Tuesday, July 28, 2009

use the word 'diversity' to avoid really dealing with 'race'

This is a guest post by The Witty Mulatto, who blogs at Madness To The Method. She writes of herself, "I'm a piano student and radical left-wing critical race theorist in Our Nation's Capital, which is a good place to be both those things. Also, I'm a drag king. It doesn't get much cooler than that."

What do you think of when you hear the word 'diversity'? Maybe some multi-colored hand-holding? Maybe a bunch of happy children of all races and colors cavorting in rainbow shirts?

I’ll tell you what I think of when I think of diversity: I think of white people. Which is funny, because that’s exactly what you’re not supposed to think of when you think of diversity. But it’s true.

‘Diversity’ should be number one on the list of White People’s Favorite Words. It’s a word that people bandy about when they’ve noticed that their organization is overwhelmingly white, but aren’t really sure why or what to do about it. In the words of a former teacher of mine (one of the few clued-in white people I know), “Diversity basically means ‘let’s talk about black people’.” He means that when people speak of ‘diversity’, they rarely get to the meat of things.

White people’s idea of diversity is skewed. Like the aforementioned kids in rainbow shirts. That’s a freaking melting pot, is what that is. Heads up, gentlemen: only white people talk about a melting pot like it’s a good thing. Though they don’t mean it to be, ‘melting pot’ is synonymous with ‘assimilation’.

In a white organization's eyes, no “diverse” place is complete without a white woman, a Latino, an Indian, an Asian person, a Muslim, some Black folks, a gay man, a person in a wheelchair, and an old person. Preferably in cultural garb where applicable. This “collect them all” mentality actually takes away from diversity. What impact is one Latina gonna have in a roomful of non-Latinos?

Inevitably, this is an unintentional form of an old white standby: divide and conquer. And the end result is that once again, white people get the largest representation. The organization is still overwhelmingly white, even when they are technically outnumbered by POC’s.

Not only that, but white people also think an organization can’t be diverse without white people. I know this because I go to Howard University, the top Black school in the nation. (The only time I hear anybody say ‘diversity’ there is in the context of the white students.) On at least three separate occasions, white acquaintances have asked me if it bothers me to go to a school where there’s so little diversity. I’m like, “Yeah, it would bother me if I actually went to a school like that.” I mean, Howard’s got people from all fifty states and at least a hundred countries. We have a sizable African community and a giant Caribbean community. We have Latino and Asian students. We have more lower-class students than white schools do. But, because most students have black skin, most white people think that cannot possibly be “diverse”.

But the thing that really gets me about 'diversity' is that it’s such a euphemistic word. I hate it when people scoot around race. If you weren’t raised or immersed in American culture and ways, you would have no idea that when people say diversity, they mean race. Yeah, they throw in gender (meaning white women) and orientation (meaning gay men) every so often, but really mostly it’s about race -- and yet the word of choice is diversity, not race, as if race is a dirty word. I am continually and completely amazed by the complicated dances Americans perform around racial issues without even knowing it. ‘Diversity’ is just a header -- there’s a whole list of vocabulary that’s required to perform those dances.

White organizations everywhere create entire commissions and councils surrounding diversity. Their mission statements usually say things like, “We believe the University environment is greatly enriched by the presence of people with diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives.” They have a lot of pretty words. But what they really mean is, “How can we reach out to people of color and make them want to join our organization?”

The question that logically comes next but is rarely asked is, “Why would people of color WANT to join our organization?”

If you asked THAT question, things would get interesting.

I had this experience when I first decided to get socially/politically active. I knew vaguely what I wanted to see happen, but I didn’t know the first thing about how to go about it. So I joined an organization I had read some about in my historical research: the National Organization for Women (NOW). (I didn’t know that they were once anti-dyke under Betty Friedan.)

NOW was thrilled, absolutely thrilled to have me. For a couple of months during my freshman year I went around campaigning for abortion rights. I carried signs. I even got to meet Hillary Clinton. (It was back when I still considered myself a Democrat, so I was elated.)

But something creeped me out. I knew it had something to do with the lack of POC’s, but that wasn’t all of it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Now, as the radical analyst that I like to be, I can jam my finger straight into its fleshy white stomach: NOW only wants people of color on their terms. Sure, they wanna hear what we have to say, but when it comes to making policy, you better be on board with them. They used to ask me, you know, “Why aren’t other Howard students interested in NOW?”

Because NOW doesn’t represent us. White organizations don’t want to represent people of color; they just want to include them.

So in a way, ‘diversity’, like ‘melting pot’, is just another word for ‘assimilation’.

Whenever somebody says that word, you can bet white people are calling the shots.


  1. @The Witty Mulatto - you nailed it! I've always felt uneasy with the term diversity... and couldn't pin point it myself. It's a nice cushiony word that whiteness uses to avoid having to *really* face the realities of a racially divided world. It's kinda like putting a bandaid on compound fracture.

  2. I was just commenting on another blog this morning that the terms "assimilation" and "melting pot" (and, though I didn't mention it there, I'll throw in diversity too) are really code for "acting white".

    And it's true. I'm ashamed over and over again by how people use code words like diversity when what they really mean is "non-white people who act white and don't rock the boat".

  3. WOW! Just had this conversation recently...nice job!

  4. Damn. This is really something. Witty Mulatto - do you blog anywhere else?

  5. Diversity in a corporate setting: mostly white, but with 1 or 2 nice black or Asian people to spice things up a bit.

  6. Thanks, guys. I felt so psyched when I finally put my finger on all this; I'm glad to see that it makes sense to other people too!

    I do, RMJ - I'm at
    Madness To The Method just over yonder.

  7. The Witty Mulatto,

    I wasn't sure if you wanted to share that or not -- I'll add a link to your wonderful blog at the top of this post.

    Thanks again for getting a conversation going on this topic here.

  8. Diversity means 5% non whites. Enough so that they can pat themselves on the back for being so diverse yet they don't have to feel uncomfortable or out numbered. I have been attending yoga classes with a coworker for the past 2 years. The entire time I have been the only non white person in the class. Recently a group of Asian women joined the class, my coworker is noticeably uncomfortable about their attendance.

    I've experienced similar situations where white people express out loud how uncomfortable they were in majority non white environments, never acknowledging the way I might feel as the only non white in the room.

  9. I never know if I should comment at sites like this as I frequently am criticised for the things I think about, but this particular post made me think about something that was said to me at my last position at the University.

    I was lucky to be hired to construct an advising program/community for students from lower socio-economic communities who were being financially supported by a specific scholarship program. There were lots of students of color and also a few white students from working class families. I had to hire staff and the advisor i wanted to hire was Native American. I am South Asian American. We are both "Indian." It was suggested to me that I should consider hiring the white male candidate because it would add diversity to the office. It was quite frustrating to respond to this as I had to begin with an explanation of why we were different kinds of Indians. And noone could explain to me how adding a white male in the mix made the program more diverse.

    I say I was lucky to be hired because it was thought that I was underqualified (completed my Ph.D. four months after taking the job, while others (white women) in similar positions had BAs). Turns out the area where I was underqualified was (white) administative politics. I was highly praised for the work i did with the program, but also highly criticised for my interactions with the other white women in the college.

    Thanks Witty Mulatto and Macon D!

  10. Well, a company can be diverse without any PoC and with only White people. I mean, we're pretty diverse, and a Spanish person is not the same as a Romanian who is not the same as a French, etc....see my point? They all bring different points of views, who are just as valid.

    And diversity does NOT automatically mean "the best" or "excellent" or even "better".

  11. Well, would you prefer people preface "diversity" with "racial" when that's what they mean? That would at least solve the semantic issue.

    This country is what - 65, 70% white? So you're going to have plenty of majority-white organizations regardless. Would you rather they didn't try to include POC? If that were put into practice right now, I think it would close off avenues to power for POC and reinforce all sorts of undesirable things, like economic inequality and the tendency of white people to be closed off in a comfortable white privilege bubble.

    You asked: "What impact is one Latina gonna have in a roomful of non-Latinos?"

    The point of diversity, as I understand it, is to group together people who are different from one another, for several good reasons - because you don't want to overlook people's concerns, because you don't want to miss something you otherwise might, because it increases creativity and innovation.

    When the Americans wrote the Japanese constitution, there was like one woman involved. And she's the one who wrote in rights for women in Japan. Using this example makes me cringe, because there weren't any Japanese or even Japanese-American people involved, but hopefully you see my point - just one alternate viewpoint can really change things. Your one Latina might have a pretty significant effect.

    I feel that if white people don't work on including non-white people, and all people of other races just stick to their own racial groups so as not to be divided and conquered, what you'd get is segregation, and that idea makes me very uncomfortable.

    Also, I don't think your point about Howard makes any sense. The internet informs me that Howard is 89% African-American. Very few people would argue that a 89% white university was racially diverse because it had students from every state and 100 nations including lots of Brits and Germans and why do these black people think it isn't diverse just because it doesn't include them? I'm sure Howard has many virtues as a university, but it doesn't seem to me that racial diversity is one of them.

    What do you mean about representation vs. inclusion? I'm not sure what it would mean for a white organization to "represent" people of color. Could you elaborate?

  12. Excellent, EXCELLENT post. I loved it. It's so true.

    Macon D have you done an article called "use euphemisms"? That's exactly what Witty Mulatto is hitting on and exactly the problem. Let's just call a spade a spade and deal with it.

    And as you bring to light, the worst of it all is how necessary whiteness is to "diversity." And that is exactly why white organizations struggle with it.

  13. Anonymous said...
    Well, a company can be diverse without any PoC and with only White people. I mean, we're pretty diverse, and a Spanish person is not the same as a Romanian who is not the same as a French, etc....see my point? They all bring different points of views, who are just as valid.

    And diversity does NOT automatically mean "the best" or "excellent" or even "better".

    ????????????? It is so funny how someone can read the same entry and seem to totally misunderstand! I guess that is diversity in itself! And....... since when is a spanish person not a poc??????

  14. nrones:

    A Spanish person (from Spain) is NOT a person of colour. They're considered White/European.

    As well, there are plenty of Hispanics who are not PoC (Hispanic is not a race, but I'd say it's more of an ethnicity). There are plenty of White Hispanics from Argentina/Cuba/Puerto Rico, etc....

    Just like there are plenty of Black Hispanics from Dominican/Cuba/Puerto Rico, etc...

  15. Diversity should include all races--White, Black, Asian, etc...

    You cannot have a diverse company if you're going to exclude Whites, just like you can't have a diverse company without Asians or Blacks.

    You're assuming that all Whites are the same, but we're very varied and there is plenty of diversity in our cultures, traditions and values.

  16. Once again, I feel people are getting caught up on diverse as if that means something, when in fact it doesn't. Unfortunately "diversity" fails to solve the issues of perceptions of power.

    I find myself more often than not being picked up for diversity. I've even on occasion been hired because "of all the black people they've encountered I was the coolest, and the best behaved." (rolls eyes)

    For those people who claim diversity has done POC favors need to asks them how they really feel when picked up under some "diversity" agenda. It's the most insulting, disingenuous bullshit I've ever heard. When white people pick up other white people in the name of diversity it's viewed as assets; with POC it's a potential hazard if they don't assimilate well.

  17. R2FpdXMgSnVsaXVzIE9jdGF2aXVzJuly 28, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    You say you're a radical left-wing but i wonder if you realize radical left-wing whites love the myths of diversity and the American melting pot.

    The melting pot theory has forced a lot of people to give up their individual cultures to normalcy. Whether your ancestors were African, Hispanic, Irish, Native American and so on they all experienced this melting pop/assimilation through force and ridicule from what has been, and this is a very controversial truth, left-wing. Take a look at any majority left-wing nation in the past and even present. They want everyone to be the same and give up their individual cultural identity.

    Unfortunately, by calling yourself left-wing, you're falling for their own system. Because your views and opinions are meant to distract you from truth. I'm sure you believe conservatism is at the center of this diversity/multiculturalism/melting pot myth. You may not believe this but conservatives are also victims of the melting pot and i'm betting you see "white people" when thinking about conservatives.

    You need to deprogram yourself.

  18. "Macon D have you done an article called "use euphemisms"? That's exactly what Witty Mulatto is hitting on and exactly the problem. Let's just call a spade a spade and deal with it."
    That's not a white people thing, though, just a people thing in general...

  19. A. Smith, as Blue Mako points out, people in general use euphemisms, but when it comes to discussing race (which is what I'm guessing you meant), I do think white people use them more than other groups. So thank you for the good suggestion. I have covered some specific ones, such as "canadians," "the n-word" (though that was really more about "the g-word"), and an excellent guest post on the many euphemisms commonly used instead of "white," and maybe some others too. But I think you're right, a post on that general tendency seems like a great idea.

  20. In the work force I believe the best qualified person should get the job. Sex and race should never play a role. In the name of "diversity", I have seen the less qualified person receive a promotion.

    Discrimination affects all colors.

  21. So you only post what you approve in advance?

  22. LOL at The Takeout Wench's comments.

    Equality and Diversity is oh so convenient for large pyramid structured organisations who place certain people on one end of the pyramid and a large group at the other depending on their skin colour and the way they look. So, in my ex-workplace, a UK University (where I also studied and graduated), you have all the people at the top of the pyramid, who happen to all be white and then mixtures and "melting pots" at the bottom of the organisation to "make it look good", to make it look "diverse".

    In literature, they will say something like...

    "We are a truly diverse organisation and have people of all colours working here...We take diversity seriously..." or something to that effect.

    Their advertising literature would normally have little pictures of people of all races and faces in their efforts to include each and everyone, but take a closer look at the hierarchical structure and you see the real picture. The fact is that in many of these organisations, people of colour can only wish and daydream to reach the pinnacle of these pyramid-like structural organisations. This is why a number of POC will work in an organisation for example for 15 years and leave disgruntled or carry on working feeling extremely unhappy after applying for countless promotions and getting turned down every time with flimsy excuses. You are either not qualified enough or you are TOO qualified!

    One minute you are "over-confident" and "know everything" and the next you have your appraisal with your "boss" (whose job it is to boss you about, colonial style) and then all of a sudden you become average at everything. This is because they want to hold you back. After all, "we can't have these (insert term here) "POC" running things around here. We can't have that, throw them a bone and keep them busy and quiet". Hence the "Equality and Diversity" policy, a load of rubbish which is not worth the paper it is written on.

    Diversity, a politically correct term, was coined to "make things look good". Let's make it look as though we are including everyone so that we are not seen as racist, sexist or discriminating in one way or the other. Trying to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.

    Half the time, the "diverse" people in these large organisations spend most of their time sucking up to their "superiors", talking behind each other's backs, generally misbehaving by snitching or making up stories to get ahead all because they can't stand each other with all their false pretences and fakeness.

    It's either that or a lot of the time you have some kind of hierarchical structure in the office based on race with certain people thinking themselves to be more superior based on colour, making racist jokes (which they get away with depending on their colour), going on constant cigarette and tea breaks, while others must know their place and keep quiet or else.

    Why put a bunch of people together who cannot stand each other? Diversity indeed.

    Sometimes in these office environments (and I like to sit back and observe as it can be quite entertaining to watch), it can be very similar to watching an episode of UK Big Brother. Most of these people cannot stand each other and hate each other's guts, but for one reason or the other (mostly money related) are forced to work together and try to get along as best they can all in the name of Diversity.

  23. Yes anonymous, as on many blogs, the comments here are moderated. Keeps a lot of junk out of the conversation.

  24. It's funny: I work in the government and this is probably THE most overused word in our friendly, social departmental "reminders" (that and being "green").

    Anyway, your “collect them all” comment really made me LOL'd... I feel like a poke'mon!

  25. Again, your last 3 lines, spot on:
    White organizations don’t want to represent people of color; they just want to include them.

    So in a way, ‘diversity’, like ‘melting pot’, is just another word for ‘assimilation’.

    Whenever somebody says that word, you can bet white people are calling the shots.

    I'll wait to see your response to some of the comments, but as far as the question of not wanting to represent POCs, just include them, in my opinion, that's all about the leadership and the power.

    I do anti-racist work at my job, my school district, and my city. In all 3 venues, they love to talk about how they love diversity. But the leadership? All white. Every president, mayor, VP, dean, principal, city council member, all of them, white. It's fine to INCLUDE a certain number of POCs, as long as it doesn't tip the balance of power.

    Organizations love to tout diversity as long it gives them some folks to point to and say, "see? we LOVE diversity!", some folks they can put on the brochures, folks who go along to get along and who don't threaten actual change to the power structure or the methods.

    They love diversity they can see and point out, but not diversity that demands change to the power structure. Because they don't really want to change issues of systemic racism, they just want it to look like they do.

  26. People have brought up the importance of the power balance as well as race. That’s basically what I was getting at when I talking about representing POC’s vs. including them. By inclusion, I mean filling a white organization with people of color. By representation, I mean changing the entire mission and structure of the organization to reflect the values of people of color. It means that it ceases to be a white organization.

    People have brought up diversity among whites. In the larger scheme of white privilege and in the Melting Pot, your ancestry is null. Unless you are an actual immigrant from Spain, you do not bring diversity to a white organization. I don’t hear Black folks talking about Ghana and Nigeria and Togo. (Even those who know their ancestry don’t say they’re Togolese. They’re Black).

    You’re implying that the way people do things now is the only possible option, and if this half-assed attempt at "diversity" weren’t in place, it would be Jim Crow. Is our only choice to accept it or not be included at all?

    We’re 66% white in the States. That is not a mandate. Your whole comment acknowledges that white people call the shots on diversity issues, but doesn’t question that. My whole point is that it’s not their prerogative.

    You see what a difference even one woman made in the Japanese constitution? (I’m glad that you appreciate the irony of that example.) What if that committee’d been 51% women? I’m not saying that one Latina is so insignificant that she might as well not be there -- I’m saying it would be a lot cooler if there were 10 Latinos.

    Regarding Howard. I didn’t say it was the most diverse school in the world. My point is that it’s not LESS “diverse” than white schools. My rhetorical question was, how come a majority white school is just a school, while Howard is a “historically Black university”? We certainly weren’t chartered as one, and we still aren’t one officially.

    Thanks for asking about representation vs. inclusion. See top of comment. I should’ve said more in the post.

    R2FpdXMgSnVsaXVzIE9jdGF2aXVz (can I just call you R2?): I left the white left-wing movement for exactly the reasons you cite. It’s them I’m attacking here as well – above all, even. When I say I’m left wing, I mean the part of the left wing where Malcolm X and the Panthers are hanging out.

    Ana: I still feel like you want to “collect them all”. I like the idea of having all races represented, but there can be some problems with that. For one, it can create a false sense of diversity. Your job isn’t done once your company includes all races. If a Chinese person has to take vacation time for (Chinese) New Year but gets a random day off on December 25th,, then that company doesn’t represent her.

    For two, it can be a red herring. An organization should represent the people it serves. If you live in Iowa, then having an all-white council in an all-white town is logical. If you have an all-white council in a Southern town with a white and Black population, you have a problem. But in both cases, sending off for some Asian people so you can have all races is not the solution.

    Thanks, y'all. Witty Mulatto, over and out.

  27. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Witty Mulatto, for this post. I can't begin to tell you how often I've been troubled by this subject, or how many frustrating conversations I've had with people who can't or won't understand.the problems with this term and its implementation.

    "Diversity" as it is parcticed now is basically reducing people to numbers. The goal is always either to get a certain percentage from a certain racial group (and yes, it's always race, never religion, culture or any other criterion) or get one of every group (Pokemon style, but I call it Star Trek diversity). The Star Trek model is slightly better in theory, as it encompasses more variety, but both models reduce people to numbers and quotas. There's no room in these approaches for the real diversity of the human race. Things like the fact that Puerto Ricans and Mexicans have totally different cultures are usually ignored, and multiracial people just get slotted into whichever category is more convenient at the moment. "Anomalies" like Jews from Arab countries and South African Indians don't even exist in these number-driven pictures of "diversity".

    But the concept has become a sacred cow in modern liberal-white circles. You can't even talk about it. The knee-jerk reaction to any criticism of the system is always the same - you must be some kind of racist if you don't "love diversity".

    I love the diversity of our species. I hate what Diversity means in American society today.

  28. Star Trek diversity! That's a brilliant term, Dejamorgana. I am gonna use that a lot from now on.

  29. I guess it seems like the problem is that organizations that bandy about the word diversity aren't committed to the full meaning behind that word, not that they use it to talk about race. I mean, what other word could you use to describe a group with various gender identities, sexual orientations, religious and ethnic backgrounds, and races? For that matter, I hear just as much about gender when school and business recruiters mention diversity. Probably because those are the major qualities addressed by affirmative action, so those are the ones organizations are most concerned with.

    And your point about NOW sounds... obvious. They only want people of color who are on board with their policies? Uh, yeah. And greenpeace only wants members who agree with THEIR cause. If your point is that groups that promote civil rights for any particular demographic should put more effort into intersectionality to attract a more... varied team, then say that. Otherwise, I'm not sure I get your complaint.

  30. If NOW were called National Organization For And Of White Middle Class Women, then I would get your argument. Then it would be silly of me to think they need to start representing me.

    But that's not their name.

  31. "By representation, I mean changing the entire mission and structure of the organization to reflect the values of people of color. It means that it ceases to be a white organization."

    "What if that committee’d been 51% women?"

    The difference is that women actually make up around 50-51% of the population. Racial minorities, on the other hand, make up only 1/3 of the population put together. So what you seem to be arguing is that POC should be overrepresented in positions of power relative to their population percentage. Correct?

    That raises some interesting questions. Like, how would you want to see it implemented? How many POC in leadership positions is enough? Where do we find a balance of power between racial groups?

    I think one reason why white people prefer assimilation is that if we're all melted into the same cultural pot, then race shouldn't matter. We aren't there yet, but diversity initiatives seem like a good way to help bring it about. I'm not really seeing anything wrong with that, as long as it doesn't mean POC are underrepresented in positions of power. It just seems simpler and more peaceful.

  32. but bluey512, people of color ARE underrepresented (woefully so)in positions of power. Even within organizations that champion so-called diversity. So why the concern over possible over-representation?

  33. Oh, and to contribute to the possible future euphemisms post, may I suggest "high-risk," as in "a study found that high-risk youth..." This is another term that I think is supposed to be intentionally neutral, but I've always suspected that it actually means black or poor, or both.

  34. They are, yes, absolutely, and that should change. I just don't see a good way of making it change except by including POC in white organizations and trying to reduce overt and institutional racism and hoping that they make it to the top in greater and greater numbers.

    I mention overrepresentation not because it's actually happening, but because that's the only way I can see of having enough POC in positions of leadership to make POC feel represented at a majority of organizations. I could be getting ahead of myself on that.

  35. Bluey: I should've been clearer. I meant that representation should reflect the general population in all cases, not that there should always be 51% POC's in a company.
    Much as I personally wouldn't mind seeing it, overrepresenting POC's just wouldn't be fair (and would cause the outcry that current statistics SHOULD be getting).

    "Like, how would you want to see it implemented? How many POC in leadership positions is enough? Where do we find a balance of power between racial groups?"

    I like those questions. I guess where I would start is with what I said in another comment: I believe organizations should reflect the people
    the people they serve (or want to serve). The U.S. government needs to be about 44% people of color. (It needs other things too, but I digress.) But the government of DC, on another hand, needs to be majority Black, because that's who lives here.

    "I think one reason why white people prefer assimilation is that if we're all melted into the same cultural pot, then race shouldn't matter. We aren't there yet, but diversity initiatives seem like a good way to help bring it about. "

    Right on -- that's exactly why white folks love the Melting Pot. But that's not where I want to be going at all. For me, and most anti-racists, the point isn't to get where everyone's so similar that race doesn't matter. It's for racial DIFFERENCES to not matter. Diversity initiatives are usually geared towards the former.

  36. Bluey 512, assimilation is only good for the people whose culture ends up dominating the melting pot. This is usually the majority, and always the group with the political power and economic clout.

    History has given us numerous examples of cultures that were assimilated by more powerful groups and ended up almost disappearing, while the assimilating culture was influenced very little (think of the Khoi-khoi, or any culture that ever lost a war against the Roman and Ottoman Empires).

    More currently, white society in the US has a long history of Anglicizing immigrant's names or changing them outright, and minority members still voluntarily change their names to "more neutral" (I.e., whiter) ones. Just the other day I discovered that Jon Stewart's last name was once Liebowitz. He may have personal, rather than political, reasons for the name change, but I can't imagine anybody named Stewart changing his name to Liebowitz. That just doesn't happen.

  37. Awesome post, Witty Mulatto. I am well versed in the double speak of those who perceive themselves as both white and liberal. I am really having trouble with the statistics you and bluey512 are using, though.

    The U.S. is 65-70% white??? Organizations should be 44% people of color???? Those statistics are meaningless because the concepts of "white" and "people of color" are not rigorously, strictly defined. Nor do I believe they ever have been or ever will be. What does "white" mean? I'm half-Chinese and half-Caucasian- am I white or asian?

    As a mathematician, I can assure you that you need to have very rigid, well-defined subsets in your sample space if you want your analysis to make sense.

    The problem with this entire dialog is that racial categories are a fabrication of the human imagination used to justify resource hording. There is no sound, conclusive, scientific basis for racial categories. To highlight the futility of thinking in these terms, I recently heard that the fastest growing racial demographic is "mixed". Thinking racially leads to an illogical, emotional mess for policy makers and people in generall.

    When people frame their thinking using categories that are at once both empty and meaningless while also being horribly divisive, I think it is a good idea trash the categories altogether, no?

  38. "I think one reason why white people prefer assimilation is that if we're all melted into the same cultural pot, then race shouldn't matter. We aren't there yet, but diversity initiatives seem like a good way to help bring it about. "

    The whole Melting Pot idea doesn't wash b/c it doesn't affect white people - other than to keep their comfort level in place.

    White folks don't jump into the melting pot and come out more informed about or involved with other cultures. They don't jump into the melting pot and come out with their power structures suddenly changed to represent POCs.

    The melting pot changes nothing for white folks, it just ensures that THEIR status quo remains intact, and that they don't have to change a damn thing.

  39. Interesting...
    At Ohio Linuxfest, we're having a "Diversity in Open Source" Day, but that started out as "Women in Open Source" not "Black People in Open Source."

  40. miajere:
    OK I'm with you on that "diversity program" thing. It's really insulting to hear "you're a girl, so you'll get in easy." I don't think I've heard the follow-up to that yet: "you only got in because you're a girl," but I probably won't be surprised when I do.

  41. mthgk: Thanks for your mathematical input. As a biracial/bicultural person myself, I see where you're coming from when you say the numbers are grey. (I got my numbers from government population estimates, but the speciousness of those is a whole 'nother post.)

    The way I feel is, when I start getting some white privelege, then we can talk about whether I want a white person or POC to represent me. Because at this place in time, white people aren't qualified to represent anybody but their own demographic.

    That's just one of the questions our changing population raises. When we get to a place where non-whitemales are fully represented, we'll still have a lot of sorting out to do. I wanna just get there.

    Racial categories are a fabrication of the human imagination used to justify resource hording."

    No kidding. This is absolutely true. But as long as the people in power still pretend race is a significant difference, we have to pretend it is too in order to tear it down. To ignore it because it's technically not there is the worst kind of colorblindness.

  42. Oh, my fault, I guess I just misread you on representation. Having POC accurately represented seems more than fair.

    "For me, and most anti-racists, the point isn't to get where everyone's so similar that race doesn't matter. It's for racial DIFFERENCES to not matter. Diversity initiatives are usually geared towards the former."

    Heh, I can't really argue with that. They may or may not be a stepping stone to better things, but I'd be very surprised if most diversity initiatives were actually intended to produce real change.

    "The whole Melting Pot idea doesn't wash b/c it doesn't affect white people - other than to keep their comfort level in place."

    I thought about that but didn't really explore it. Now that I think about it again, I'm not sure that's actually true.

    For one thing, there are more and more POC in this country - whites have a diminishing share in what American culture looks like. And in what its power structure looks like. If it were up to the majority of white people, McCain would be president right now (shudder).

    Also, whites are pretty diverse. Dejamorgana, it's kind of interesting to me that you bring up the Anglicization of names. I've been thinking lately that the "white" culture that so many different kinds of people (now considered white) have already been assimilated into is a very English sort of culture, and most of our racial issues in this country stem from English class structures and the religious and pseudo-scientific rationalizations thereof.

    But despite this assimilation, white people vary significantly in culture and appearance depending on region, class, and ethnic origin. A wealthy banker living in NYC is pretty different from a redneck in Appalachia, and they're both different from a lesbian in California and from a suburban Midwestern housewife. White culture is not a monolith. Would we necessarily have to erase differences in order to include even more types of people? Maybe, maybe not - I guess it depends on what "assimilation" looks like.

    mthgk, I have to say, I totally agree with Witty Mulatto on this one. It's good to recognize that racial categories are not rigorously scientifically defined, but I don't think it's a good idea to let that fact obscure the mass delusion that is, unfortunately, our reality.

  43. Mecca in the house...

    Anyway, on the issue of diversity at HBCUs, since many white folks think all black people are the same, they cannot imagine that a place with mainly black people could be diverse.

    Despite going to schools that have mainly white people.

  44. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRQieGR1iUU

  45. Stuff white people do: feel the need to constantly state that white people are a all diverse, independent, special, unique, individuals

    lest we forget since this is already the dominant assumption in Western culture.

  46. Teaching ESL in Philadelphia (anywhere, I imagine), my class is a mixed bag of ethnicities and cultures. I am the lone Caucasian. During the course of any given year, all of us learn how similar, yet different we are. We are all in this together. Last year, my 8th graders drew a mural of a "tossed salad"--many different ingredients (us), with a common purpose and goals. We all agreed that a "melting pot" mentality obliterates our individual characteristics, where a "salad" enhances us. The mural includes the value of friendships and respect, and is signed by all of us, and marks the months or years each have been together as a group.
    The mural is hot-glued above the classroom whiteboard as a mantra and encouragement to all who enter!

  47. If NOW were called National Organization For And Of White Middle Class Women, then I would get your argument. Then it would be silly of me to think they need to start representing me.

    But that's not their name.


    The Witty Mulatto, this was a great post. You pinpointed exactly what bothers me so much about American "diversity." I also feel I was only included in things because I was a "safe" black girl....

  48. Bluey, what's the basis for saying that if it were up to whites, John McCain would be president right now? Didn't Obama win by a landslide amongst the whole population?

    I know for a fact that most white people in my area didn't support McCain. On election night my wife and I were at a concert with several hundred people. At least 98% of the crowd was white. Voting results were coming in during the concert, and the lead singer (a white guy) was watching them on a laptop on stage and kept announcing the numbers in between songs - and the whole (white) crowd went absolutely wild with joy. People were more excited about the election than they were about the concert. If anybody in that crowd voted for McCain, they sure were being quiet about it.

    I know this is a straw man argument, but it annoys me no end to see people trying to retcon Obama's amazing victory into some kind of battle that white people lost. I'm a white guy, and I voted for Obama -and I'll do it again next time around (especially if his opponent is Sarah Palin).

  49. Dejamorgana, more whites voted for McCain than for Obama. Here's CNN's exit polls - http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#USP00p1

    Now, I just read somewhere else that this is a fairly standard breakdown between Republican candidates and Democratic candidates even when they're both white, but it's pretty clear that the number of POC in this country has an effect on politics.

    That's certainly not to say that Obama didn't have broad support among whites. I'm white and I voted for Obama too, and so did all my white friends - even the more racist ones.

  50. "the values of people of color."

    I have never understood how these values differ from my values as w white person. But I am curious to hear some specifics, and how these would be implemented in an institution.

    Is Howard University run differently, in ways that reflect the values of black people? I'd be curious to hear more about this. And what are white values? Are these the values of all whites?

    Also I just read your list of euphemisms for white but I didn't see "poor people" as in "....these cutbacks will more severely affect minorities and poor people"

  51. I just stumbled onto this blog by accident. Not being an American I'm just curious as to the things being said on here.

    People of African decent (Black People) have been in America for hundreds of years and people of white decent (Typically European people) have also been in America for hundreds of years. I can understand how an organization which is comprised of mostly white people would like to have workers of color in their company. Obviously, so that there company doesn't look too white, as that would look racist and being racist in America just doesn't cut it anymore, especially in a company.

    So hire a couple of good educated people of color and race and Voila, you have a 'diverse' team.

    I understand all this completely - That's how America works. However, the blacks in America and Whites in America have been in America for hundreds of years. The blacks no longer behave like blacks. It's not that they want to be white. Go to Africa and you will really see how Africans are - Nothing like Afro-Americans. And white Americans are no longer like Europeans. A new identity has been forged in the USA with or without you knowing it.

    Bring a guy from South Africa, a French Guy, a Moroccan and a Russian into a company and that would be real 'diversity' as these people have been raised in their irrespective countries and cultures.

    However, put a Latino from New York, a Black Man from LA and a white guy from Michigan in a company - you will have a racially diverse team (At least from the way that they look) but they are all Americans. They behave like Americans and talk like Americans.

    If you put the American born Latino in Mexico he won't fit in, put the Black guy back in Kenya and put the white guy in Scotland or England and see if they feel at home.

    Good luck to you all in trying to work out how things are run. However, people in power will always stay in control as the rest of the population keeps on trying to understand the race issue.

  52. "Diversity" can also include the straight-acting gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

  53. I actually have to say that this is an extremely prejudice article. Being a young white female who goes to a 'diverse' university in Chicago, it's hard to hear someone say things that are so narrow minded and misled. Not ALL white people think this way. Not ALL white people think of race when they hear the word diversity.

    I know when I look around the classroom and see people of other races than myself, I don't think, 'wow, this school is so diverse.'
    This belief you have of white people is completely hypocritical. You should be careful about what you say about a certain race and how they think, act or feel.

    Saying 'all white people think the word diversity is all about race' is as stereotypical of saying 'all black people like to listen to hip hop.'

  54. Meagan, look around here more closely, please, starting with this blog's subtitle. What mostly gets talked about here are common white tendencies. No one's making claims here about what ALL white people everywhere do.

  55. Hmmm. I came to this site accidentally. While researching for my Independent Study.

    I found this article as another African American feeling discriminated against and outnumbered in the working environment.

    I am not racist in any way shape or form but if you are to just look at High school dropout rates minorities have a big slice of that pie, and with out that diploma they cannot achieve the "high-end" jobs they fail to make because they do not have the proper education. As time goes on the the number of all races will eventually even out and hopefully that will end all of these race wars that are secretly in the veins of people.

  56. As a white guy, I find myself in agreement with this article and could not have been worded any better. The whites in question wish to increase inclusion of other peoples just to make the statement that their organization in question has increased its "diversity." That is all, this blog made my day.


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