Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Diversity Dividend

So this has popped up in my Google+ stream some time back, and I read it, and I think that while it's very well and passionately argued, it misses one thing, something that I've pointed out from time to time. It's weird, because for me it's in plain sight. But, as my father would tell me: "The definition of 'obvious' is something that is crystal-clear that you are the only person who sees it."

Think about it: A panel on diversity with no diversity on it. The outrage would be immediate, even from people of color. And yet maybe that is what should happen. And maybe the first question should be why do we need a black person on a panel to talk about inclusion when it’s the white person who needs to figure out how to include?
But I think that White people already know how to include, even if that sometimes means they define "inclusiveness" as having access to "ethnic" restaurants. What I suspect they don't know is why to include. For a long time in the country, White people managed perfectly well for themselves without giving a rip about Black people, Asians or Native Americans; and for a time, even Germans, Irish and Poles. Those last three groups (among others) weren't eventually integrated into what we now understand as "White," because it was good for them. It happened because it was good for the people who considered themselves the gatekeepers of "Whiteness."

The same is true today. We can say all we want that: "It’s for the white person to be less racist," and "It’s for the bigot to stop attacking trans people," but if those people don't understand what's in it for them, they're going to carry on with business as usual - because it works for them. And that's what they care about.

Diversity needs to stop being an obligation and become a product. Instead of being something that we saddle people with, we should make it into something that they want badly enough to pay something for. When someone sees the adoption of diversity as the shortest route between where they are, and where they want to be, they'll trample you in their haste to embrace it. People display, and identify, with racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia not because these things are understood as affirmative Goods, but because they understand that in a world where those hierarchies are in place, they do better for themselves than a world that's more diverse and inclusive. I'm a firm believer in teaching a man than he has everything he needs. But I also understand that it rarely works. If people are always going to see themselves as needy, perhaps the way to drive their support for the better world we want them to implement is to show them how they'll be less needy once they've done it.

As long as diversity is a pricey favor from the mainstream to the marginalized, its going to be slow going. When it becomes a favor from the mainstream to the mainstream that pays clear dividends, wild horses won't be able to drag them away.

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