Diversity and Reconciliation

One of the great challenges facing the human community is that of overcoming racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural differences.  Tribalism and separatism are on the rise, both here and abroad, often with violent consequences.  At the same time, the forces of globalization are making nations and human communities increasingly interdependent.  A tension has arisen between the desire minorities to assert their group identity and the impatience of majorities, and élites, with minority claims.

Will we be forced to choose between the extremes of cultural fragmentation and cultural homogenization?  Communitarians argue that it is possible to have diversity within unity.  “There is no reason,” Amitai Etzioni has written, “for Greek Americans, Polish Americans, African Americans or any other groups to see themselves as plain Americans without any particular distinction, history, or subculture.”  At the same time, one does not want to press tribalism or group identification to the point where social peace and unity become impossible.   The best metaphor for the kind of society we want, Etzioni argues, is neither a “melting pot” nor a “rainbow,” but a mosaic.  It is possible to preserve diversity in unity through a “community of communities.”

Communitarians are also pioneering the study of repentance–official apologies, public rites of reconciliation, truth-finding commissions, and other vehicles whereby mutually aggrieved groups can put the wounds of the past behind them and achieve fresh social harmony.

Readings and Links

Read and Endorse the Diversity within Unity platform.

In “Community of Communities” from The Washington Quarterly, Amitai Etzioni spells out the communitarian approach to the problem of diversity and unity.

Demographers and social scientists predict that the white majority in the United States will no longer exist by the year 2050. This prediction has sparked a national debate over this change with many celebrating the end of the white majority while others fear the negative consequences. In “The Monochrome Society (The Limits of Diversity),” Amitai Etzioni claims that these views miss the larger picture because they assume that people’s racial attributes determine their visions, values, and votes. Using several findings, Etzioni shows that most Americans of all races and ethnic groups embrace America’s culture and core values. Current trends in attitudes reflecting increases in the proportion of the non-white population further support the thesis that while American society may well change, whites and non-whites will largely change together. Order The Monochrome Society book.

For Further Exploration

Addis, Adeno. “Individualism, Communitarianism, and the Rights of Ethnic Minorities.” Notre Dame Law Review 67 (1991): 615-76.

Galston, William A. Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Diversity in the Liberal State. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Kahan, Dan M. “A Communitarian Defense of Group Libel Laws.” Harvard Law Review 101 (1988): 682-700.

National League of Cities. Talking is the First Step: Governing in a Racially and Ethnically Diverse Community. Washington, D.C., 1997.

Schauer, Frederick. “Community, Citizenship, and the Search for National Identity.” Michigan Law Review 84 (1986): 1505-17.

Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur. The Disuniting Of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. New York: Whittle Communications, 1991.

World Commission on Culture and Development. Our Creative Diversity: Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. UNESCO Publishing, 1995.