WHO NEEDS DIVERSITY?

By Ralph Filicchia

When the vote for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was being discussed, South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham, was seen on television saying. “I intend to vote for Judge Sotomayor because she is the first Latina to be nominated to the court, and that’s a big deal!”

But one must ask, “A big deal to who?” Why should being the first Latina be a big deal to anyone? We are considering a judge, someone who is supposed to have an intelligent legal mind; someone who knows the history of this country, and someone who can blend the two and come to a proper decision that will somewhere along the line eventually benefit all Americans.

When that happens it is a big deal. It is not a big deal because this judge has a particular ethnic background. It is not a big deal because of her skin color; nor is it a big deal because this nominee represents a certain group. But it is a big deal if the country finally ends up with a nominee who is totally committed to American ideals, who understands and respects her history, and above all, is committed to preserving the principles that made America the freest and most prosperous nation on earth.

That is a big deal! Senator Graham, on the other hand, did not see fit to mention any of this. He was too busy playing group politics. It was more important for him to look good in front of a particular voting block. That’s good politics, maybe even good for his party. But it sells America short.

But does this really matter? Evidently not. Graham obviously believes that if we have more diversity on the court this is good for both for the country and the court.

But no one ever explains why? If we had nine Supreme Court Justices who were all of French descent and brilliant jurists what would the country lose? The country would lose nothing.

“Oh, but they would not be representative of the population as a whole.”

Who says Supreme Court Justices have to be representative of the population as a whole? Where did this idea come from? Is color now more important than quality? Try telling some big league baseball team that they should trade the Italian kid on shortstop who hit .323 with 26 home runs and replace him with an inexperienced Cambodian rookie because the city has a large Cambodian community that is not being represented. See how far you get with that one.

This is now affecting college faculties. The Boston Globe, in its Feb 16, 2010 edition, reported on its front page: “Colleges lagging on faculty diversity.” The article went on to complain about schools like Boston University where blacks and Hispanics make up 3.4 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty, and that the percentage of minority faculty at this school lags far behind the demographics of its student body.

So what if it does? A student can’t learn just as well from a professor of a different color? This isn’t saying much for the student body. The article goes on to say: “A diverse faculty helps universities recruit top minority students and provides them with mentors and role models.” This might be of some benefit in the lower elementary grades where it could help or maybe comfort a student who sees a teacher who might look somewhat like mommy or daddy. But in college we are dealing with students who are entering adulthood. Part of growing up is not needing this.

In fact part of growing up is not needing diversity anywhere. Wasn’t it Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said he hoped to see the day when men would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin? I always liked that line and thought it was a good standard and guide. It would be good if Sen. Lindsey Graham and the heads of major colleges and universities in this country could give this part of Dr. King’s dream more than just a little lip service once a year.

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