Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Trouble with Diversity, pt. 3

While re-reading Frederick Douglass's Narrative as part of our summer reading program, I was reminded of two ways he convinced northerners to address enslavement. For one, he highlighted just how troubling conditions were for enslaved black people. He also talked about how slavery also deprived white people.

I want to avoid easy analogies, but I do wonder if we can take some lessons from Douglass in order to address so-called "diversity" at academic institutions. Most folks agree that "diversity is good." You hear everyone talking about the need for diversity, even when there is clearly vast differences in what folks might mean by the term diversity.

Perhaps we should do a little more to articulate the problems that emerge with a lack of diversity. What happens, for instance, when black faculty and students are regularly excluded from decision-making processes at SIUE and other universities? What harm occurs when black people and various "people of color" are viewed as objects of diversity as opposed to active participants in the development of more new formulations?

(By the way, I'm aware that we could insert various diverse subjects positions instead of "black people," but in this space, well, I tend to focus on black interests).

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