A ‘diverse’ group of people

A ‘diverse’ group of people

Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 3:35 pm
By: Sandy Murray, Special to The Press

Let’s see, if I am going to be discussing diversity issues I am just going to be dealing with issues between blacks and whites, right? No! If you look in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary you will find that the definition of diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements; especially the inclusion of different types of people.” Okay, so then if we include Latino/as, Asians, and Native American Indians we have it covered, right?  No, again.
To truly delve into the issues of diversity, we need to also examine the general population groups of men/women, socio-economic status, aging, sexual orientation, and disabilities; and the special issues of geography, language, and religion/spiritual beliefs.
Then to truly understand the different ethnic communities of people we need to examine their sub-groups like African Americans, Haitian Americans, Jamaican Americans, etc. Wow! So what has happened to the USA as the Melting Pot?  That Melting Pot has evolved into a Tossed Salad – bowl of wonderfully diverse individuals who add an interesting taste to being American.
Just how diverse is the population of the United States? The Census Bureau allows respondents to choose from a limited list of categories. People of European decent are lumped together as White, while those of African decent are Black or African American. However, there is no category for biracial individuals.  So individuals like Tiger Woods, who is 1/8 African, 1/2 Thai, 1/4 European and 1/8 Native American defines himself as Black, yet he isn’t truly Black he is multi-racial.
The Census Bureau has subdivided the categories for Native Americans, Latin Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders based on their national or ethnic origins. In other words, Pacific Islanders can identify as Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan, Guamanian, etc. Likewise, Latin Americans can identify as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc. This opportunity to identify in terms of national origin is not afforded to Blacks and Whites. (Access http://anthro.palomar.edu/ethnicity/2000_census_definitions_of_races.htm to see how the US Census Bureau defines race.)
The following information represents the data from the 2000 Census:
• Total U.S. population – 281,421,906
* Percent of population – 100
• Race (see Note 1)
* One race – 274,595,678 (97.6 percent of population)
* White – 211,460,626 (75.1 percent of population)
* Black or African-American – 34,658,190 (12.3 percent of population)
* American Indian and Alaska Native – 2,475,956 (.9 percent of population)
* Asian – 10,242,998 (3.6 percent of population)
* Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander – 398,835 (.1 percent of population)
* Some other race (see Note 2) – 15,359,073 (5.5 percent of population)
* Two or more races (see Note 3) – 6,826,228 (2.4 percent of population)
• Ethnicity (see Note 4)
* Hispanic or Latino (of any race) – 35,305,818 (12.5 percent of population)
* Not Hispanic or Latino – 246,116,088 (87.5 percent of population).
Note 1. There is no “decline to state” option allowed for “race” designation for the year 2000 Census.
Note 2. Ninety-seven percent of the people who reported that they were “some other race” said that they were also “Hispanic or Latino” in terms of ethnicity.
Note 3. There are 57 possible combinations of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 races that were allowed. Ninety-three percent of the people who reported more than once race, reported only two. The most common combination was “white” with some other “race.”
Note. 4 Forty-eight percent of Hispanics reported that they were “white” and 42 percent said they were “some other race.”
So what does all this mean to you as an individual? As our nation becomes even more diverse we need to understand the culture, traditions and personalities of all persons. Our stereotypes of the past need to be examined and our horizons broadened.  We need to embrace each other as individuals and learn to love others as we love ourselves.  
So let’s tackle this “discussion” by examining the different ethnic-specific communities of people in alphabetical order. This means we will begin with African Americans. Hmmm! A problem ensues with that term alone. Are all Black people living in the United States African-Americans?  How about the people who come from Jamaica, or Haiti, or other countries where the skin color of the majority of the population is dark?  Are they truly African Americans or are they Jamaican-Americans, Haitian-Americans, or Black Americans?  Just because people of this ethnic group have the same physical characteristics does not mean they have the same heritage.
Oh, heritage! Hmmm! What is heritage anyway? Heritage in this case refers to those immaterial traditions, customs and world views that are common in persons from previous generations.
So, though the physical characteristics of a Black American whose ancestors lived in Haiti may be the same as that of an African American whose ancestors are from Africa, the heritage of these two people is drastically different. Even the culture of the African American will differ depending on the tribe from which the person is descended.  
Good grief this is complicated! That is exactly the point. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of stereotyping a person by their ethnicity instead of getting to know that person.
Okay, I digress!  In actuality, I am trying to make the point that we cannot just look at a person’s physical characteristics to determine who that person is and what we can expect of them. We need to know some of the whys and whens of the ethnic sub-group to which that person belongs.  Or at least be aware of some of those characteristics. How do we do that? Talk to the person! Not comfortable in doing that?  Then read on!
Editor’s note: Dr. Sandra S. Murray is an associate professor originating from Columbus, Ind. She has earned a master’s in Early Childhood Education from Florida Atlantic University; an Educational Specialist in School Administration P-12 from Nova Southeastern University; and a doctorate in School Administration in Higher Education from Argosy University/Sarasota.  She moved to Martin in 2006 to teach at UT Martin. Dr. Murray teaches online graduate courses in educational leadership; multicultural issues in education and counseling; and an occasional face-to-face undergraduate course.

WCP 9.06.12

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