Diversity is an asset that benefits organizations just as surely as money in the bank. To many people, that's intuitively obvious, but you don't have to take it on faith. Scientific research has clearly demonstrated that diversity has measurable value.
Why is diversity controversial? Because our basic instincts are at war with our intelligence.
Human (and all other animal) instincts were fashioned over the course of billions of years of evolution. One of the most basic of our instincts is fear of things, animals, and people that are unfamiliar. This fear is a survival mechanism: for many eons, it helped us survive dangers that threatened individuals and the species. The reason we exist today is because this instinct developed through natural selection to protect us.
In today's world, however, fear of difference is as much a handicap as it is an asset. In the 21st century, all human beings regularly come into contact with others who are different - different in skin color, or religion, or sexual preference, or other characteristics that differentiate us. Most of the time, our human intelligence controls our actions, overriding our fears, and allowing us to coexist in a complex and rapidly-changing world.
Every now and then, however, basic instincts take control, intelligence is repressed, and fear dominates.
The United States has benefited enormously over the years from the diversity of its population. But there are many people whose fears do not allow them to acknowledge the value of the minorities in our midst.
As Roosevelt so famously said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".
Of all the nations in the world, there is none with a population more diverse than that of the United States. If we learn to overcome our fears, there is no country that has a greater potential to benefit from diversity than America.