, but swayed by an overmastering impulse within me and a desire long-cherished in my bosom to visit these illustrious sanctuaries. So, I braced my resolution to quit all my dear ones, female and male, and forsook my home as birds forsake their nests. My parents being yet in the bonds of life, it weighed sorely upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted with sorrow at this separation.
Diversity can be seen in Washington. Biden is going to nominate a black female to the Supreme Court. The first female justice was Sandra Day O'Connor in the early 80s. Until then, the Supreme Court was all white men, except for one black justice. So, our Supreme Court was racist and sexist. Old white guys know about racial issues along with understanding sexism. I don’t think so. Biden will nominate, finally, a black female who grasps both issues.
Whites can’t understand the Weltanschauung of a person who lives in a nation that has discriminated against communities of color and women. It is impossible to know. Yet, the highest court in the nation is making decisions based on what six white guys know about sexism and racism. The three females, well, at least two of them, know what being a female feels like. Nonetheless, none of the Supreme knows what a black female would know.
Kennedy was correct…diversity will stand up to all the negative -isms like racism or sexism. I was born in 1943. America’s population, eight decades ago, was 89% white, 9% black, and 1% Hispanic. It was a time of segregation and Jim Crow laws. The Brooklyn Dodgers hired Jackie Robinson in 1947. He was the first black to play in the major leagues.
We need to take heed of what George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”