Improving diversity and inclusion in American workplaces is good for the soul of nation

BY Nii Ntreh March 26, 2024 8:27 AM EDT
Over 75% of America's workforce is white. The challenge therefore is to expand the economy to include a place for people of diverse backgrounds. Photo Credit: Glassdoor

In the tapestry of American history, the foundations of diversity are embedded deeply into the origin of what is now the most powerful nation in the world. From the very beginning, the United States has been shaped by a diverse array of cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. Yet, the journey towards embracing diversity and fostering inclusion in the country in workplaces has been one marked by challenges, triumphs, and ongoing evolution.

America’s native populations were tribal nations who encompassed a multitude of languages, traditions, and ways of life, embodying the essence of cultural richness and diversity. However, with the colonization of the Americas came the displacement and marginalization of indigenous communities, marking a darker chapter in the nation’s history—one that continues to reverberate through contemporary discussions on diversity and inclusion.

The story of diversity in the United States also intertwines with the narratives of slavery and immigration. The forced migration of millions of Africans to the shores of the Americas during the Transatlantic slave trade brought forth a profound legacy of struggle and resilience. Despite enduring unimaginable hardships, enslaved Africans and their descendants contributed immeasurably to the cultural, social, and economic landscape of the United States.

Similarly, waves of immigrants from every corner of the globe have added layers of diversity to the American experience. Whether seeking refuge from persecution, pursuing economic opportunities, or simply in pursuit of a better life, immigrants have brought with them their languages, customs, and traditions, enriching the mosaic of American society.

Chattel slavery, what is metaphorically referred to as America’s original sin, was the most potent contributor to the American economic enterprise. Yet, American economics, as well as politics and society at large, has been slow to fully integrate the bodies that were burdened by the nation’s aspirations. Many in the American elite agree that the impediments to diversifying the economy and including as many people as possible have politically grown stronger. The need to make a case for why diversity in America’s workplace is a priceless value has thus been notched up further.

However, the journey towards inclusivity has not been without its obstacles. Throughout history,
various marginalized communities—including African-Americans, native Americans, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and immigrants—have faced systemic discrimination, exclusion, and oppression. From Jim Crow laws to xenophobic immigration policies, these injustices have left deep scars on the nation’s conscience.

Despite these challenges, the United States has made significant strides towards embracing diversity
and fostering inclusion. The civil rights movement of the 20th century, led by courageous activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Cesar Chavez, paved the way for landmark legislation and social change. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were pivotal in dismantling legal barriers to equality, while also catalyzing broader cultural shifts towards tolerance and acceptance. In recent decades, the conversation around diversity and inclusion has expanded to encompass a broader spectrum of identities and experiences.

Initiatives aimed at promoting diversity in the workplace, educational institutions, and public life have gained momentum, reflecting a growing recognition of the value of diverse perspectives and voices. Moreover, the interconnected nature of the modern world has underscored the global relevance of diversity and inclusion. In an era defined by globalization and rapid technological advancement, diversity is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic asset. Companies that embrace diversity are better equipped to innovate, adapt to changing market dynamics, and compete in an increasingly diverse marketplace.

Likewise, nations that embrace inclusivity are more resilient, cohesive, and prosperous. As we reflect on the journey towards diversity and inclusion in the United States, it is clear that there is still much work to be done. Persistent disparities in areas such as wealth, healthcare, education, and criminal justice remind us of the ongoing legacy of inequality. Yet, the arc of history bends towards progress, propelled by the collective efforts of individuals and communities committed to building a more just and inclusive society.

The story of diversity and inclusion in the United States is not just a chapter in its history but a defining characteristic of its identity. By embracing the richness of its diversity and striving towards greater inclusivity, the United States can fulfill its promise as a beacon of freedom, equality, and opportunity for all. Let us continue to celebrate our differences, honor our shared humanity, and work towards a future where diversity is not just tolerated but celebrated as the cornerstone of our collective strength