I am a native of Utah. I am not of the dominant religion or race nor belong to the political party in power. None of this has prevented me from enjoying life here or feeling a profound sense of loss as I prepare to leave Utah to accept a position out of state. But the invitation to reflect back on my experience as a member of the Coalition for Utah's Future kept bringing me back to my differentness.
The coalition is an amalgamation of Utah's best donating their talent to realize the vision of a better tomorrow in this state.Recently joined with Project 2000, the coalition has undertaken its awesome charge with enthusiasm. It has created task forces to deal with a number of issues.
As I sit among boxes of books and piles of clothes, preparing to transplant the material things in my life, I ask myself, "What would have made the experience in Utah better?"
The answer comes to me quickly. I would have liked to see more women, more minorities, more non-LDS, more non-Republicans in positions of responsibility.
Not because white, LDS, Republican males are unable to do a good job but because any monolithic culture, whatever its characteristics, is an impoverished culture.
The dynamics that lead to a monolithic culture reflect on human nature, not just on Utahns, and are themselves neutral. Safety is a basic need. We constantly struggle with the fear of leaving our zone of comfort. Taking risks comes hard for all of us.
Yet making the case for diversity is very easy.
Diversity improves the quality of life. It lends a richness to the experiences of both the majority and minority groups. I support the Olympics primarily because it will be like taking the children of Utah on a tour of the world.
My own Hispanic culture is rich in tradition. There are concepts expressed with one Spanish word that take paragraphs to explain in English, and vice versa.
Diversity is good for the economy. Utah's liquor laws are an example of the influence of the monolith. Those involved in tourism applaud as we inch toward liberalizing those laws. Industry suffers without diversity. Among the greatest challenges of large employers is persuading out-of-state candidates that Utah will welcome them.
Diversity promotes excellence. If, along the random walk, we might expect a certain percentage of the population to have a desirable trait such as high intelligence, why would we want to cut the pool by half by discriminating against women?
Reduce it by 6 percent by eliminating Hispanics in Utah, and further on the basis of other characteristics, and soon the remaining pool of people with high intelligence is extremely small. If those discriminatory factors are important enough to decisionmakers, then jobs will be filled by people with mediocre training and abilities.
Diversity increases the skills of both the dominant and the minority groups. Studies show that certain cultural groups such as Indians and Hispanics tend to adopt one mode of cognition while white Americans and Europeans tend to adopt another. Neither is superior to the other generally; however, each is better suited to a particular group of tasks.
For a Hispanic to succeed in the white culture, he or she must learn the majority's analytic mode of cognition, as well as the synthetic mode of his or her own culture.
What we have to teach is important. Cooperative problem-solving, for example, is part of the Hispanic culture. We got in a lot of trouble for this in the classrooms of the 1950s. Teachers called it cheating and labeled as insubordination the Hispanic practice of showing respect for authority by avoiding eye contact.
Diversity teaches tolerance. My daughter has reported some unfortunate incidences of religious discrimination at school. She is pleased to be moving to a part of the country where our religion is more common.
It has been my task to inform her that she is likely to see religious discrimination in our new home as well.
The Coalition for Utah's Future will continue to improve life in this state. Of that, I am certain. But hopefully those benefits will be enjoyed by a broader, more diverse segment of society.
I hope the light rail will carry blacks and Hispanics to jobs of greater responsibility.
I hope the office of child care will offer services to both men and women and to women who chose to do the important job of homemaking, as well as those who chose other important jobs outside the home.
My wish for Utah is not for tolerance of diversity. We tolerate things like rising taxes and crowded freeways. My wish is for a commitment to diversity - to see the people of the state embrace, cherish and promote diversity out of belief that it is intrinsically good.
(Victoria Palacios has been a member of the Coalition for Utah's Future since its inception and has served on Utah's Board of Pardons for nearly 10 years. She is leaving Utah to join Notre Dame University as a professor of law.)