Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. It refers to certain unique characteristics that are created by people to deal with or face the problems and limitations in their natural environment. Most American's view cultural diversity as the existence of various racial groups or various ethnic groups. Race refers to grouping of people based on similar physical characteristics which often is “color” and ethnic groups are formed of people sharing same regional origins, common language etc. Ethnic awareness can result in a united country but also, if pushed beyond limits can shatter the unity of the society.
The American colonies of Britain were recognized as the United States of America during 1783 following the Treaty of Paris. Later on many new states were added to form what the world now sees as the world's most powerful nation state. The United State's population today comprises of 79.96% white, 12.85% black, 4.43% Asian, 0.97% Amerindian and Alaska, 0.18% Hawaiian and other Pacific islander and 1.61% two or more races. The United States of America that we know today is a land of cultural diversity. The topics of culture and cultural diversity have put forth some significant social issues for the county to deal with.
In spite of the Unites State's promise of the “American Dream”, most immigrants rarely experience equality or equal opportunity. Some of the reasons being them maintaining the customs and traditions they brought with them, their national history etc. This in fact is a result of stereotyping and over-generalization on the part of the American population. This could in turn be the result of the American's lack of awareness of the origins of their own beliefs and practices. The Native American population saw a slow decline during the early 1500's when the first European visitors entered the continent. A second wave of decline happened during British colonization. After the Treaty of Paris, the founding fathers of the US framed the US constitution which subtlety allowed freedom of some, but not all individuals.
The American mentality has improved from the segregation mentality it once had thanks to exposure to other cultural groups in schools and neighborhoods. Though they express a certain degree of tolerance towards even inter-cultural marriages, there is a stratum of American population that is still conservative and prefers to maintain the cultural boundaries. Intermarriage is “the engine of social change”. This creates multicultural families resulting in a broad-minded new generation. Cultural pluralism is another fact that is evident in the United States. Cultural pluralism is the behavioral tendency of people to remain detached from people of other cultures even though they are interacting with each other constantly.
Cultural diversity is one of the major concerns of corporate in United States. This in fact is not an issue faced by the US alone, but by all countries where Multi National Companies operate. Handling a diverse workforce is a difficult task. There are a lot of litigations in the US on the grounds of discrimination at workplace. Resolving workplace conflict especially when it is concerned with cultural diversity is a tedious task for the management. Some common conflicts include celebrations, lunches, company perks and sexual harassment. Most companies conduct training and development programs to educate the workforce regarding multiculturalism, methods to cope with different cultural groups etc. Helpline numbers are also provided by many companies to assist those employees who find it embarrassing or difficult to approach the management regarding such conflicts. Though the existence of helpline numbers and providing training and development programs do help deal with conflicts, the root of the conflicts in most cases lie in the organizational policy and structure itself. In such cases, a structural change is necessary to make the system more sensitive to cultural norms of other people.
The concept of multiculturalism has also had its impact on the US Education system. But interestingly, the US educational system has seen major changes in American schools, classroom population, teacher education, test scores etc . The growing social need to fit in people from different cultures is clearly expressed in the changes each district has made to include different ethnic groups. The field of education is the one means that political leaders use to encourage or discourage racial integration. An average white student chooses to attend those schools where 78% of the peers will also be white and an average black student chooses schools with 30 or less percent of whites. Nothing much was done in preparing teachers to handle the changing demographics of the classrooms. It is very difficult to find even one book that dealing with training of teachers who are handling students with English as their second language (ESL) or English Language Learners (ELL).
But now, with the steadfast decrease in white majority and increase in penetration of other races and cultures, many social support systems and government programs are made available to tend to the needs of minority groups. Several laws, rules and regulations have been designed such as the Civil Rights Act, Americans with disabilities act, the Patriot Act; the No Child Left Behind Act etc are helping the government in its attempt to create new options for minorities. America will develop in to a multi-ethnic and highly technological society only if people learn to accept changes and admit inclusion. Hopefully someday, United States will become the “melting pot” of all the right ingredients.