Perspectives on Diversity The United States today is a society struggling with its own diversity. There have been and still are many perspectives on how we as a society should come together and interact with others of different races, cultures and ethnic groups. The Anglo Conformity Perspective views the values, norms and standards of the United States as an extension of English cultures because the English were the dominant group during the colonial era and when the new nation was emerging. (pp. 77) This group rejects diversity and favors homogeneity maintain that everyone should conform to the values, norms and standards determined by the Anglo founders of the country and was modified by the continuing white majority. This requires that immigrants conform to the Anglo way and abandon their ethnic heritages – the customs, ceremonies, clothing and traditions of their former culture. All immigrants even the Europeans were required to adopt the American ways and become similar to everyone else.
In the late 1800’s one the ways of Americanizing everyone was the implementation of BIA boarding schools that promoted Anglo conformity to the Native American children. These children were taken from the reservation, and not allowed to even return home on the weekends. The children were forced to cut their hair in Anglo styles and dress in Anglo style clothing in an effort to have them give up their heritage. Many years passed and finally the absurdity of what they were trying to do was realized that their emphasis on conformity, uniformity and individual achievement were too contrary to the intrinsic Native American values.
Some immigrant groups benefited from the Anglo conformity such as the Northern Europeans. When they conformed to the Anglo ways by the way they dressed, , talked and behave, they became easily accepted because their skin color was white. Their skin color gave them obvious advantages over other immigrants who were of other colors. White advantage did cause frustration among those of color who had conformed to the Anglo ways. This was mainly because they were still denied rewards given to the “white” immigrant groups.
Many immigrants with lighter skin could “pass for white”. This allowed them many advantages but they paid a psychological price. Their success over shoed the power of Anglo conformity but it also contradicted the concept of America as a melting pot. The Melting Pot Perspective is a conceptual belief that when immigrants from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds come to United States they blend into the culture and mixed together with those who have come before, develop into a new distinctly American identity. (pp. 77) This perspective has been especially attractive in intellectual, artistic and political circles with its compelling images of Americans as a blend of cultures living in harmony. This is a great vision and concept but Americans scarcely responded. People of color first questioned the melting pot concept criticizing it as a myth that had nothing to do with the reality of America’s diversity (pp. 168) While the idea of the melting pot was suppose to be the combination of all of the subcultures coming together into a new superior culture, many immigrants viewed it as something very different.
Many immigrants viewed this as the process of melting away of the subcultures and that it was Anglo conformity was the reality of the melting pot. The Melting Pot perspective today focuses more on de-emphasizing differences and emphasized the need to disregard diversity and accept immigrants as long as they can speak English and become citizens. The most common expression in the melting pot theory is the argument that people should be color blind and the people should ignore a person’s skin color. People of color often become offended by this expression because it implies a negative perception of one’s race and color.
The argument is white people are only “color blind” when it comes to a person’s skin color but they see all colors such as the grass, sky, rainbow etc. It implies discomfort if one’s skin is anything other than white. Color blindness indicates an attitude about skin color differences that is as negative as anything advocated by the separatist erspective. The Separatism Perspective is a conceptual belief in the notion of establishing entirely separate societies for distinct racial, ethnic or other groups that exist within a society. (pp. 177) Separatism is the most asily recognized perspective yet it is the most pessimistic. Separatism is largely based on the belief that ineradicable difference exist between groups of people and that differences inevitably cause hostility. The logical outcome is to believe that different groups have their own places separate from each other and should only interact when necessary. At different times both the minority and majority have advocated for the separatist perspective. Although there are separatist groups in the United States today, they attract few followers and most are perceived as hate groups such as the Black Muslims or the Arian Nation.
Although not all of these groups advocate hatred, they tend to subscribe to the pessimistic separatist premise. Contrasting views continue to be part of the voices reacting to diversity; however pluralism is now challenging the dominance of Anglo conformity. The Cultural Pluralism Perspective is the equal coexistence of diverse cultures in a mutually supportive relationship within the boundaries of one nation. (pp. 169) Pluralism is based on the belief in “equality of opportunity for all people, respect for human dignity and the conviction that no single pattern of living is good for everyone” (Pai & Adler, 1997, pp. 02). Advocates for pluralism believe that diversity is not a difficulty to overcome but a positive attribute of a society. American pluralists do not refer to being tolerant of others; to pluralists, tolerance is an inadequate response in a nation as diverse as the United States. (Eck, 2001). To pluralists, individuals have the right to maintain and be proud of their racial, cultural, ethnic or religious heritage. In contrast to the other perspectives, pluralism encourages individuals to identify themselves in terms of their cultural heritage in addition to identifying themselves as American.
Pluralism promotes bilingual education and allows them to continue to be fluent in their native language but also become fluent in English. Anglo conformity remains the main perspective among Americans even though there are many supporters of Cultural Pluralism. There are a few reasons for supporting pluralism such as 1) The failure of Anglo conformity, 2) The impact on self-consciousness and self-determination refers to the impact of being perceived as different on one’s efforts to develop the kind of positive, self-consciousness that is essential for individuals to be confident in their ability to determine goals and to achieve them.
If people consciously feel proud of who they are, it is easier to set goals and to believe they can be reached. 3) The necessity for human interdependence concerns the extent to which people depend on others. Individuals interact in any society ; as a society becomes more complex, people inevitabley become more dependent on each other. 4) The recognition of diversity as an ideal implies that people must promote the idea that our diversity constitutes the best possible situation. Diversity is regarded as a positive when people engage in solving problems.
Diversity is also valued in the natural world; the more diversity there is a nature, the more likely it is that human life will adapt as new conditions arise. 5) The current existence of diversity is perhaps the most compelling argument for promoting pluralism. If some quality is characteristic of a society it makes sense that we value it rather than deny it or try to pretend it didn’t exist at all. I personally advocate the Cultural Pluralism perspective. This perspective recognizes the differences of others, allows for everyone to keep their cultural identity and to remain proud of who they are.
This perspective allows for the equal coexistence of diverse cultures in a mutually supportive relationship within the boundaries of one nation. (pp. 169) Pluralism is based on the belief in “equality of opportunity for all people, respect for human dignity and the conviction that no single pattern of living is good for everyone” (Pai & Adler, 1997, pp. 102). References Koppelman, Kent L. & Goodhart, R. Lee (2008) Understanding Human Differences, Multicultural Education For A Diverse America, 2nd Ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. (pp. 163-183)