I saw this press release and thought the headline was both clumsy and provocative: Americans Claim to Love Diverse Communities but Do They Really? It is a report on recent work done by the Pew Research Center, and the article and its accompanying tables are worth a look.
The study makes the point this way:
About six-in-ten Americans say they like the idea of living in politically, racially, religiously or economically mixed communities….Despite these pro-diversity attitudes, however, American communities appear to have grown more politically and economically homogenous in recent decades….Most notably, nearly half (48%) of all votes for president in 2008 were cast in counties that went either for Barack Obama or for John McCain by a margin of at least 20 percentage points. Back in 1976, only 27% of all voters lived in such “landslide counties”…
There are all kinds of angles here. Most of them are too much for a blog post, and I don’t have the background or training to evaluate or comment anyway. But at the very least, we probably need to rethink what we mean when we claim to prefer or promote diversity. Based on the results of this study, I would be justified in claiming that a diverse community is one where most of the people hold the same opinions I do. And you would be justified if you called that Diversity FAIL.
Even though living in an echo chamber can be comfortable, we need to realize that there are some costs. Very few of us can claim to have outstanding communication and interpersonal skills with people who disagree with us. Based on the available evidence, it is safe to say that we need all the practice we can get. Perhaps our ability to understand or even speak to people whose views are different will deteriorate even further. We pay a lot of lip service to the goal of diversity, and it is interesting to consider the possibility that Grandma and Grandpa understood it better than we do.