Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is This Diversity of Which You Speak?

While I was at a house rave I ended up having a talk with an eager engineer about what is seen as good public policy, my conversationalist was not happy that the politicians were not able to sit down and do what is right for the country. I simply told the lady who was very proud of her engineering degree that there is disagreement about what people think is best for the nation so of course there will be debate, obstruction, gridlock and fighting because for one thing how do you define what is best for the country let alone on the means of achieving that end. This is a problem that I have noticed when folks about things like political parties in America, both the major parties talk about being democratic but they never have been. Foe example prior to the 1972 convention the democratic ticket was determined by machine politics that did not cater to the wishes of people who were racial minorities, women, nonchristian or nonheterosexual. By the 1972 convention people left out of the Democratic party's decision making process took over the organization and suppressed the ward heelers and machineites in the name of democracy. I guess that this problem occurred partly because both sides had different views of what a democratic process was. More recently when there was Michigan & Florida's democratic primaries were overturned there was a great deal of electrons loosed about how undemocratic that was. However having those primaries in the first place was undemocratic as well as the fact that most people never have a say in who their party's nominee is. But I only brought this up because the fact that so many people disagreed about what is a democratic process is similar to my question on what is diversity.

I first really thought about this when we went to a dinner in Homer, one of the things that makes Homer different from the rest of Alaska is that it is the only town in the state that the Republicans do not dominate in. Normally I would like such an accepting place except for the following problems. The first problem with Homer is that real estate is incredibly expensive a plot on a mountain 10 miles from town, with no amenities and a dirt track can sell for a million dollars, so a town that started out as a fishing village and a peninsula whrer hippies lived has now become a place where wealthy tourists come to live for three months. I met some of the wealthy Homerians, they are very nice, personable, and have good values and I really enjoyed their company. Despite how much I liked Homer's wealthy former hippies and salty fisherfolk Homer is one of the least ethnically diverse parts of Alaska, throughout the state there are lots of Alaskan Natives, Filipinos, Africans, African-Americans and others but I ran in to so few people of colour there. Though Homer is very welcoming to diverse lifestyles and different ways of thinking it is racially very homogeneous as well as being a place where most middle or working class folks will have to go outside of town to get work which is truly unfortunate.

In Anchorage there is a great deal of racial diversity but when it came to political diversity I did not run into that as much. I met a number of Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders, and Black folks who were all right wing. One example of a conservative person of colour was the President of Eklutna Inc, he had a plaque from a Republican party fund raiser. Even though I completely disagreed with these people about social policies, fiscal matters, and the role of government I was very happy to see that they were not of one mind as many left wing Caucasian people would assume about people of colour's political views. Most of the people that I met did not want restrictions put on fishing or hunting, were in favour of increasing the number of mining operations, and strongly against taxes and government oversight of industries. These views should not be surprising in a state that is as remote, rural, and conservative as Alaska, but one of the issues that it made me think about was what type of diversity do I value most? Would I prefer a place with more ethnic/racial diversity or somewhere that is racially/ethnically homogeneous but is culturally and politically heterogeneous.

After thinking about this for about a year I have come to the conclusion that neither situation is optimal for me, I wonder why can't we have both? I would prefer to live in a place that is diverse in diverse way, anything else will seem like a sham to me. Now that I am done with this post for now I will probably spend a year thinking about how Nigeria with its hundreds of languages and cultural norms which sometimes differ completely from each other there is no real diversity.

No comments: