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Jonathan Pait
October 9, 2002

A little personal business out of the way before we launch into today's column. You may have noticed (or maybe you haven't) that I have not had a column for some time. A lot of it has been due to being very busy, not filling very passionate about much of anything but probably most of all because my fingers hurt.

I have had pain in my knuckles for the last couple of weeks. A lot of people can probably chalk this type of thing up to stress or working too hard on the keyboard. I probably would as well except for my family history. My mother had her first signs of rheumatoid arthritis when she was 38 years old. I'm 34 so I'm getting to be about that age where these kinds of pains can be a little troublesome in more ways than one.

I didn't say that to make you feel sorry for me. Actually, I pointed it out to tell you about something pretty cool. This will be my first column that I am writing using voice recognition software. I've heard that composing this way can actually alter the way you communicate. I'm interested in seeing if it will be for the better or the worst!

Today's topic isn't my fingers. I do not have to use my fingers to write this and though I am still pretty busy, I am feeling passionate about something.

Last week I attended a forum about the business community's responsibility toward diversity. Not being a very politically correct person I was interested to see where the discussion would lead. It would have been naive to believe that the discussion would go into directions I've never heard before. Still, it would have been nice to hear people break out of the politically correct mold and actually look for solutions.

One of the panelists gave his description of diversity. I will have to paraphrase but I will speak as though I was that panelist. He said, "To me, diversity is when I close my eyes -- not noting the color of the skin of those in the room -- and I listen to what they have to say as we work to solve a common goal." The statement brought several things to mind.

For all the talk about diversity the one thing everyone is actually hoping for is unity. The panelist was not describing diversity. He was describing unity. The important thing in the room was not the color of the people's skin but the common goal. Unfortunately today, we focus more on the former and not enough on the latter.

There are issues and needs out there around which we can unite. The problem is we come to the table from our diverse backgrounds and bring that "diversity" with us. We want to make sure that our interests are given what we believe to be their proper value. As long as this is the case our diversity will never be our strength. The common goal must be larger than our self interests.

It is not at the table of politics, social reform, or education where we must meet. Before we can ever have success in those areas we must first meet at the dinner table.

Another thing that jumped out to me as I listened to the panelists was the fact that this push for forced diversity has led to distrust. Every decision a corporate recruiter makes is second-guessed. Did he hire that person because of the color of his skin in order to meet a certain quota? Did he not hire that person because of the color of her skin? Am I being overlooked for a particular position because of the way I look? Did that person get into that position because of the way he looks?

In our rush to make sure every person is given an equal opportunity, we have made it harder for an individual to realize their full potential. Don't get me wrong, I believe every person should have an equal opportunity. We are simply looking in the wrong place for the solution. We look to schools and corporations to break down the barriers between us rather than facing our personal responsibility in our neighborhoods.

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