Democracy and Diversity

02 Democracy and Diversity

A Story from Mexico Olympics

  • The medal ceremony of the 200 metres race in the 1968 Olympics held at Mexico City is an important landmark in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
  • US athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos received their medals wearing black socks and no shoes to represent Black poverty.
  • Peter Norman, a white Australian athlete, who won the silver medal wore a human rights badge on his shirt during the ceremony to show his support to the two Americans.

Differences, similarities, divisions

Origin of social differences

  • Some of the social differences are based on choices and lead to formation of social groups.
  • Every social difference does not lead to social division.
  • Social differences divide similar people from one another, but they also unite very different people.


Overlapping and cross-cutting differences

  • Social differences overlap with other differences to give rise to social division.
  • Overlapping social differences create possibilities of deep social divisions and tensions but cross-cutting social differences are easier to accommodate.
  • Social divisions of one kind or another exist in most countries, irrespective of its size, making them multi-cultural.

Politics of social divisions

  • Democracy involves competition among various political parties.
  • Such competition tends to divide a society if people start competing in terms of some existing social divisions.


Range of outcomes

  • Northern Ireland is divided into two major sects of Christianity: 53 per cent are Protestants, while 44 per cent are Roman Catholics.
  • Hundreds of civilians, militants and security forces were killed in the fight between Unionists and Nationalists and between the security forces of the UK and the Nationalists.
  • Every expression of social divisions in politics does not lead to such disasters and social divisions of one kind or another exist in most countries of the world.
  • But these divisions are reflected in politics, wherever they exist, especially in a democracy where political parties naturally talk about these divisions.


Three determinants

  • The outcome of politics of social divisions are decided by three crucial factors:
  1. How people perceive their identities:
  2. How political leaders raise the demands of any community:
  3. How the government reacts to demands of different groups:

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