A few days ago, I was talking with a professor of mine. As our conversation progressed, he pulled out his phone and showed me an email he received from the President’s Council on Inclusiveness. The email was about “USD Faculty and Staff of Color Association.” My professor told me how ridiculous he thought this was. Diversity based solely on grouping people together by skin color, is the wrong kind to focus on.
From the email, the association seems to be open to everyone, which is of course a good thing. It aims to promote an exchange of ideas about race. If that is the extent of the association, then fine. Perhaps a change of name might be in order. USD, thus far, has not put on events I find to be troublesome, events where people, in the name of diversity, are excluded because of their color. To some, that might sound silly, but as I will show, it’s happened on other college campuses. So I offer a word of caution: USD must not use diversity as a guise or excuse for exclusion.
I’ll be the first to support diversity. I appreciate what makes us different: different perspectives, different opinions, different backgrounds and different beliefs. What makes diversity such a powerful tool is it brings together people with different abilities, which in turn, allows our society to tackle more problems. But, on a more personal level, it helps people become individuals.
Instead of evaluating people by immutable characteristics, we judge them by their beliefs, or in the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr., by the content of their character. That’s where true diversity lies: in individuals. It isn’t in skin color, it isn’t in gender or other some other surface level physical characteristic.
There is a right way to encourage diversity, but I worry that some strands of our society have gone in the wrong direction.
While there may be correlations between, say, skin color and experience, it’s important that we remember that people are defined by their beliefs, their convictions, their dreams, among other things. We should focus on those kinds of diversity. So to say that being a certain color or gender implies other characteristics is a dangerous road to travel.
Some universities, I would say, have traveled down this road, where people are grouped into categories and excluded because they weren’t a member of a minority group.
For example, at Pitzer College in California, an event was held called “Women and Non-Binary people’s gym day.” During a certain time frame, only women and non-binary people would be allowed in the gym. Men were banned. Period. This event was sponsored by Pitzer’s housing department.
On another occasion, at The New School in New York City, students demanded there be a people of color only space. Whites would not be allowed. What was meant to promote diversity and inclusion ended up excluding people, not to mention creating resentment from those not allowed. The space was not created, but nonetheless it’s concerning. Clearly, events like this are hardly the best way to promote a healthy community.
While USD has not held any events like these, it is nonetheless important to be aware of how we are promoting diversity. Events like these, while done so in the name of diversity and inclusion, do the opposite. They divide and segregate people.
Diversity should not be about putting people into groups. It should be about individuals and the respect people, especially people who are different or have different opinions, deserve. I am all for diversity. What I don’t want is segregation, where we divide people and do so in the name of diversity. That’s a dangerous road, one paved with good intentions, but dangerous nonetheless.