Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Politics Can Make or Break Diversity


As the election period draws near to its climax, the topic of politics and the role it plays in the promotion of diversity and inclusion is brought to focus, especially in light of controversial, provocative statements coming from one of the presumptive presidential nominees.

More so, in view of what has been happening in recent years, at home and around the globe: gun violence, police brutality, hate crimes, terrorism - the role of politics in the affairs of a nation and of the world becomes more critical than ever.

After all, political leaders determine the fate of their nations; politicians and policymakers impact the lives of their constituents through the decisions and policies they make.

Thus the choice for a country's political leadership at all levels of the government, should be based on informed, critical, nonbiased judgment, as it can either divide or unite a country, ruin it or build it up, and move it towards lasting peace, stability and economic prosperity.

Being more engaged and concerned with political issues can help citizens to become wise in electing or supporting politcal leaders who reflect their own values and beliefs and who will ultimately affect their day to day lives, as well as the life of the nation. And this is so true for America.

Politics of Hate

Most people value peace, but for many, this means when there's similarity of beliefs, views, and lifestyles.

Yet, peace can co-exist in a pluralistic culture within a diverse society, such as American society. Unity in diversity can exist, but only when the politics of hate does not overrule the basic sense of people to preserve their own traditional attitudes, beliefs and mores.

But unfortunately, a politics of hate is being promoted; a climate of fear is being created, which undermines the values of diversity and inclusion. As a result, people suffer, lives are lost. The very recent sad, tragic Orlando shooting is just one example of this.

Enacted laws meant to further alienate transgenders – as in North Carolina's ban against the use of transgender bathrooms – are fine examples of a politics of hate. Such ban against access to bathrooms corresponding to one's gender identity is based mainly on fear, unsupported by data.

A politics of hate promotes a narrow, confined, shallow understanding of peace, something akin to what Bertrand Russell wrote as he explained the value of a philosophic life:
The private world of instinctive interests is a small one, set in the midst of a great and powerful world which must, sooner or later, lay our private world in ruins. Unless we can so enlarge our interests as to include the whole outer world, we remain like a garrison in a beleagured fortress, knowing that the enemy prevents escape and that ultimate surrender is inevitable. In such a life there is no peace, but a constant strife between the insistence of desire and the powerlessness of will. 


Politics and Racism

As discussed above, a politics of hate hinders the promotion of diversity.
One other factor that can impact diversity, either in a positive or negative way, is political orientation.

A research article published in the Journal of Social Science Studies discusses the correlation between political orientation and race and how these influence racism. 

According to the research, findings of previous studies have shown that political conservatives tend to oppose civil rights legislation, for example, affirmative action policies out of concern that such policies would create an environment where employers would resort to hiring quotas for women and minorities.[...]

An important aspect of this phenomenon is the so-called Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), wherein individuals or groups desire their in-group to dominate and be superior to out-groups.

With regards to racism, there seems to be a correlation between political conservatism and the so-called symbolic racism, which is the melding of anti-Black affect (generally politically conservative) and traditional American values, adopting “political correctness” and not expressing their prejudiced beliefs in public settings.

On the other hand, political liberalism correlates with aversive racism, in which political liberals have adopted and internalized non-prejudiced values and social norm striving for a more inclusive society, while maintaining latent negative affect toward minorities.

Thus, political leadership with conservative leanings tend to craft or support policies that may be prejudicial or discriminatory to minorities, including towards LGBT people. In the process, the promotion of diversity and inclusion is undermined. Conservative political leaders may not openly admit, nor be conscious of it, but underlying racist attitudes tend to be the basis of their policies and decisions.

These findings also suggest that political conservatives tend to be rigid or fixed in their attitudes, while political liberals, though they may carry conscious or unconscious prejudices, tend to become more open-minded and accepting of others.

Politics and Diversity

What better way is there to promote diversity and inclusion than modeling it in politics? Political diversity is the best way to ensure that political leaders are able to serve their constituents well, as they reflect their diversity, see things from broader perspectives, and let more voices heard.

Just as diversity is good for companies across all industries because it improves their bottomline, so does political diversity makes sense too for political leadership, in order to help build a more inclusive, just, equitable society.

Political diversity strengthens the political will to recognize the growing diversity of the American population, and to include the oft-marginalized sectors into consideration when legislating and crafting policies.

Political diversity allows political participation from a wider scope of the citizenry, including minorities, and this brings greater benefits to the nation. One thing for sure, it will help lessen, if not totally eradicate racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious, disability, veteran discrimination.

Yet , a survey done in 2013 showed a diversity gap in American poltics. An infographic by Lee & Low Books reveals a predominantly white and overwhelmingly male political leadership in the US.

This is the same problem with many industries. Big corporations, such as in the IT sector, are generally male and white.

It is not hard to think that the diversity gaps existing in the different sectors of American society is largely due to the lack of diversity in American politics.

Political Participation

Aside from a stronger political will to promote diversity and inclusion in all segments of the society in the U.S., the challenging time today calls for greater interest and participation of the citizenry in politics, or in the least, for active engagement with critical issues affecting the nation at present.
  
Political participation nowadays is better facilitated online through the different social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, as these serve as platforms for individuals and groups to share their ideas and opinions on various topics and issues, gather information and discuss things.

Just as in face-to-face discussions, conflicts can also arise in online discussions due to disparate viewpoints and temperaments or traits of users, according to a research article published by First Monday (a peer-reviewed journal on the internet). It presents findings based on previous studies and current study showing the relationship between social networking sites and political engagement.

The research concludes network diversity plays contradictory roles in political engagement via SNSs and is context specific. On the one hand, political diversity increased political interest which was associated with political engagement on SNSs. Yet, political diversity was associated with increased self–censoring behavior.

It also concludes that the effect of network diversity on self–censoring varied depending on individual traits. People with high self–disclosure tendencies and low diversity networks are the most likely to self–censor. Extant research shows that people with high self–disclosure tendencies are more likely to use Internet applications to maintain relationships (Stefanone and Jang, 2007). Recall that we argued previously about higher relational diversity being a result of indiscriminate friending. It is likely that disclosive individuals with low diversity networks are those who use SNSs to maintain meaningful networks of actual relationships. As a consequence, these users are increasingly mindful about the content of their online communication.

The point is however users enage online, it paves the way for greater participation in the political life of the nation. 

Yet, it should behoove people to be more mature and responsible as well in communicating with others, online or face-to-face, for after all, respectful communication deepens social relationships, and creates better understanding, peace and unity.

Thus, the spread of a culture of diversity and inclusion can be possible with stronger political will and support, plus people's engagement and participation in political activities, especially in choosing the right leaders to govern.

In light of the Orlando tragedy, here is a quote from one recent Yahoo news article:

How we react to them as a society -- whether by panicking and demanding blanket restrictions on members of a certain religion, or by taking measured steps to protect people in the U.S. without sacrificing the civil liberties that have made us who we are -- will speak volumes about the country we will be going forward. 


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