Diversity is essentially linked to the fundamental human right to equality and non-discrimination is about recognizing, respecting and valuing people’s differences. As Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Of course, equal does not mean everyone is or should be the same. Diversity honors human differences and values the richness and strength that differences of all kinds contribute to society.
A frequent use of diversity refers to cultural diversity, the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to a homogenization of cultures, which is often cited as a negative effect of globalization. Cultural diversity, or multiculturalism, is based on the idea that cultural identities should not be discarded or ignored, but rather maintained and valued. Cultural diversity can be seen as analogous to biodiversity, which like human diversity recognizes the important interdependence among living things. Besides the more obvious cultural differences that exist among people, such as language, religion, dress, diet, and traditions, there are also significant variations in the way societies organize themselves, in their shared conception of morality, and in the ways they interact with their environment.
In the past the United States was often referred to as a “melting pot.” This metaphor implied that people from diverse background lost their original distinctive cultures in the process of integration into the evolving American culture, which was largely dominated by European values. Today the prevailing metaphor is that the United States is a mosaic, a new whole made of many cultures that retain much of their distinctive differences.
Diversity also refers to recognizing, respecting and valuing other aspects of human beings that are not directly influenced by culture such as differences in age, sexual orientation, gender identification, and physical appearance and abilities.