Some random thoughts about diversity and cultural affiliation.
Recently, I read a fascinating article about how race is a cultural construction. In the past race was classified by phenotype (skin color, stature, skull form, facial features, etc). However, no single physical feature is unique to one race. And furthermore, identifying race by a combination of physical traits is just as problematic, since these traits do not go together as a unit.
So, because race is no longer considered a valid biological concept, scientists have moved away from classifying and have focused instead on explaining human biological diversity*.
Perhaps since I was a teenage transplant to the state, I never felt that Utah was my home. My reason for moving back again three years ago was social: you know, to find a husband and get the heck out (rolls eyes!). Meanwhile, one of my biggest complaints during the last year and a half was that the culture here was just so "homogenous."
Which brings me to a curious observation. Currently I find myself drawn to individuals who I consider "like-minded" -- exmormons trying to make peace with their past, pursue a new future, and maintain loving relationships with mormon friends/family. Often, we have many things in common. Regarding my Utah complaint, I'm forced to ask myself: did i really want heterogeneity, or did i just want association with a different homogeneity?
Recently I came across the "Ugly Duckling Theorem," which argues that classification is impossible without some sort of bias. It's a little over my head, but if I understand correctly it implies that homogeneity and heterogeneity are literally in the eye of the beholder -- they depend on what characteristics are being compared.
INCEST vs EXOGAMY
If humans were truly most attracted to those most like themselves, they would marry their brothers and sisters. But incest is a universal taboo - humans everywhere consider some people too closely related to mate or marry (true, some societies are more lenient about intermarriage than others - ancient Hawaiian royalty encouraged brothers and sisters to marry to keep bloodlines pure, and within judeochristian tradition, Sarah was something like Abraham's niece? As for me...when I found out a boy I liked once was my 4th cousin, that kind of gave me the heebie jeebies).
Okay anyway, the idea is that humans promote exogamy - marriage outside one's group. In fact the healthy perpetuation of our species depends on it.
So what do I conclude from all this? We affiliate as groups based on perceived similarities, but that doesn't mean our similarities are exclusive to the group - and they're certainly not uniform. And though we are attracted to people who seem "like" us...it's just as human to seek connections with people who are different from us.
As I've stated before, I'm inspired by the idea of a pluralistic world, in which cultural relativism is balanced with some sort of shared code of ethics. That kind of world only exists if we follow our preferences and continue to divide into groups based on certain shared values or characteristics or whaterver...but it also only exists if we can agree to disagree, and be honest that we prefer some people's ideas (and company?) over others, and not want to kill eachother over it.
*As explained in the article, race still has meaning - in social, cultural, and political terms. Just not biological.