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Demography, Human Rights, and Diversity Management, American-Style, 2 Journal of Law & Ethics of Human Rights 87 (2008)


This paper uses diversity management as a placeholder for human rights policy. By diversity management, I mean those policy techniques that a society can use to deal with diversity, which include not only decisions to make diversity a subject of active legal and governmental intervention, but also decisions to leave diversity to informal, unregulated choices by individuals or civil society institutions. My discussion proceeds with particular reference to the United States, in part because it has been relatively successful in managing its diversity in recent decades—relative, that is, both to its own past (especially the pre-1965 period) and to the record of other countries today. (Serious, long-standing problems in the integration of certain minorities in the U.S. remain, most notably with respect to three groups: Native-Americans, “underclass” black men, and unskilled, often undocumented, immigrants.)

An approach to diversity management “works,” in my view, if and to the extent that the country’s vulnerable minorities (a) enjoy some social mobility, (b) are integrated into the major institutions of society, (c) have access to political influence roughly proportional to their limited numbers, (d) are free to live according to their own group values and practices, and (e) do not feel deep alienation from the dominant cultural norms. By this definition, the American system works relatively well—with the qualifications and exceptions noted just above. The paper proceeds in three parts. Part I seeks to sharpen our understanding of diversity by analyzing several different ways of understanding and defining that idea, with a view to underscoring the significance of choosing one or another measure of it. Part II discusses two examples— multiracial individuals and anti-profiling laws—to illustrate the inevitable politicization of certain demographic categories when used for politicallysensitive purposes. Part III presents some distinctive and, in some cases, unique features of the American approach to diversity management. Most of these features, I argue, effectively advance the cause of minority mobility and integration, whereas some tend to undermine these goals.

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