On the value of diversity

With the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, the value of ethnic and sexual diversity is again at issue. While I think the case for such diversity is often overstated (although Sotomayor, contra many on the right, is not one of the overstaters), recent Supreme Court cases such as the Lilly Ledbetter case and the case involving the strip search of a thirteen-year-old girl have seemed to me reasonably clear cut cases where sexual diversity would have been valuable.

We should not, however, undermine the case for such diversity with bad arguments. I was reading the New York Times Magazine and came across a print ad that said, "To think Indian is to cure diabetes with sacred foods and hoops. Think Indian. Help tribal college students preserve their way of thinking." If one were to cure diabetes with sacred foods and hoops, one's patient would almost certainly die, or at least get quite ill. To believe that hoops can cure diabetes is a false one. Such a belief may be worth preserving for historical value, but it should not be seen to be as accurate as the belief that, say, insulin can treat diabetes.

The claim that diversity is valuable is one thing. The claim that any belief held by any culture is equally valuable is just plain silly, and claiming such undermines defenders of diversity.

1 comment:

  1. I'm familiar with the strip-search case; there is no reason a male can't see that is simply a wrong decision. I'm male, and the decision clearly stinks. It would stink if a 13 year old male had been strip searched without contacting parents. Unless Ms. Ginsburg is prepared to argue that girls should have rights above and beyond boys, why would the sex of the student matter?