Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Does diversity work?

Harvard political science professor, Robert Putnam recently published the results of an extensive study of ethnic diversity based on 30,000 interviews in 41 U.S. communities.”
Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal summarized the conclusions:

Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to
distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw
even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its
leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects
less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but
have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle
unhappily in front of the television.

There was only one place in America where diversity is working. Henninger continues,

Hold onto your hat. It’s Christian evangelical megachurches. ‘In many large
evangelical congregations,’ [Putnam] writes, ‘the participants constituted the
largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed.’ This, too, is
an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by
offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger ‘shared identity’ of
the church (Read the entire article at “Think Again by Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).
For non-church goers who are truly serious about diversity and integration, maybe its time to start attending a large Evangelical church near you! (Hat tip: John W.)

1 comment:

Robert said...

One thing I don't believe was mentioned were the risks of voluntary segregation. For example, if one examines the Minneapolis/St. Paul area you'll notice that many Hmong and Somali immigrants have chosen to cluster together in certain apartment complexes or neighborhoods. While there are some obvious benefits to them (like shared life experiences), there is also some resistance to integrate into the Minnesota and overall mainstream American life. As a result, there have been some very brutal attacks (crime) in these areas where they resist outside "interference." They often feel marginalized and powerless in the greater Minnesota community. Worse, they don't feel as though they are part of the Minnesota/American experience.

Recently, there was a high profile crime in St. Paul where a woman was raped in the hallway of her apartment complex. What makes it notible from other crimes is that it was caught on security camera and as many as 10 people saw the rape, knew what was happening, and chose not to intervene or call the police.

The Minnesota media struggled to answer why this community of immigrants would refuse to call the police. "Expert" after "expert" was called to give their $.02 on the radio, TV, and paper. In one case, we were told that these immigrants strongly distrusted authority because in their home country, the "authorities" were worse than the rapist. Others told us that they perferred to deal with these matters in their own way. The issue of integration into a more diverse population was never really discussed.

I'm not for forcing diversity on anyone. In general, I believe diversity is a fact; not an objective to be achieved (I can clarify this if anyone really cares). However, I want to make it clear that I believe there are some negative consequences that occur when you build this sort of isolation between cultures/races/etc. I would never require immigrants to move out among the metro area as I know they gain certain support structures from living amongst other recent new-comers. That being said, I think all would benefit far more if they were able to integrate into our larger community without feeling the need to "self-segregate."