Diversity: A Disability?

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Diversity: A Disability?

Adrianna Link

The one thing my mother noticed when she came to the United States was the extreme diversity present in our culture. Coming from Eastern Europe, she was not accustomed to having such a wide variety of races, religions, and beliefs existing in one common setting. In truth, she was not, and still is not, completely comfortable with how accepting and different our country is compared to other countries in the world. A main reason for this is the homogenous nature with which Poland is defined. The majority of Polish people are Catholic, Caucasian, and very concerned with family morals. Because of this, Polish culture tends to disable what American's esteem very highly diversity.

American culture, while containing its own areas of cultural disability, tends to actually be a very accepting place. The United States is the melting pot of all different cultures from various parts of the world, and has thus made the notion of diversity an accepted one. However, the countries who serve as the origin for America's diverse population are not always as accepting. The ideas of natural heritage and a certain sense of cultural identity give European society a unified appreciation of sameness that is missing in American culture. Because of this, many European nations are angry with the United States for "stripping away" the culture of its European immigrants.

Perhaps the biggest problem with diversity is the fact that cultures get assimilated into a common "super culture". The United States proudly hails its diverse population, but lacks any real sort of unifying "culture", at least as defined through European standards. The only real sense of culture the United States has is a foundation based on commercialism and marketing. As sad as it may be, the "land of opportunity" is only that way because of the extreme influence of capitalism. It is sometimes very hard for outside cultures, especially those from poorer nations, to gain prominence in a society where the idea of culture goes along with financial stability. In addition, any traditions and practices unique to certain countries that have come to the United States are often either unrecognized or commercialized in a way suiting to the American culture. For example, the celebration of St. Patrick 's Day by the Irish has become a day to wear green and drink beer instead of pay recognition to the saint himself.

Within America, there remain little pockets of culture, existent in China towns, Polish neighborhoods, and traditional Italian restaurants. These areas, however, are merely reflections of the nations from which they come- they are not genuine. The China towns of New York and Philadelphia are not an accurate reflection of life in China- they are a instead a place of commercialism and tourist appeal. Within the traditional Polish home you also find reminders of American life; there are McDonalds bags, Walmart purchases, and constant reminders of the importance of consumerism. Diversity has thus forced outside cultures to adapt and live in accordance with a different standard, a standard that is strictly American. Diversity destroys what is left of foreign culture, twisting and distorting any marketable qualities until it is simply a desperate attempt to keep a part of the old alive while targeting the American masses.

It is difficult for me to classify diversity as being a disability, especially having grown up in a country where diversity is so important. As a United States' citizen, I have been subconsciously taught that "different is good" and that "homogeny is boring". Yet I've also learned that while America does have a "culture", it is not the same sort of culture as my mother's. It does not have the same religion-influenced list of ideals, the abundance of tradition, or the unified outlook of an entire mass of people. It may possess certain clusters of the population who live in a shared way, but not in a way shared by the whole country. From a distance, American culture may appear to be diverse, but in regards to upholding a common means of traditional culture, it is surely disabled.

Likewise, the concept of prejudice is, unfortunately, extremely prevalent in American culture. In a country where we are taught to treat everyone equally, to believe in opportunity, and to promote diversity, we are exceptionally hypocritical. The United States, in some regards, is all talk- we do not treat everyone equally. There is discrimination based on wealth, race, sex, orientation, and also, nationality. Diversity is only regarded when it is beneficial to the commercial groundings of this country, and mostly ignored otherwise. It is because of this desire for commercial growth that prejudice exists, since it continually glorifies societies who present themselves as being "democratically" led and financially successful. The United States makes a point of trying to be an accepting country for all nations, but then subtly transforms cultures into a reflection of America's own in order to uphold the American notion of prosperity. In this sense, the diversity of American culture sets the foundation for all the disabling aspects of culture. It is the American preoccupation with building an economy through the exploitation of diversity that makes it disabling.

A disability is categorized as something that is harmful to the way of life of someone else. Diversity, while exhibiting positive connotations, is harmful to the inherent cultures that are present within the homes of America's immigrant population. Diversity forces cultures to be compromised in such a way that ultimately results in that culture either being distorted to suit America's fiscal needs or otherwise completely eradicated. America may be accepting of differences, but only of those differences that fit in with the American ideal of commercialism and economic prosperity. America is not concerned as a whole with the preservation of the cultures that are present in its population, but instead with how best to utilize those cultures in the maintenance of capitalism. American diversity does harm culture, since it threatens the traditions and values of the old in order to ensure the success of its only unifying trait- commercialism.

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