As Anne Irwin, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary,

As the modern world progresses and advances over decades and generation, diversity is seen less as a treat and more as a goal; whether it is diversity between the sexes or races. The article that I have chosen is Diversity in the Canadian Forces: Lessons from Afghanistan written by Anne Irwin, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I chose this one in particular because it raises arguments that are of interest to me as a woman and as a person of color.  

Throughout history North America has struggled with diversity, consequently, when reading the tittle of the article I had a different expectation of the military. Originally, I thought that the only people welcomed into the military would be those of European origins, in particular white males. According to Irwin’s findings, this is true to an extent, for there were few minorities present on the force. However, Irwin argues that the few minorities present do not experience discrimination. The objective of this paper was to suggest that the traditional categories used to measure diversity does not aid in understanding diversity groups. Irwin suggests two frameworks of categories that offer ways of thinking about diversity, etic and emic (Irwin, 495). Etic being an approach to the study of language across cultures, the perspective of an observer. Emic, however, is an approach to the study of a language in terms of its internal elements and their functioning rather than in terms of any existing external scheme, from the perspective of the subject (Irwin, 496). The way the author frames their argument is compelling, using her own research to prove her claim. According to her findings, although there were few soldiers belonging to visible minorities, little ethnic diversity, they were not discriminated against in the force. In fact, there were various etic categories the author focused on rising diversity amongst the soldiers such as age, education, culture and origin, yet that did not affect the soldiers team work. Then there were the emic categories, which emerged from the local cultures; these were the ones that determined if the soldiers will be loved or hated. Something as simple as not sharing ‘goods’ sent to them by their family can cause them to be hated by the force. It was local issues such as if the soldier engaged in combat operations, not whether or not they belonged to the same category that influenced who was accepted and who was not. The arguments made by Irwin were strong, however, there were some weaknesses to them.

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            One can argue that there is never a perfect argument, this holds true in Irwin’s case. Although Irwin makes some persuasive points supported with valid research to support her theory, there are weaknesses. If belonging to a minority group isn’t an issue in the military, then why are so many women, and people of color discouraged from joining it? Women are still being seen as the inferior sex, and many believe they are incapable of succeeding in the military. As addressed in our lecture, there are many attempts to manage diversity in countless professions such as the military yet are unsuccessful. This is due to the fact that once the minority enters said profession, they are disrespected and not as welcome in the way a non-minority is. Minorities are incapable of speaking up against prejudice in fear of harming their position. Through the research collected of the soldiers in Afghanistan, it is shown that people are not jugged by their sex or heritage but by their courage and the team spirit they possess (Irwin, 504). This could be a charade, there might be cases of discrimination, that the minorities are afraid to speak up against. If that is not the case, and ethic properties truly do not affect the soldiers, then why is there restricted women and only three soldiers belonging to ethnic minorities (Irwin, 495). If they are not being discriminated from within the military, then what is stopping them from joining, who is holding them back? Is it only due to the military being exclusive to men or is it due to external factors such as women not being encouraged to strive for such positions?

According to the data collected, whether a soldier is a hard worker is what determines their fate on the social food chain. Irwin said that during her research collection her attention was on how soldiers worked together on their missions (Irwin, 498). Therefore, it can be argued that they were only in union when forced to be professional, and the ethnic differences may play a role in what social groups form. Although Irwin disagrees with the theory that cohesion depends on shared characteristics (Irwin, 495), there is some truth to it. It is human nature to want to surround oneself with people of similar appearances, this is an observation seen by that of many phycologists. In fact, I have encountered this theory serval times in my phycology and family studies class.

            In my opinion, ethnic categories do affect the soldiers, however not to the extent as it is in Canada. According to Irwin’s findings, in the Canadian military, soldiers have come close to reaching the level of human acceptance that has long been strived for. That is to judge a human by the work they do and not by their appearances. Although this achievement brings elation, it is a bittersweet felling. It is upsetting that it takes thousands of casualties and being hundreds of miles away from your loved ones, to finally be able to get over the ethic properties and focus on the emic. It seems that the soldiers have set aside the culture of back home and created their own. For example, Irwin stated that the greatest insult a soldier can be called was lazy (Irwin, 502). This however is not true in the culture present in Canada, there are much more horrid words one can be called; In fact, some people call themselves lazy as a joke. However, in the military, lazy can mean that the soldier does not pull their own weight, and that they are holding the team back, this is considered to be the worst sin a soldier can commit. This goes to prove that there is a different mindset in the military, people are valued according to different traits.       

            This paper contributes to the production of knowledge within the field of diversity because of Irwin’s strong interesting theory. Her perspective to view diversity according to emic and ethic categories is brilliant for it encourages people to focus on the value of someone’s work and not their appearance. Even though, I do believe that discrimination is present in the military, just not outwardly spoken about it, Irwin has also been able to influence me to believe that it is not as severe as it is in Canada as a nation. The soldiers have been able to take a step closer to reaching the goal of human equality. In order to learn from them and see how emic starts to override the ethic properties, more research needs to be conducted. Joss Whedon, American screenwriter, director, producer, comic book writer, and composer, once said “Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality”

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