Diversity refers to the variety of backgrounds, orientations and experiences within any group of people.
When a community is diverse there is the presence of different opinions and ways of making meaning that come from the variety within it. This variety arises out of different cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, gender, economic class, political, developed abilities, and/or sexual orientation. It is obvious that diversity in the contemporary community implies not simply difference but also equality that may be briefly worded in as the development of society which members are different but equal. Nonetheless, it is still quite difficult to achieve the ideal of diversity since many issues are still quite significant and provoke controversies within society, such as gender, sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs and many others.
Each culture is unique and possesses its own prescriptive norms, rules and roles that are formed for centuries. A good example of a peculiar and queer culture is the culture of Russia. It should be pointed out that the culture of Russia has been shaping for centuries and has undergone significant influence of totally different civilizations. At the same time, it is worthy of note that the development of the culture of Russian society has not changed and as any other culture it is constantly in progress and evolves permanently. Nonetheless, speaking about the culture of Russia in historical terms, it is necessary to emphasize that there were periods when it was influenced by European culture as well as there were periods when Asian influences dominated in this country. As a result, the contemporary “Russian society has a hybrid culture” (Stuart 2001:186) which underlines the uniqueness of Russian traditions, beliefs, and socio-cultural norms. As a result, certain stereotypes have been created and nowadays they are traditionally referred to a common representative of Russian socio-cultural community as strong, being able to “endure extreme hardship and have a bleak outlook on life that, to a significant extent, may be explained by objective factors such as the severe cold conditions of life that also lead to their inhumanly patience and obedience” (Stuart 2001:199).
Communal spirit and togetherness distinguishes Russians from Western European people and Americans. Western societies are characterized by high degree of individualism and competitiveness. In stark contrast, Russians are more likely to be “cautious and conservative defenders of the status quo” (Stuart 2001:206) and, what is more, they are convinced collectivists. There are some rules that are followed in a traditional Russian community and it is necessary to follow them in order to be integrated in this community. Otherwise, an individual may just become a sort of outcast in Russian society. Among the common rules excepted in Russian society are the following: wearing coats in public buildings that have a cloakroom is forbidden, placing feet on tables, crossing legs while seated so as to show the sole of a shoe, sitting with legs spread wide, crossing arms behind the head, whistling at home or on the street, public displays of affection, and it is unacceptable for a member of Russian community to tell that he/she goes to the restroom is considered inappropriate and inadequate (instead, it is supposed that the individual has to excuse him/herself) (Stuart 2001:214).
Some of the rules and norms listed above may seem unusual to non-Russian people but analyzing and understanding cultural differences and oddities is of the vital importance. One should pay attention and be tolerant to how members of various cultures see the nature of people, people’s relationship to the external environment, and the primary mode of the activities. Because as Hillary Clinton once said “What we have to do… is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities” (Hogan 2004:201).
Every large society contains ethnic minorities and majorities. A minority ethnic group is traditionally defined as “a sociological group that does not constitute a politically dominant plurality of the total population of a given society” (Robbins 1999:203). In fact, a minority ethnic group does not have a serious impact on the social life of the whole society and, potentially, such groups are under a threat of discrimination from the part of dominant ethnic groups which, as a rule, plays the defining role in political and socio-economic life of the country and can even affect cultural life of ethnic minorities. It should be pointed out that ethnic minority is however not necessarily a numerical minority — it may include any group that is disadvantaged in comparison to a dominant group in terms social status, education, employment, and political power. Ethnic minorities may be constituted of immigrants, native population, or landless nomad communities. There are several opportunities and disadvantages in being the representative of both the dominant culture and an ethnic culture. Obviously, no matter how easy and mild the immigrant laws and policies in the country are, the minorities do face obstacles and the dominant group of people leads a happier and fuller life because as there is no place like home, there is also no place like a home country.
Discrimination is more than distinction, it is action “based on prejudices resulting in unfair treatment of people” (Hogan 2004:149). Social discrimination implies a “distinction between representatives of different social strata and is based on class division of society without regard to individual merit and peculiarity”. Social discrimination may involve such issues as racial, religious sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, ethnic, and others (Hogan 2004:152).
Recent statistics have shown that for those under the age of 30, equal pay for equal work has arrived in the workplace for women, Hispanics and African-Americans (Robbins 1999:266). Workplace gender discrimination is fading and this is a substantial step forward. However, even though there are constantly laws designed to prevent discrimination, it still does exist. However, at the present moment discrimination often results from simple ignorance, indifference and unwillingness of people to solve this problem but regardless the causes, ends are always the same: inequality, segregation, and exclusion.
Often the intervention of traits of alien culture in the traditional socio-cultural life of a community lead to acculturation. The culture of the ethic society is significantly changed. However, acculturation does not necessarily result in new, totally alien traits completely that replace the old ones.
Acculturation is “the exchange of cultural features which result when groups come into continuous firsthand contact” (Robbins 1999:215). There are some cultures that chose to acculturate and some that resist the acculturation that partly comes from the fact that some people understand “acculturation” as “assimilation” that is, in fact, wrong. While acculturation is adjusting to the dominant culture and combining it with your own, assimilation is “the total refuse of the mother culture and the origin” (Robbins 1999:217). In fact, human communication consists not only of the language that is the second signal system of communication, but also of the primary signal system of communication that was used by human ancestors in archaic times, i.e. gestures, mimics, tone of voice. Affective communication is the process through which people express feelings about business, themselves, and others. The effectiveness of a conversation may be assessed by three criteria: a) the message of a speaker must be understood by a listener; b) the listener must also understand the intentions of the speaker; c) the control over the flow of communication is essential (Robbins 1999:239). In order to communicate one should not assume, send double messages and, of course, stereotype as well as use “why” sentences. It is extremely important to choose words carefully since they contribute to the effectiveness of communication as much as the decision to speak.
Every individual is a unique personality and as they have different look so different are their feelings and reactions in depending on a situation. It has been proven that in order to survive an individual needs the surrounding, so it is possible to conclude that what people need to learn is to start with similarities, not differences when communicating and that will be a successful start to a new relationship.
Reference Hogan, Kevin, Communication Secrets to Change Your Life, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, 2004. Robbins, Richard, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, New York: Allyn and Bacon, 1999. Stuart, George, Cultural Diversity, New York: New Publishers, 2001.
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