Briefly, On Diversity and Tucker Carlson’s Bastardizing of the Term

Briefly, On Diversity and Tucker Carlson's Bastardizing of the Term

Tucker Carlson asked this question regarding diversity on his program, and it caught some social media attention:

 

 

“Please be honest in answering this question,” he intoned.

Ok.

Tucker, nobody made “diversity (is) our strength” the “new national motto,” as you put it. That concept and terminology does get abused by some, as can happen with all ideas taken to their extreme, but the concept is not new. And since you asked, to be very specific, I have indeed been in both marriages and military units. I have also lived in foreign countries, where I was the one who could not speak the language and was trying to function in a society and build friendships and relationships with those around me who didn’t understand me.

The military unit you allude to doesn’t start with unity. It is the result of a lot of hard work, dedicated training, and building towards unity. Strength through diversity is a process. Same with a marriage, where two people who know nothing about each other build a relationship and understanding, or it fails. Same with neighbours, like the family and friends in foreign lands who have become some of my most treasured relationships despite language barriers, meaning we’ve hardly spoken a verbal word to each other that was understood. If your idea of “unity” ends with everyone agreeing and becoming just like you, then we have different definitions of the term.

Your commentary and unserious pleas to honestly answer your proffer on diversity is at odds with this, not because it isn’t true, but because of what you are meaning and propose. You are not going to springboard the truth that strength can come from diversity, to advocate for continuing the American tradition of constant reinvention and assimilation. You, Tucker Carlson, just want to use the term “diversity” as a negative connotation and set yourself and like-minded folks up as the gatekeepers as to which “others” are acceptable for the effort.

I am unsure whether Tucker Carlson the TV personality does this for effect, for attention, or because he really believes it. I have no way of knowing where the overlap of Tucker Carlson the man and Tucker Carlson the brand occurs. But we have enough body of work on the latter to know what he is implying and to what audience it is aimed, and it is not to be a positive towards people of differences.

Fortunately, I have the experiences of diversity in my life – my real one, not just the political/social media news cycles – that remind me not to get too hung up on commentary such as this, even when it attracts attention. I walk into my child’s classroom and can see the hope that those who use diversity as a negative connotation should see. In that classroom I see an array of backgrounds, races, religions, and more importantly, how little those kids pay attention to any of that. I watch a Gold Star child, whose father was killed in combat fighting radical Islamic terrorists, sitting at a desk cluster with his friend who wears traditional Muslim dress to school everyday. Daily I see children, growing up in a city where the white/black/latino demo split is 39/42/10 get the experience of a diverse community, both the good and the bad. I’ve watched proudly as my children take water to the small business owners who help with our yard and house care, not just to be nice and take them a drink but because they want to show off some new phrase they learned in their language.

Right now they are just children, but these experiences are making them who they are, just as my father having zero tolerance for looking down on or disrespecting anyone based on them being different greatly affected me. Someday they will be the ones fighting for what our country is, perhaps on an actual battlefield, God forbid, but assuredly in their daily actions and relationships to others. They are learning that the process and desire of diversity as our strength leads to a better world, will make them better citizens, and teach them it isn’t just a slogan. They will be able to counteract those who grew up being taught casual hatefuness, small-mindedness, and intolerance. It will hopefully make them into the leaders our country needs. More importantly, it will make them better people.

Tucker Carlson has made a path where he has found success with his latest version of his TV self. He has found, as other writers have, lucrative advancement for himself on television and media. In the current environment, his recent championing of President Trump and anti-immigration views is very good business. He is free to do, say, and proclaim what he likes. I am free to push back and call it wrong when he veers too far, as I believe he has here in being disingenuous with his question that he really didn’t want the answer to. He just wanted his answer.

Anything other than agreement would have been too much diversity for Tucker Carlson.


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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50 thoughts on “Briefly, On Diversity and Tucker Carlson’s Bastardizing of the Term

  1. I’ve watched proudly as my children take water to the small business owners who help with our yard and house care, not just to be nice and take them a drink but because they want to show off some new phrase they learned in their language

    This sentence has so much Good in it.
    Thank you for this.

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  2. ” nobody made “diversity (is) our strength” the “new national motto,” as you put it.”

    Really? I hear that a lot….on the news, as a push back for limiting immigration, for many other things. Hell, my own companies corporate “aspirations” talk endlessly about that as a core goal and a core strength. I bet you see it in classrooms too.

    You’d think after a few thousand years of human behavior we’d have learned the tribalness of the human animal.

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  3. Very well said. I would also point out that history’s greatest empires had lots of “diversity”. They didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was. The Roman Empire, our best historical parallel, included peoples from all over three continents. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that a contributor to the Empire’s collapse was that they lost the inability to incorporate new people’s into their Empire.

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    • I think it is (almost) axiomatic that every great civilization drew its strength from being cosmopolitan and heterodox, incorporating new ideas and mutating as it grew.
      Part of it is the obvious value of trade, but trade depends on being able to handle diverse cultures.

      I see it everyday here in LA. Whenever I go to a meeting or a city agency, or intereact with anyone anywhere, I am engaging with people from wildly diverse backgrounds.

      Without the ability to be comfortable with different religions, races and nationalities you really can’t do business in the modern world.

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    • They “lost the inability”? I assume you meant ability, but really the Romans were never exactly great at incorporating conquered peoples; even their fellow Italians weren’t made Roman citizens until the outbreak of one rebellion and the threat of another forced the Romans’ hand in the early 1st century BCE. I agree with the overall point you’re trying to make, I’d just say it’s important to note that this was a perpetual weakness of the Romans throughout the lifespan of both the Republic and the Empire.

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    • History’s great empires were diverse places but Zac Black gets it right that they did not approach this anything close to how diversity was handled by secular democracies. There was always a dominate culture or group and the belief was that everybody should assimilate towards the ruling group. This was true in the ancient empires like the Persian or the Romans or the modern ones like the British, French, and Russian Empires.

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      • This was true in the ancient empires like the Persian or the Romans or the modern ones like the British, French, and Russian Empires.

        I’m sorry, but I don’t see any desire for assimilation into the ruling class/group in either the British or the French Empires. Both were eminently run by and for the benefit of the British and French only (*). Both colonial powers understood that the bestowing of Western Civilization on the natives was payment and justification enough for the right to rule and exploit these benighted lands. As late as the 1930s this reasoning justified the invasion of Ethiopia by another Empire wanna-be

        (*) The Brits somehow accommodated the Indian princely houses into the ruling class, since, technically, they were sovereign in their states, subject to the British protectorate, but they did not extend this privilege much further into the Indian upper classes.

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  4. Tucker’s asking whether diversity is a god thing in the military reminds of of those classic WWII movies where a WASP kid from Iowa, a WASP kid from Indiana, a WASP kid from Ohio, a WASP kid from Kansas, a WASP kid from Nebraska, a WASP kid from Missouri, a WASP kid from Oklahoma, a WASP kid from Pennsylvania, and the oddball, a WASP kid from Colorado, bond after somehow overcoming their differences.

    You know who washes out, though? The prep school trust fund kid from La Jolla.

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      • I love this. Not just your comment, but the idea that the military has thoroughly researched it, and found benefits. As a child of the 60’s, it’s interesting, to say the least, to find the military my partner. It’s a very different place than the military that Robert McNamara once ran.

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        • The military is pretty tight on it too. Are you openly racists, sexist, etc., or acting in a way that suggests you hold those beliefs? Congrats, you just stagnated your career.

          You won’t get the boot, but you can kiss promotions goodbye, and any assignments that place you in a significant leadership position. You will be sidelined as much as legally possible until you either retire, or decline to re-enlist.

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          • I was on desk duty my last year of active duty, and assigned as my units acting education and training officer which included implementing “dont ask dont tell” repeal. One of these days I’ll write up that experience but germaine to this discussion my chain of command (I reported directly to commander) made it clear anything derogatory or homophobic was going to be swiftly dealt with, and it was.

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            • Yep, once the military decides X is a good thing, there’s no being wishy washy about it.

              I’ve mentioned before that the BM1 on our sister boat was an open racist. He had 16 years in, and had been a 1st class (E-6) for a long time, because he’d been told, quite frankly, that he was not Chief material and shouldn’t even bother bucking for that promotion, because it wasn’t going to happen. Nor was he ever going to be put in charge of anything (he was the load master on the boat, which meant he was responsible for making sure the boat was loaded properly, but he had no supervisory authority over the junior crew). That was all he was ever going to be allowed to do. I was honestly surprised he made it to E6.

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  5. It’s not clear to me what exactly Carlson is asking, since I didn’t follow the link, but I assume it’s “is diversity a good thing?”

    I’ll say it is, but there are smarter ways and less smart ways of approaching it. There seems to be an approach to diversity that goes, “all we have to do is put people of different backgrounds together and people will learn to tolerate, welcome, and accept each other.” Maybe that’s a strawperson policy and maybe no one ever really says that, but it does seem implied in comments of several of my friends and acquaintances who say they seek “diverse” experiences or like a neighborhood or city because it’s so “diverse.” To the degree that by “diversity” is meant only a “put people together and good will happen,” then it’s potentially a bad thing or at least less of a good thing than its promoters claim.

    Or….what isn’t quite the same thing, “diversity” can become a preachy attitude, in which some people have to paper over their own differences of opinions or differences of background to accommodate some model. There are liberal’ish and conservative’ish (for lack of better terms) and everything in between versions of those models.

    None of that is the type of diversity I see Andrew talking about, though. As he points out in the OP, diversity in the military, in marriage, among neighbors, as learned from his father, and probably in the example of his children’s school (although the OP isn’t entirely clear on that point). diversity is something that has to be worked hard at and enforced through daily practice and probably daily reflection.

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        • With the greatest respect to both of you, whose perspectives I appreciate a great deal almost all the time:

          I think our “diversity of viewpoints” here is quite limited, and in some ways – both good and bad ways, from my perspective – quite self-limiting, ie hostile to viewpoints that fall outside our fairly limited range of acceptability. I find that comforting when those viewpoints are unacceptable to me, and alienating when those viewpoints are ones I share, or ones I find both valuable and otherwise lacking from our conversations.

          But the idea that as a group / community we are *especially* welcoming of viewpoints that don’t belong to our tribe is one I’ve never believed. Our tribe is pretty odd, diverse, quirky, open-minded, etc, but it *is* a tribe, nonetheless. And we don’t make much room – let alone hold much space or show much support – for people who want different things than we-the-collective want from a discussion, no matter how engaged they may be with the OPs.

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    • The OP’s sense of “diversity” is idiosyncratic. We have the concept of diversity in the Bakke decision, which set forth the limited condition in which race categories could survive Constitutional restraints on race discrimination. We have diversity visas which discriminates on the basis of country of birth. We have diversity training which is about legal defenses against civil rights actions (and thus the enumerated protected classes of race, gender, etc.) And we have diversity education mandates, mine are explicitly premised on the predicted emergence of a non-white majority.

      I believe tolerance is a personal and civic virtue, not diversity. The problem with tolerance is that it requires a lot of a person.

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      • I hadn’t thought about whether the OP’s definition is idiosyncratic or not. I do think Andrew touches on common-sense notions of what diversity is or what diversity is imagined (at its best) to achieve.

        I do agree that diversity has the other meanings you ascribe to it, especially on-the-job “diversity training,” which to my mind operates more like a risk management ploy o a way not to get sued. In that way, it kind of works like ethics training.

        I believe that most people would agree that it’s tolerance (or acceptance, which perhaps isn’t exactly the same thing?) is the real virtue. A related claim, one that I think we (as in, I and other people) disagree about, is whether diversity makes tolerance easier or at least more likely. I’m not sure it does. I do agree, though, that we need to define very precisely what we mean by “diversity” before we can understand if it’s a good thing.

        Sorry to be rambling so much…..

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      • Perhaps diversity is a prerequisite environment for meaningful tolerance or acceptance to occur?

        If everyone were homogenous (or homogeneity were artificially imposed), there’d be nothing to tolerate/accept.

        (Also it’s not really an idiosyncratic definition, as it is one that fits my best, most honest understanding of the term as well. So at worst it’s a duosyncratic definition ;) ).

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