Re: What is diversity really? [Was What is co-housing really?]
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 20:32:49 -0700 (PDT)
Here is the problem. The way u.s. society has developed we live, and travel in circles, that are divided, not by uncommon values or uncommon personalities, but by race, ethnicity, disability, economics, education level, family style, sexual orientaiton, etc.

I believe that people who are a different color, heritage, disabled state, etc from me aren't actually necessarily people with different values than me.

So when I say I want diversity, I mean that I want to actually go out and recruit people who may APPEAR to be different than me, and in fact, do have different culture traditions than me, but, when we look closer, turn out to have very similar values to me.

That is, I want to break the artificial lines that separate us in our living situations, and look instead for the real lines of commonality, and live together with people on that basis. So, for my group, where our uniting value is "want to intentionally create community" I want to make a real effort to look outside my own white, middle-class, queer, christian, circles, apparently able- bodied circles where I normally travel and find people who have that same value, but might not be white, middle-class, queer, christian or apparently able-bodied.

This is, in fact, the stereotype of white middle class liberals. I personally fit that stereotype and I'm proud of it.

Doesn't mean we've succeeded on meeting our value of "honoring diversity". In fact we've done very well in the categories of religion and relative queerness. We've done better than some in the area of economic diversity. We've done extremely well in terms of able-bodied-ness, especially in the categories of chemical sensitivies, asthma, and having visitable homes, not so well in other areas, especially race, or education level, or ability to speak geek.

What is diversity, really? In today's parlance I think it is about assuming that the lines between us that society has drawn are incorrect, and looking to cross those lines as best we can, as we search to create a community of people who have similar values, but not similar external indicators of those values.

(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill
PastorLiz [at]
Worcester Fellowship
PO Box 3510 Worcester MA 01613

On Sep 1, 2008, at 5:45 PM, Gerald Manata wrote:

" Diversity" has become a sacred word among liberals and" tolerating diversity" is an important ethic among them. I think that middle class liberals, who dominate cohousing, feel compelled to put "welcome diversity" in their list of values proclaimed to the public. Certainly diversity has some advantages. A cross section of skills is obviously useful among a group of friends, a community and a nation. A diversity of opinions, allowed to be freely expressed among all concerned, is the surest way to arrive at the "truth" or the best way of doing anything. The arguments for this, summed up neatly 150 years ago by John Stuart Mill in "On Liberty"and other liberal philosophers before him, ring as true today as they did then. Some in cohousing are carrying this further, expressing a desire to actually "go out of their way" to "recruit" diversity. I wonder how serious this desire is. The tendency of people is to seek out other people like themselves for friendship and community. This is especially important for any self governing community. The arguments for this also go back a long ways. It was a point raised by Montesquieu, Rousseau, and by the Anti-Federalists in our Constituional Convention. To summarize and paraphrase, a self governing body must be small in territory and homogeneous in interests, opinion, habit and mores. Back then, they were referring to a republic. With cohousing, where we practice the most extreme form of self government--consensus democracy--this would seem to be even more true.If the laws of Political Science hold true, I contend that, all other things being equal, the smoothest running (if this is a desired trait) cohousing communities are probably the ones with the least diversity. I contend that, if a cohousing complex moved over time to becoming a true community or even village, as opposed to just a condominium with friendlier neighbors, it would develop its own customs and mores, a "that is just the way things are done here" attitude, which, like more intentional communities, will discourage diversity. This may be more true for more self-sufficient country eco-village type places (the old urban liberalism vs. country conservatism). Most cohousing complexes, however, are connected to the liberal society around them--plugged into its media, relied on for most employment, goods and services. This should keep new ideas coming in and provide some counter to conservative tendencies. Cohousing is a new experiment. It will be interesting to see how some of these competing tendencies play out over the decades. I think it is a social scientist's dream to observe.

Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> wrote:

On Aug 29, 2008, at 8:05 PM, Richard L Kohlhaas wrote:

Q.  What's an example of diversity at the Unitarian church?
A.  Three different colors of Subarus in the parking lot.

One of the makers people believe indicates diversity is skin color.
Another is income level (which can be achieved with little if any
social diversity).

But there are many other kinds of diversity -- the ones that are not

What about political diversity? Has anyone gone out and recruited a
conservative Republican recently? An Army Colonel? In terms of
personal growth and learning tolerance this would be much more of a
challenge than dealing with wide income differences.

What is the point of diversity?

What is it? What are it's benefits?

I'm not being critical of anything said, only raising the question. Do
we know what the aims of "diversity" are? How we know if we have it or
not? And if we did have it, what would the benefits be?

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy, a Deeper Democracy

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