“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” Thomas Jefferson (1776)
“And when I meet Thomas Jefferson I’mma compel him to include women in the sequel” Angelica Schuyler via Lin Manuel Miranda (2009)
We all know that when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence that by “all men” he was not including enslaved men, immigrant men, or any women. Some men were not considered fully human. Men identified as “white” were considered intellectually superior. Women were still considered the property of their fathers and then their husbands.
And so for hundreds of years, we have said “All men are created equal” but we didn’t mean it literally. It was more aspirational than true.
The evidence is overwhelming that we did not truly consider all men and all women to be created equal: Jim Crow Laws, Racial Segregation, Red Lining, Inequities in Education & Medical Treatment & Law Enforcement & Voting Rights & Prison Sentencing & Financial Opportunities & Banking Laws & Bodily Self-Determination & Marriage Rights & . . . I could go on and on and on.
As I’ve written before, I’m a fan of straight white men. And it’s true that white men have held almost all of the power in business, sports, politics, entertainment, publishing, religion, medicine, and education throughout our nation’s history.
But here’s the blessing some of us are embracing: Every one of those entities is improved when a diversity of people are included in how they operate. We are better when we include a full range of experiences, perspectives and voices in leadership.
You can look it up everywhere: Forbes. Harvard Business Review. The United States Office of Personnel Management. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA. (page 36) Obviously, this is not a complete list of resources, but please do your own homework.
If the point is to be as effective and impactful as possible – whether our goal is to make more money or expand the reign of God or – don’t we want this?
Diversity is not a gimmick. This opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal felt cynical and shortsighted. Yes, there are many “firsts” on the incoming President’s cabinet but this is not a gimmick; it’s what we do in an increasingly multicultural nation in order to govern well.
What makes our country great? I believe we are best when we include people whose perspectives are not the same as our own.
And when people do not feel heard, they lash out whether they are White Men who feel they are losing power or Black People who feel they never had equal power.
Sharing power is not easy. But it makes a country great.
We are increasingly not merely a democracy but a multicultural democracy. Thanks be to God because – if we let it happen – it will make us a greater nation.
Image is from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.