31 May 2019

Response to Diversity

Welcome back. Blogging about my most memorable birthday cake years ago, I devoted most of the post to describing the people in the small Upstate New York city where I grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s (Accented Birthday Cake).

Many were first generation Americans, but unlike large cities, there were no concentrations from any one country or conversant in any one language. Being dispersed and immersed, they had to learn some words of English if they were to communicate beyond the family.


Warren’s maternal
grandparents, 1946.
A Proverbial Melting Pot
I wrote about my grandmother from Eastern Europe or possibly the Russian Empire, who could get by in a handful of languages, including heavily accented English. (My grandparents spoke English to me, but not to each other.)

Dominic, who owned the food market near my father’s store, would prepare a sandwich for me, speaking Italian to himself or a helper and a mix of English and Italian to me. (No, I’m not Italian nor do I speak it.)

A school classmate’s family owned a diner, where they spoke English with patrons, Greek to each other and both languages with their children.

Our French-Canadian neighbors would switch fluently between French and English.

We never thought twice if someone didn’t speak English in public, yet a recent survey found that now seems to bother some people.

Americans’ Views of Diversity
The online survey was conducted to gauge Americans’ view about the impact of diversity and the best way to achieve it. Data were provided by 6,637 U.S. adults from the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel in early 2019. Here is a sample, only a sample, of the results.

Hearing a Foreign Language
Overall, about 29% were bothered some or a lot to hear people speaking anything other than English in public. Those bothered most were over 65 years old (I’m stunned), less educated and Republican or Republican leaning.

Pew Research Center Survey (see P.S.)
Diversity’s Value and Impact
A clear majority (76%) said that racial and ethnic diversity is at least somewhat good for the U.S. The less educated and Republicans or Republican-leaning responders weren’t quite as convinced, but well over half were.

Pew Research Center Survey (see P.S.)
Expanding on diversity, the majority (64%) said that having many different races and ethnicities has a positive impact on the country’s culture. That view was most strongly held by Democrats and Democrat-leaning responders, yet half of Republicans and Republican-leaning responders agreed.

Workplace Diversity
Three-fourths of the survey responders said it was somewhat or very important for employers to promote workplace diversity; however, a like number of responders said that race and ethnicity should not be a factor in hiring or promotions.

Pew Research Center Survey (see P.S.)
School Diversity
The survey asked the relative importance of having students attend local versus racially and ethnically mixed schools. Overall, most (54%) favored local schools, regardless of the schools’ level of diversity. The percentages differed significantly between white and black responders, with nearly double the number of blacks favoring racially and ethnically mixed schools.

Pew Research Center Survey (see P.S.)
Wrap Up
The survey found that, whether white, black, Hispanic or Asian, most Americans have some interactions daily with people of other races or ethnicities. That’s a start.

And, again, most Americans favor diversity and recognize its value to our culture. I’m afraid those who don’t, those who are bothered to hear foreign languages spoken in public, may just have to get used to it. The Census Bureau projects that blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other racial minorities will make up the majority of the U.S. population by 2050.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.
Pew Research Center Survey: www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/05/08/americans-see-advantages-and-challenges-in-countrys-growing-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/

All tables are from the cited Pew Research Center survey. The following applies to all: Whites, blacks and Asians are those who report being one race and non-Hispanic. Hispanics are of any race. Asians were interviewed in English only. Though included in the totals, they may not be shown separately due to small sample size.

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