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Wendy N. Powell Headshot

The New Diversity Divide

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The recognition, respect, and acceptance of differences has been an issue of public attention, policy and compliance for close to a century. Diversity is not only about race, it is just about every aspect of our individuality that makes us different. Values have been programmed in the home, most organizations have trained employees on the expectation for respecting differences and the consequences for non-compliance. Friends and family recognize their differences and then pass the potatoes.

But how have we become so visibly intolerant of opinions, religions, and cultural norms that it results in verbal attacks and slurs for our opinions?

Now, I enjoy a robust debate of ideas but have never seen such a division of thought that resorts to name calling and less than civil admonishment. People are becoming less and less tolerant of others who don't hold their beliefs. We are all different, a product of our value programming, education, successes, and failures.

Has the term diversity in and of itself morphed to apply to some and not to all? 'Tis the season of political discord but it is a regular occurrence to hear public admonishment of political opinions that results in insults and generalizations of the people with whom they disagree. Is it fair game for some factions of our society and not for others? Has this become an evolution of diversity?

In the media, we have heard women discussed in the most vile of terms from both sides of the political spectrum. The critics have focused on irrelevant facts. For some, is it safe to resort to verbal abuse because of the mere difference in beliefs and culture? It appears to be becoming too normal of an occurrence that will result in mainstreaming. Many call it freedom of speech.

You hear, "Don't push your religion on me." Most people of faith do not. But the new ABC show, GCB which stands for Good Christian Belles, changed its title from Good Christian Bitches for obvious reasons (based on the book Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin). The show stars Christian women making fun in the name of Christianity. Cast member Kristin Chenoweth (Kitten) has been quoted saying, "There's a difference in making fun of and having fun with ... and we do the latter." But this title had me at "hello" -- had me curious, not interested, that is. I can't get beyond the title, clearly masked to disguise the original intent.

Now, I have a robust sense of humor but I can't imagine Hollywood making fun of another religion or culture referring to their women as "bitches." It appears that certain factions of our society are fair game. The question has been asked, "Is it open season on Christians?" or more specifically, open season for some religions and cultures and not for others. The use of an acronym doesn't provide a disguise. Whatever your opinion about Christianity, it makes you wonder about what is fair game and what is not, and for whom does it apply.

Could Hollywood replace the "C" with another religion or ethnic group? Is there a reluctance to focus on other cultures that do not value women or is it that Christians are an easy target?

Is this a new cultural civil war? Instead of recognizing what makes us distinct, we have become so polarized that we have become intolerant. We have the "99 percent" who are expected to not like the one percent. We have close friends and family who are quick to rant, criticize, and get personal about differences of political opinions and beliefs, and of course the political pundits encourage discourse.

Conciliation is not in the cards. It's no longer "My dog's better than your dog." It has become, "I get your opinion and what is wrong with you." The line in the sand has become more important to maintain that understanding and compromise. Insults are more important than focus on the issues. Of course we all have our freedom of speech but we can't forget, with our freedom comes responsibility ... and that comes with living with the effects.

Has this great divide eroded our cultural diversity? At least the intolerance for differences of opinion and imbalance of recognition, respect, and acceptance has notably changed. We are not all the same; we have our personal biases, right or wrong. It is the effects of intolerance to our differences that has created a new level of cultural divide.