by Marshall Kirby, Public Policy Analyst

America has long been recognized as one of the most diverse and multicultural countries on the planet.  We have been referred to as the Melting Pot of both civilizations and the world.  Over the last few decades, countless individuals and families have come here to build a better life, escape persecution, and live their own version of the American Dream.  On a busy street corner in a large city you can hear numerous languages spoken other than English.  We shop at businesses owned and operated by immigrants and people of other ethnicities.

Commentators and activists have commented on this, some expressing pessimism and others seeing diversity as strength.  Several years back, there was a debate among sociologists about the process in which these diverse backgrounds were assimilating into the American lifestyle.  The uncertainty primarily stemmed from viewing immigrant protesters in France and throughout Europe complaining of discrimination.  In the case of America, for the most part there have not been equal or equivalent events.  This is not say that America handles racial issues perfectly – as a nation we have a checkered past with slavery, segregation, discrimination, and poor treatment of ethnic, religious, and immigrant groups.  However, it seems that America has been able to walk a delicate tightrope and maintain the principle that diversity is strength in the grand scheme.

A recent article in the New York Times (can be found here) discussed how youth are often identifying themselves as bi-racial or of mixed racial backgrounds.  They are the children of mixed race marriages, and have been troubled by the recent history of racial identification.  In decades prior, these children, for the purposes of recording or monitoring purposes, were mostly forced to choose to identify simply as one race. A group at the University of Maryland’s campus has sprung up for youth who see themselves as simply more than just African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Caucasian or White, Asian, or Native American.  They seek to develop pride for all aspects of their racial and ethnic heritage by coming together and celebrating themselves.

Looking at the whole picture, America’s youth have taken their own approach to dealing with racial issues.  With many young adults coming from diverse and multiracial backgrounds, they seek to have more meaningful discussions of race and identity and the role it will play in the future of our culture, government, and economy.  This is not to say that they bring monolithic views of race – their views range from simply wanting a color blind society where race doesn’t matter to one where all their racial makeup is acknowledged and developed with pride.

Now the question is what does this mean for the future?  What impact do you think this will have on small business?  What do you think this will mean for Affirmative Action?  In the end, this may not seem to be an important economic issue – but ethnic and racial diversity has been a major asset for America’s workforce, businesses, and the overall economy.  What are your thoughts?

Mr. Kirby joins The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce with an experienced background in Public Policy Analysis.  He has worked for Americans for Informed Democracy, the Center for US Global Engagement, and for local governments in Virginia on issues ranging from international finance, national security, and other areas of foreign and domestic policy.  He holds a Master of International Development Degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Marshall can be reached at 866-576-5222 x 8, or MarshallK@NPRChamber.org.

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