“Diversity is our strength.” Says who? Well, just about everyone. It’s an article of faith, a bumper sticker mantra of human resource departments and elementary school curricula and something everybody just knows.
But is it true?
Oh, goodness, what kind of question is that?
A mass of people who know nothing about their country, little of its history or its language, who hunker down in their own ethnic enclaves or decamp for ideological safe spaces – is this the ‘diversity’ we want?
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An uncomfortable one, apparently. U.S. Rep. Steve King, a conservative Republican from Iowa, tweeted the other day, “Diversity is not our strength.” Uh-oh. King then quoted Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who said, “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”
The bit about “mixing cultures” is debatable, to say the least. King’s follow-up tweet was better: “Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength.”
King isn’t wrong about that, but the claim requires more elaboration than a 280-character tweet allows.
What King got in response was the back of the hand. His critics on Twitter did what critics on Twitter always do: mocked, snarked and cursed at him. A few followed up with more questionable assertions: “Diversity isn’t *a* strength, Steve King. It is our greatest strength,” tweeted one. “It gives us an advantage over other countries.” How so? It just does.
Meantime, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, an African-American Republican from South Carolina, dismissed King’s statement as “ignorant.” Why? It just is.
Diversity could be a strength. Every enterprise benefits from differing perspectives. But our greatest strength?
Diversity, as we know it in the United States, is more of an exercise in box-checking, an annoying form of identity politics (at best) that stresses what sets us apart over what unites us as Americans.
The multicultural ethos creates some weird dichotomies by contrast. Our kids are supposed to believe that the fact that their great-grandparents arrived by steamer from a remote part of the (disastrously diverse) Austro-Hungarian Empire – or Italy or China or wherever – says something vital about who they are today.
At the same time, we tie ourselves in constitutional knots over people like Yaser Hamdi, who happened to be born in the United States but spent most of his life in Saudi Arabia stewing in Islamic radicalism. The Supreme Court said Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 fighting with the Taliban, was entitled to due process rights as any citizen would be. But patriotically speaking, that guy is no more American than I am heir to the throne of Poland.
Hence King’s more important point about assimilation: Americans are not so much born as made.
Assimilation really is a dirty word now. But it wasn’t always.
I’ll never forget the brouhaha over immigration reform in 2006 when assimilation was momentarily the subject of debate. At the time, I was an editorial writer for the Press-Enterprise in Riverside. We editorialized in favor of patriotic assimilation, which seemed perfectly uncontroversial.
Readers were incensed. One lady in particular couldn’t believe we would actually suggest an “unwillingness to assimilate makes immigrants unworthy of citizenship.”
Yet that’s exactly how immigration has worked in this country from the start. Assimilation and good citizenship were indivisible. Newcomers would shed their old loyalties and attachments to become part of the greater American fabric. E pluribus unum, remember? From many, one.
A mass of people who know nothing about their country, little of its history or its language, who hunker down in their own ethnic enclaves or decamp for ideological safe spaces – is this the “diversity” we want?
It seems to be the result of the diversity we’ve embraced. It’s also a recipe for dissolution and decay. That’s hardly a strength.
Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benboychuk.