The new records show that Sampson called one prosecutor, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, a "diverse up-and-comer."The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word diverse as an adjective with two meanings:
Mr. Iglesias is no doubt "made up of distinct characteristics, qualities, or elements." For example, a New York Times reporter mentions his "good looks, evangelical upbringing and Hispanic heritage." However, the most likely reason that Mr. Sampson called Mr. Iglesias diverse is the last of these. If this is true, Mr. Sampson was improperly using language meant for a group in order to refer to an individual. A diverse salad is one made up of many different kinds of foods, such as carrots, spinach, onions, nuts, or cheese--foods "differing one from another." One does not ordinarily talk about a single diverse carrot.
The word diverse points out a relationship. When people call a group diverse, they are referring to differences among the members. One possible danger of confusing language about groups with language about individuals is that it can contribute to our tendency to see individuals as merely useful parts of groups that we create for our own ends, rather than seeing those individuals as ends in themselves, that is, as having intrinsic dignity.
Besides the dictionary, the Sunday comics can also give us some proper diversity education. There, two Sundays ago, a couple of kids building a snowman argued about whether "a major national figure of intellectual prominence" was or was not "authentically black." The following week, while petitioning the U.S. Department of Groups to be known as "Dude of Color," that figure, Opus the anxious penguin, transformed from his normal black and white self into something like a "tutti-frutti" rainbow. Now that's a diverse up-and-comer!