I am going to just put this out there right up front: I hate the word diversity. Hate. It. And I don’t hate much so that is not a word I am using lightly. So, I’m going to have a little rage blackout for a few lines and then get to a more rational place where a deeper dive can be done on why this such a misguided, stupid, narrow minded and, ultimately, privileged concept. It is because it keeps those with power in power as they show how much they simply looooove assisting members of ‘diverse’ (aka marginalized) communities.
A BBQ here, a home built there, a donation over there. And I don’t hate those things because they’re needed. What I hate is that they’re needed in the first place. What I hate is that we put so many people under the diversity blanket and then we sew rainbows on to it to say, ‘see, it’s not so bad! We’re shoving you over the cliff of society and hope enjoy your trip! But, before you go, look there’s a whole day/walk/event devoted just to you!’. What happens the other 364 days, after the event, is anyone’s guess.
In order to make sure my anger and indignation were justified; I Googled the word diversity to see what it literally meant. It means variety, a range of different things; an assortment, mix, mixture, melange. Okay, fine. So let’s pretend diversity is represented as fruit salads, and one salad is, let’s say, non-diverse and the other is representative of ‘diversity’. In societal terms the ‘diverse’ fruit salad would be ethnic and racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, maybe the disabled and so on. In fruit salad terms this would mean some peaches, some pomegranate seeds, some cherries if someone is particularly avant-garde and so on.
The non-diverse, but, nevertheless, fruit salad, would have some apples, some pears; bananas and maybe some citrus. Different, one might even say ‘diverse’ fruits but they just seem to belong together and because they blend so well together, it is best they do not intermingle with the ‘other really diverse fruits’. In societal terms this less diverse fruit salad would be white, heteronormative, mostly male and non-disabled folks.
All of this is to say that, embedded in a heaping pile of a fruit salad example, is the lie of institutionalized racism, structural oppression and the false dichotomies we create to decide who should stick with whom; amplifying the more diverse, or, marginalized fruit, if you will, if and when the privileged see fit. So, it’s okay for certain types of fruit to be together, but, when that fruit starts mixing with other fruit well, that’s just….. gross. And, maybe even a little bit weird.
So, there’s one super diverse (aka marginalized) fruit salad community over there, trapped in its bowl, while the rest of society plods along in a separate, but, much nicer and roomier bowl. A bowl that will be loved and valued; cleaned and treated with kid gloves as it’s passed down from generation to generation. But, they’re all bowls and they’re all fruit salad so…..right, okay. Glad that’s cleared up.
Except for the fact that, I have had a fruit salad full of privilege and I have also have had, and been in the company of those, thought to belong in a more marginalized bowl. So, I ask again, where is this ‘diverse community’ that is so separate from myself, that it can only be recognized on a ‘special day’ or at a fundraiser or on a walk?
In my view, they are here with me. Beside me, shoulder to shoulder as we each experience life. And those experiences will be vastly different, and our stories will be singular but, our destinies, are ultimately shared. We’re all just walking each other home. The problem is, because of my privilege, those who are considered more ‘diverse’ (aka marginalized) haven’t known that I was beside them. They haven’t because I didn’t often enough leap out of my bowl and into theirs and that’s on me to fix.
When terrorists strike, when World Wars have been fought, all the glass of all of the bowls that separate us suddenly get shattered and we suddenly realize that none of us are the same except that we are all human and, in the recognition of that, we unite in the face of terror and the separation ceases and for a moment it’s beautiful and we say: ‘never again.’. And then we get comfortable and we get complacent and we allow a xenophobe or a misogynist or both rise to power and lines are again sharply drawn. The glass of the bowls are pieced back together and we each go right back to where we belong with the fruit we seem to belong more to.
So, I guess now that I am in a more rational place I can see that I don’t hate the word diversity because we are all unique, and, when we do come together we create a unique and diverse mix. Turns out what I hate is when the word diversity is casually, carelessly and thoughtlessly thrown around. When it becomes a code, which it often does, for marginalized. When someone else’s “diversity” puts them at a lower rung on the ladder while someone who is, you know, still of course unique but just….. less diverse…. can pull them up the ladder with: a BBQ, a walk, a fundraiser and bring them that much closer to the sun.
And it also contains the added benefit of making that ‘diverse’ person feel indebted forever to the person who pulled them up the ladder in the first place. The person who, in a way, owns them and to whom they suddenly owe their whole life. The person to whom they must always be grateful because a rung was set aside just for diverse and special them and they will never be allowed to forget this because whoever gave them that rung will always be higher up the ladder because they own the damn ladder with roots that trace all the way back to slavery.
When I was in university, ironically, in a post-colonial (which is not really a real thing) literature class, one lesson I’ll never forget, was when the professor told us we were each starting the class with an “A” and we would each be given the same opportunities to either keep the “A” or to lose it. Imagine if that were applied to society and we each had a ladder, we were each close to the sun and we each had the freedom to go up and down as much as we chose, freely, in our own lives. If we truly saw diversity and used that word accurately, we would see that all of us are diverse so then really none of us are diverse. But, when diversity is tossed around like a fruit salad, and when it becomes a palatable code word for marginalized, we see the world as it appears in 2020.
We see a world that casually designates an ‘other’ and an ‘other’ is rarely, if ever seen as good. So, the diverse group, yeah, they can be maligned and thrown in cages. Diverse group over there, yes, you can be murdered by an officer, in the street while it is getting committed to film and there can then be a debate about whether or not to arrest those officers. That’s cool. You can also then protest for your right to survive and be subjected to even more violence. We create these palatable categories under the guise of diversity to keep people in their places and to justify why it’s okay for us to be in ours. But all categories, even when they get coated in rainbows and sprinkles and goodness and fundraising are arbitrary, pointless, ultimately, useless and precursors to further marginalization at best and violence at worst.
Why do the privileged want to push back against the cause of “Black Lives Matter” with a refrain of “All Lives Matter” when they are perfectly comfortable with other distinctions that better serve them? Ohhhhh, wait, that’s why; because that one doesn’t serve them at all. Of course, all lives matter. Of course they do. But, we all know that the more diverse and, therefore, more marginalized lives, are not treated as though they do.
We are seeing that play out this week as we have seen it play out for centuries. The forms and the mechanisms and the weaponry and the tactics may be different but the underlying message is the same: your life doesn’t matter until someone with privilege says it does. Until someone with privilege lets you into their bowl for a BBQ, or, a fundraiser, or, a walk and then, as soon as the shine wears off of the event tells you to go back with your own fruit, your own kind. Well, the glass is shattered now, there are no more bowls; everything is in pieces and it’s about damn time. It’s about time we were each forced out of what we believe to be our assigned places and truly walk shoulder to shoulder with each other, all the way home.
Originally published at https://bringforth.wordpress.com on June 1, 2020.