Noah Smith on Diversity

Noah Smith of Bloomberg recently published a thirteen-tweet thread in reply to Tucker Carlson’s dismissive questioning of diversity.  The small town from which I write is a diverse place, of different ethnicities, occupations, and ages.  Smith’s defense of diversity as a social strength was first published on 9.9.18, beginning at 10:02 AM. His full remarks appear below, from first to last.

Smith sees the underlying advantage, and necessity, of a diverse society: “to treat people as individuals and respect their individuality.”

1/ Tucker Carlson’s question – “How is diversity our strength?” was not asked in good faith, but for purposes of racist demagoguery.

But I will try to answer it in good faith, because it’s an important question in its own right.

2/ I have lived in a non-diverse country – Japan in the mid 2000s – and it was pretty nice. About as nice as America, on average. (Though I should mention that Osaka, where I lived, benefited from some immigrant influence that helped give it a unique attitude and culture).

3/ But America is different. It has special strengths – as a nation, and as a culture – that will always give it an advantage, assuming we choose to keep those strengths.

And diversity is central to those.

4/ Many people who defend diversity-for-diversity’s sake will point to either the ideas and products that people from diverse backgrounds offer (Taco trucks on every corner! Korean BBQ on every block! Etc.). And sure, that is certainly nice…

5/ Others point to the benefits of diversity for work teams. A diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds may lead to more creativity, force team members to sharepen their performance, etc. That sounds plausible, and may in fact be true…

6/ But I believe that the benefit America draws from diversity is much, much more important than either of those things. The main benefit, I believe, comes from the nature of the institutions that are necessary to deal with diversity successfully.

7/ In order to make a diverse society function, you can’t expect people to follow the rules. You can’t expect everyone to have a deep-rooted knowledge of their proper place in society. To a greater extent, you have to treat people as individuals and respect their individuality.

8/ People from diverse backgrounds are constantly struggling to understand each other better, to take each other’s divergent family histories and cultural backgrounds into account, in order to get along at work, at school, in marriages, etc. That effort strengthens us.

9/ Our institutions, too — schools, companies, etc. – are forced to take more of an account of people’s backgrounds than they would if they could simply assume that everyone came from the same background. Diversity means we can’t expect or force people to fall in line.

10/ In other words, diversity strengthens America’s core values of individuality and freedom. Diversity provides a backstop defense against the natural tendencies of homogenization and conformity.

11/ In other words, America chooses to embrace diversity not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because the payoff – a society that instinctively respects each individual’s irreplaceable, unique humanity – is worth it.

12/ I believe that there is a chance our experiment might fail. That building a free society from people of all races, religions, and national origins might in fact prove too hard a task. Tucker Carlson and his ilk are living proof that we might fail. They are the failure mode.

13/ But if we succeed – if we CONTINUE to succeed – then I believe the payoff will be unique and unmatched. A country with institutions strong enough not to have to rely on homogeneity will be the strongest country imaginable. The America experiment must continue.


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