Fox “News” host Tucker Carlson has sparked a furor by attacking the very idea of diversity. “How, precisely, is diversity our strength?” demanded the product of La Jolla, Calif.; St. George’s School; and Trinity College. “Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.”
It is almost too perfect that a host at Fox — which eschews a multiplicity of views in favor of reciting the right-wing party line — would sneer at diversity. Of course, Carlson’s questions are rhetorical. It is not for nothing that he has earned the praise of neo-Nazis for his focus on crimes committed by immigrants, his regular assaults on multiculturalism and his advocacy for white farmers in South Africa. (The white supremacist website The Daily Stormer says, “Tucker Carlson is basically ‘Daily Stormer: The Show.’ Other than the language used, he is covering all of our talking points.”)
But let’s pretend Carlson isn’t being disingenuous. So, why is diversity our strength?
Just imagine a country without diversity. Try North Korea, whose official philosophy revels in the ethnic purity of the Korean race and whose censors block all views that do not treat Kim Jong Un the way that Carlson treats President Trump. North Korea, one of the least diverse countries on the planet, is also one of the poorest.
The nearby countries of South Korea and Japan are far more open to competing ideas — they are, after all, liberal democracies — but they are also ethnically homogeneous. Their uniformity does lead to a strong sense of national identity, but it also threatens their long-term survival. Both South Korea and Japan are rapidly aging. Their populations are in decline (Japan is expected to go from 128 million people today to 88 million by the 2060s; South Korea from 51 million to 43 million). Both countries desperately need young immigrants but — precisely because they are so ethnically insular — it is hard for them to integrate foreigners.
As a country of immigrants, the United States has a major competitive advantage. Our median age is just 37.2 years, compared with 45.8 for Japan and 39.7 for South Korea — and that’s because of not only a higher birth rate but also immigration. Immigrants also help to provide America’s lead in cutting-edge ideas that power our economy.
The list of indispensable inventions from immigrants includes the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell), the electric escalator (David Lindquist), basketball (James Naismith), blue jeans (Levi Strauss) and ATMs (Luther George Simjian). And don’t forget — yum! — the Korean taco (Roy Choi). One study found that “immigrants have been awarded 39 percent, or 33 of 85, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in Chemistry, Medicine and Physics since 2000.” Another study reported that “81 percent of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79 percent in computer science are.” Scientific research in the United States would be decimated if we were less diverse.
The same would be true of American business. The list of iconic American companies started by immigrants includes Google, Kraft, eBay, Pfizer, Intel and AT&T. Roughly 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their immediate offspring.
Numerous studies have confirmed that diversity is a big plus for corporations because it fosters more creative thinking. According to the Harvard Business Review, “A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.”
Diversity is also important for national security. The New York Police Department has one of the most effective counterterrorism units in the world in part because it is so diverse: 22 percent of the officers hired in about the past 18 months are foreign-born, hailing from 77 countries. If the NYPD needs speakers of Arabic, Pashto, Farsi or Urdu, it doesn’t have to look far. Same with the U.S. armed services and the intelligence community.
It’s a good thing that diversity is such an American strength, because it is inevitable and unavoidable. No matter what Carlson may say, there is no chance we will become a white version of North Korea. We are destined to become a majority-minority nation by 2045. The only question is how we will cope with diversity: well or badly. We would be doing a lot better if cynical demagogues such as Trump and Carlson were not stoking white fear and resentment for personal gain — political in Trump’s case, financial in Carlson’s.