Diversity … Obama are you listening?

Imagine the world with a week with no discussion of politics, no mention of Washington, or anything Congress. Well it isn’t going happen and last week was no exception. So let’s jump on the bandwagon of the twenty-four hour news cycle, and discuss the issue of Obama’s second term cabinet selections.

From liberals we hear outrage and from conservatives we hear mockery. “Where all the women at!” Or for that matter, the blacks, the gays and the Latinos. What’s happened to this president of hope and inclusion of all. “Where all the women at!” Instead we get the same old white men –  John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan and most recently Jack Lew. “Where all the women at!”

Obama inner circle
New York Times

The New York Times even went so far to publish a picture of Obama’s inner circle, even if it was misrepresentative of actually who’s closest to him. It showed an Oval Office image of nine men and Valerie Jarrett’s leg. Well at least it wasn’t a clean sweep. All humor aside … we’re missing the point!

We all tell our children that beauty and brains are more than skin deep and “don’t judge a book by its cover.” A person’s race, gender, ethnicity or even sexual preference isn’t who they are and shouldn’t determine their abilities. Yet our political discourse focuses on exactly that. “Where all the women at!”

We’re all a bunch of  hypocrites.

Is this what we actually see as diversity? Are we to assume that all women think alike and only women can be heard on reproductive issues? Or can only Latinos can speak of immigration, or blacks on civil rights injustices? What makes this dialogue any different today than that of hundred years ago? On the outside it may seem like we’ve evolved, but on the inside … we still focus on appearance.

Imagine looking at diversity through a more enlightened lens. It seems we only look at a person’s developmental influences being genetic. Psychology has trumped all other social science, even though it’s probably the most imperfect. What happened to sociology. What happen to the effect the environment has on who we are and how we view the world.

What if we turned the discussion of diversity upside down and shook it. What if we lived by the words we teach our children: “A person is more than skin deep.” What if we include upbringing and geography in the discussion of diversity? Or what about age?

Obama’s finance team is almost exclusively Ivy League with its roots in Goldman Sachs. He couldn’t even find it in himself to nominate Elizabeth Warren to the consumer protection agency she created. Oh, I forgot … she’s from Texas and didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. The current Secretary of Commerce (acting), Rebecca Blank has nothing but academia and government in her background. The person who runs the Department of Commerce has no business experience. What’s up with that! “Where all the business people!”  Academia may be fine, but isn’t it supposed be a means to an end … not the end itself. It’s not a stretch to say we may have an “executive branch myopic group think” going on.

Aside from the holdovers from the old Clinton regime, such as Leon Panetta, I don’t think there’s anyone from California in Obama’s inner circle. I may be bias since I lived there for twenty years, but I still find it odd. California is not only the most populous state, it’s also the most diverse (in the real way). It’s the driver of the American economy today and probably will be tomorrow, the economy that makes and grows things. Not the economy that just shuffles money around like a glorified casino (you can guess what I’m talking about). Wouldn’t you want a little of that insight in the federal government? California is also a state that has balanced its budget, a budget only two years ago had a deficit of 23 billion.

Should we assume that my world view is the same as my neighbor’s. We’re both white and in our fifties? He’s lived in Montana his whole life, while mine has been growing up in North Dakota, and living in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Our views couldn’t be further apart. Does a Latino from Cuba living in Miami think the same as one from Mexico living in East Los Angeles. Or is Barbara Feinstein even on the same planet as Michelle Bachmann? I think not! But we still want to group them together … for the sake of simplifying the diversity dialogue.

The discussion of diversity in this country has to change! We have to look past genetics. We need to make the impact of environment and the importance of  sociology part of the discussion. We are a country of diversity … diversity of the mind, not just of the body.

Until our public discussion acknowledges that, true social evolution will never happen … we we’ll just be a nation of hypocrites.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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