Cultural and Ethnic Diversity
The United States stands out among nations as a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Demographers predict that by 2050, no single majority group will exist in the United States. Diversity is a key part of Middle Tennessee’s past, present and future. Nashville, especially, is a model of the American "melting pot," with an active Native American population, thriving Hispanic community and growing Middle Eastern and Asian presence. Different cultures, religions, ideas and customs come together harmoniously in Music City.
- According to the U.S. 2010 Census results, all of Tennessee's ethnic populations grew significantly from 2000-2010. Population of whites grew by 7.9%; Black/African American population grew by 13.3%; American Indian & Alaskan Native population increased by 32%; Asian population grew by 61%; the Hispanic/Latino population group grew by 134%; and the population of people of two or more races grew 74%.
- U.S. Census results in 2010 show that 289,000 of Tennessee's total population of 6,346,105 are foreign-born.
- In 2010, English was a second language for 22% of Metro Nashville students. It was 15% in 2005. About 10% of Nashville residents speak a language other than English in their homes. Nashville is home to the nation's largest Kurdish community and is a resettlement spot for refugees from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa (Barry).
- In 2009 Nashville defeated an English-only measure (which would have made Nashville the largest city in the country with an "official English" law) by nearly 10,000 votes. By defeating it, Nashvillians spoke for diversity and inclusion, affirming Middle Tennessee's desire to be an inclusive, diverse community, open to residents and visitors who speak other languages (Barry).
In 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, a legal declaration which defines cultural diversity as the "common heritage of humanity." The Declaration states that "diversity is embodied in the uniqueness of the groups and societies making up humankind." Cultural diversity has been described by The University of Tennessee Libraries' Diversity Committee as the "variety of characteristics that make individuals unique."
"As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature."
The Declaration further explains that "cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence."
While cultural and ethnic diversity is real and relevant on a global and national scale, fostering an awareness and appreciation of cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity most often starts at home – in our counties, cities, neighborhoods, and within our families. Whatever makes you you is constantly contributing to the culturally diverse environment in which you live, grow, learn, and interact.
For these reasons and many more, it's vital for those of us living in Middle Tennessee to be aware of and to engage in activities and discussions which promote appreciation of all cultures and traditions present in our Middle Tennessee communities.
Diverse ethnic and cultural groups bring with them varieties of religious, social, artistic, and even culinary backgrounds, making Middle Tennessee a melting pot in its own right!
From soul food favorites Arnold's and Monell's, to restaurants with a German- or Italian-American flair, to Miss Saigon Vietnamese or Gojo Ethiopian, there's nothing you can't find to eat here in Nashville, no culture you can't explore through its cuisine.
The local arts scene is certainly not lacking in diversity, either. On any given evening an array of performances are offered up by The Asian-American Performing Arts Society, The Nashville Jewish Film Festival, The American Negro Playwright Theatre, The Chinese Arts Alliance, Amun Ra Theatre, and others. In 2010, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts partnered with ten organizations representing cultures from around the world to create an art exhibit depicting children's stories of different traditions. Connecting Cultures: Children's Stories from Across the World began with the premise that the stories of children simultaneously reflect unique cultural values as well as perspectives that are shared by people worldwide. The art created for this exhibition was as diverse as the communities, participants, and stories themselves.
And don't forget the benefits that diverse communities can have for our children. Attending a school with a diverse student body can help prepare your child for informed citizenship in a multicultural democracy. The Global Education Center in Nashville has special workshops celebrating cultural diversity for all ages
How can we here in Middle Tennessee take advantage of opportunities to enrich our lives by engaging in our diverse landscape of people and communities?
- Fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity in your community can be as simple as having a conversation with a new friend! Make grass-roots efforts to get to know your neighbors. Host or organize a block party in your neighborhood. Organize tables or booths where families can share pictures, stories, and artifacts which illustrate their unique backgrounds and histories.
- Attend any of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s fantastic culture, food, and arts fairs, such as Celebrate Nashville at Centennial Park.
- Take advantage of Middle Tennessee’s rich and diverse arts community to engage your family and kids in diverse forms of art and music! A few organizations offering programs include Chinese Arts Alliance, Kala Nivedanam School of South Indian Dance and Music, and The Global Education Center.
- Check out Scarritt-Bennett Center’s Dialogues in Diversity program.
- Donate or volunteer with advocacy organizations promoting cultural diversity and providing important community-building opportunities among Middle Tennessee residents. You can find many of these organizations here on GivingMatters.com!
Numbers and Data Sources:
1. US Census Bureau 2010 Population Data and Maps
2. UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
3. University of Tennessee Libraries’ Diversity Committee
4. Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington
5. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
6. Barry, Tom. "Good News from Nashville: Diversity Not Uniformity." Americas Program. January 23, 2009.
Middle Tennessee Community Resources:
Connecting Cultures – The Frist Center for the Visual Arts
Global Education Center
Tennessee Tech University Events
African American Cultural Alliance
Visit Music City