Diversity

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Contextual Quote

"In an ideal universe we wouldn't be celebrating diversity at all -- we wouldn't even be encouraging it -- because in an ideal universe the question of who you wanted to sleep with would be a matter of concern only to you and to your loved (or unloved) ones. As would your skin color; some people might like it, some people might not, but it would have no political significance whatsoever. Diversity of skin color is something we should happily take for granted, the way we do diversity of hair color. No issue of social justice hangs on appreciating hair color diversity; no issue of social justice hangs on appreciating racial or cultural diversity. If you're worried about the growing economic inequality in American life, if you suspect that there may be something unjust as well as unpleasant in the spectacle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, no cause is less worth supporting, no battles are less worth fighting, than the ones we fight for diversity. While some cultural conservatives may wish that everyone should be assimilated to their fantasy of one truly American culture, and while the supposed radicals of the “tenured left” continue to struggle for what they hope will finally become a truly inclusive multiculturalism, the really radical idea of redistributing wealth becomes almost literally unthinkable."

- WALTER BENN MICHAELS [1]


Description

How the term diversity is used in Group Identity Theory

James Lindsay:

"Because Critical Theories of identity view the person and their (identity) politics as intrinsically intertwined, “Diversity” doesn’t mean what anyone thinks it means. It means “Diversity” as the Critical approaches to “identity studies” in Critical Social Justice (like Critical Race Theory) understand it. It has a very specific meaning in Critical Theory. It means only having more diverse representation of different “lived experiences of oppression.” That is, it means having people with different ethnic backgrounds and the same grievance-oriented approach to thinking about those backgrounds and aggressive and highly sensitive identity-politicking style regarding them. That’s what you’re bringing in when you go for “Diversity”: Identity-driven Critical Theorists, i.e., work-avoidant complainers, troublemakers, and busybodies who will problematize every aspect of your organization until it is compliant with their impossible and often-nonsensical political demands.

We think “diversity” means people with diverse backgrounds, but the Critical Theory twists this definition into a very specific interpretation. Specifically, in Critical Social Justice, “Diversity” means something like “people with ‘diverse’ ethnic origins who all have the same Woke political understanding of the ‘social positions‘ they inhabit and the world in which those have context.” The programs for “Diversity” insist those people, not merely people from different backgrounds, have to be hired to achieve “Diversity.” The Critical system of thought maintains that everyone else lacks the “authentic” (i.e., Critical) view and thus fails to support the right kind of “Diversity.”

Under these Critical Theories, if you happen to be some particular identity (e.g., “racially black,” as Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the New York Times Magazine “1619 Project” seemingly inadvertently put it), then your voice is only authentically Black (“politically Black”) if it speaks in terms of Blackness—a radical black-liberationist political mindset—as that is understood by Critical Race Theory. Otherwise, the black person in question is said to be suffering internalized racism (a form of socially brainwashed false consciousness that prevents him from knowing his own best interests) or is race-traitorous. Therefore, a “racially black” but not “politically Black” hire wouldn’t constitute a proper Black “Diversity” hire because the “Diversity” perspective requires having taken up the right black-liberationist politics of Critical Race Theory. Literally anything else supports “white supremacy,” which is the opposite of “Diversity,” and thus doesn’t qualify. The person’s identity is their politics, and this is why we see prominent black figures being cancelled for not holding the proper “politically Black” line.

How can this be? These Identity Theories operate on the premise that different identity groups have a different essential experience of “systemic power” dynamics and thus different “knowledges” and “lived realities.” When the relevant identity is racial, each race is said to possess certain “racial knowledges” that can only be obtained in one way: by the “lived experience” of oppressed for being that race and learning to interpret those experiences through Critical Race Theory. Only someone who represents those experiences faithfully, meaning as the relevant Identity Theory says they must be, has an “authentic” voice that speaks from that social position. Thus, in the Theory underlying DIE training, only Critical Theorists of multiple “oppressed” identities can possibly count as satisfying “Diversity” because that’s what “Diversity” really refers to.

What this means in your organization is having to hire people who have been trained into an exquisitely sensitive form of offense-taking and whose primary work effort will be problematizing everything they can read racism into. And make no mistake, the Theory says the racism must be and always is present (“the question is not ‘did racism take place?’ but ‘how did racism manifest in this situation?'” –Robin DiAngelo). The “Diversity” hire is there to help make sure it’s found and “made visible.” Diversity training is meant to make this way of thinking and the resulting cancel culture it creates standard operating procedure in your organization. At a bare minimum, the increased focus on “Diversity” initiatives will constitute a drain of valuable resources that make your organization less productive and less competitive. At worst, your organization will fracture in a Hobbesian way around these divisions like The Evergreen State College." (https://newdiscourses.com/2020/06/diversity-delusion/)


Discussion

The Origins of Diversity as Political/Governance Practice in the U.S.

BY WALTER BENN MICHAELS:

"In the United States, the commitment to appreciating diversity emerged out of the struggle against racism, and the word diversity itself began to have the importance it does for us today in 1978 when, in Bakke v. Board of Regents, the Supreme Court ruled that taking into consideration the race of an applicant to the University of California (the medical school at UC Davis, in this case) was acceptable if it served “the interest of diversity.” The Court's point here was significant. It was not asserting that preference in admissions could be given, say, to black people because they had previously been discriminated against. It was saying instead that universities had a legitimate interest in taking race into account in exactly the same way they had a legitimate interest in taking into account what part of the country an applicant came from or what his or her nonacademic interests were. They had, in other words, a legitimate interest in having a “diverse student body,” and racial diversity, like geographic diversity, could thus be an acceptable goal for an admissions policy.

Two things happened here. First, even though the concept of diversity was not originally connected with race (universities had long sought diverse student bodies without worrying about race at all), the two now came to be firmly associated. When universities publish their diversity statistics today, they're not talking about how many kids come from Oregon. My university -- the University of Illinois at Chicago -- is ranked as one of the most diverse in the country, but well over half the students in it come from Chicago. What the rankings measure is the number of African Americans and Asian Americans and Latinos we have, not the number of Chicagoans.

And, second, even though the concept of diversity was introduced as a kind of end run around the historical problem of racism (the whole point was that you could argue for the desirability of a diverse student body without appealing to the history of discrimination against blacks and so without getting accused by people like Alan Bakke of reverse discrimination against whites), the commitment to diversity became deeply associated with the struggle against racism. Indeed, the goal of overcoming racism -- of creating a “color-blind” society -- was now reconceived as the goal of creating a diverse, that is, a color-conscious, society. Instead of trying to treat people as if their race didn't matter, we would not only recognize but celebrate racial identity. Indeed, race has turned out to be a gateway drug for all kinds of identities, cultural, religious, sexual, even medical. To take what may seem like an extreme case, advocates for the disabled now urge us to stop thinking of disability as a condition to be “cured” or “eliminated” and to start thinking of it instead on the model of race: We don't think black people should want to stop being black; why do we assume the deaf want to hear?

Our commitment to diversity has thus redefined the opposition to discrimination as the appreciation (rather than the elimination) of difference. So with respect to race, the idea is not just that racism is a bad thing (which of course it is) but that race itself is a good thing.

And what makes it a good thing is that it's not class. We love race -- we love identity -- because we don't love class. We love thinking that the differences that divide us are not the differences between those of us who have money and those who don't but are instead the differences between those of us who are black and those who are white or Asian or Latino or whatever. A world where some of us don't have enough money is a world where the differences between us present a problem: the need to get rid of inequality or to justify it. A world where some of us are black and some of us are white -- or bi-racial or Native American or transgendered -- is a world where the differences between us present a solution: appreciating our diversity. So we like to talk about the differences we can appreciate, and we don't like to talk about the ones we can't. Indeed, we don't even like to acknowledge that they exist. As survey after survey has shown, Americans are very reluctant to identify themselves as belonging to the lower class and even more reluctant to identify themselves as belonging to the upper class. The class we like is the middle class.

But the fact that we all like to think of ourselves as belonging to the same class doesn't, of course, mean that we actually do belong to the same class. In reality, we obviously and increasingly don't. “The last few decades,” as The Economist puts it, “have seen a huge increase in inequality in America.” The rich are different from you and me, and one of the ways they're different is that they're getting richer and we're not. And while it's not surprising that most of the rich and their apologists on the intellectual right are unperturbed by this development, it is at least a little surprising that the intellectual left has managed to remain almost equally unperturbed. Giving priority to issues like affirmative action and committing itself to the celebration of difference, the intellectual left has responded to the increase in economic inequality by insisting on the importance of cultural identity. So for 30 years, while the gap between the rich and the poor has grown larger, we've been urged to respect people's identities -- as if the problem of poverty would be solved if we just appreciated the poor. From the economic standpoint, however, what poor people want is not to contribute to diversity but to minimize their contribution to it -- they want to stop being poor. Celebrating the diversity of American life has become the American left's way of accepting their poverty, of accepting inequality." (https://prospect.org/features/trouble-diversity/)

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