Diversity has been a source of disagreement and suffering for a long time. Historically speaking, human differences have been a source of oppression or enslavement on ethnic, cultural, religious, gendered, or class lines.

Given the intensity and pain of that history, there is little wonder why diversity remains a source of frequent attention and conversation in America. What conversation about diversity would be most helpful to have is another source of intense disagreement. For progressives, the ideal conversation about diversity looks quite different than it does for conservatives.

Whereas liberal-leaning voices tend to emphasize diversity as a priority subject or an end to achieve, conservatives tend to ask whether or not we are overlooking common humanity or other ideas that may unite human beings or preserve true diversity. Liberals sometimes criticize conservatives as being unfriendly, discriminatory or hostile toward differences, while conservatives criticize liberals as trying to force everyone to be same or adopt the same beliefs in the name of "diversity."

Some, mostly on the left, tend to emphasize the benefits of greater diversity, such as increased sharing of ideas and respect for our differences. Others argue that too great a diversity of ideas or cultures in one place together (see: multiculturalism) can lead to competing values systems and belief systems trying to operate in the same space, thus creating chaos or violent power struggles. From this view, boundaries are required to preserve "real" diversity.

Whereas some (typically on the left) tend to see human differences as shaped by larger, external social structures that demand institutional changes to create more equality — such as race, class, gender, and patriarchy — others (often on the right) tend to argue that differences among people are really due to innate or consciously developed qualities such as temperament, work ethic, humility, perserverance, patience, self-control, culture, geography, intelligence and other factors. Whereas liberal-leaning communities see a respect and appreciation for diversity as a positive end in and of itself, conservative communities tend to see such respect as a means to a greater end — not something to embrace as an unmitigated good.