This is sort of a series, so please read the previous two before reading this post.
This presentation was done by professors Grey and Devlin from University of Northern Iowa. Don’t worry, this post is shorter…but interesting nonetheless.
It is important to make a distinction between “rapid ethnic diversification” and “diversity.” Diversity is usually based on a snapshot or point-in-time perspective. When we say we value diversity, it is often a dodge to avoid talking about difficult issues like class and politics. We say we want diversity, and we think we have diversity when we have 8 asian people in our community. Diversification, however, is a process that places a community in a context, past and future. It is the process of immigration and assimilation or differentiation.
Microplurality is the growth in the number of smaller ethnically and linguistically distinct groups in communities.
Grey and Devlin presented research on IA, but they said that the phenomenons here reflect phenomenons that are happening around the country.
The implications of microplurality are great! In Storm Lake, I believe it is, there are 250 refugees from Somali and they speak 9 languages between all of them. Microplurality means that there will be many smaller ethnic groups, rather than just a few larger ones in one community. This creates many large needs such as cultural competency training, specialized translators (especially in rare languages), training for staff that uses translators, providing support in partnership with the newcomers, going to their workplace to provide services, recruiting and retaining staff from multiple ethnicities, changing hours of operation so that they can also benefit, keeping the cultural profile of a community updated almost weekly and providing orientation training and cultural competency programming for newcomers about Iowans.
A main point of this is that the “Is it right to hire or provide services for an illegal immigrant?” argument is not relevant. These people are here with refugee status and have the same rights as we do. We cannot use the excuse that they’re somehow breaking a rule and so we shouldn’t encourage them. They are here legally, and need to be treated as the image of God. How do we do that though? How many people in Iowa speak an indigenous language of Somali? Is it worth it, economically, to provide a service to a small group of people? In reality, it really isn’t, so how do we still help them? They often come unprepared and simply need some warm clothes. But that is not enough.
On the other hand, lots of the people moving to Iowa have already lived somewhere else in the US but need to leave for various reasons. So what do you think? How do we deal with this rapid diversification and microplurality?
Here are some more details from Storm Lake, IA, a town that has great diversity.