Thursday, June 14, 2007

Retire "diversity"

One of the catch phrases that I absolutely hate are calls to "celebrate diversity." Yesterday afternoon, city development commissioner Rocky Marcoux and a woman from a Menominee Valley industry group kept repeating the phrase on WMCS in connection with an event they are sponsoring this Saturday.

There was nothing wrong with the substance of what they said. They appear to have done some great things in the valley. But I found the invocations of "diversity" to be only slightly less annoying than a cat in heat dragging her claws across a chalkboard.

Why is that? I am not oblivious to the need for inclusion. As I have blogged before, despite my opposition to racial preferences, honesty compels me to admit that I have practiced them. Recently, in connection with the work of a search committee that I chair, my same-sex marriage opposing self went out of the way to make clear to candidates that a welcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians was a material and non-negotiable condition of the job. I realized a long time ago that, to the extent I have an innate bias in hiring, it is in favor of women and I have to be careful about it. I can do "diversity." Why can't I stand the word?

I think the term has been co-opted. When I hear the word diversity, I hear someone who believes that people are defined by their gender or ethnicity to a greater degree than they are. I hear someone who believes that people ought to be treated on the basis of their gender or ethnicity to a greater extent than they should be. I hear someone who is being less than candid on issues of gender and diversity, suggesting that the only obstacles to a world resembling a perfectly proportionate rainbow are bad faith and ignorance. I hear people for whom diversity is nothing more than a multi-hued orthodoxy.

In fairness, I can't say that either Marcoux or his colleague believe any of this. It's just that, for me, the word has become hopelessly tainted. It has become, for me, a sort of "screwphemism" - a word that is meant to convey tolerance and openmindedness, but which now suggests the opposite.


John McAdams said...

As for:

. . . a welcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians was a material and non-negotiable condition of the job.

I hope you were not insisting that the candidates had to approve of homosexual sex acts.

If you were, you were discriminating against people with orthodox Christian beliefs.

Expecting people to act professionally is a different matter.

I do think that you should press candidates to be "welcoming" toward Christians.

I today's world (at least in the circles in which you move) that is more questionable than being welcoming toward homosexuals.

Anonymous said...

Maybe his committee was searching for bartenders at La Cage.

Rick Esenberg said...


No, actually I made quite clear that they need not, although, Ironically, for this job, adherence to orthodox Christian beliefs - in the sense of affirmance of the creeds and of the divinity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the primacy of Scripture (if not a particular interpretation of it) was, in fact, another material and nonnegotiable condition.

But you are absolutely right about at least some of the circles in which I move.

John McAdams said...

Sounds like you were hiring a minister or something.

I doubt the test of orthodoxy is something you would feel relevant for a new associate in your law firm!

But it sounds to me difficult to have a minister with an "accepting" attitude toward homosexuals who believes the Bible and traditional Christian teaching on the issue.

It's not that it's theoretically impossible. "Hate the sin and love the sinner" is the operative principle.

The problem is that so many gays are going to feel "accepted" only if they are told that homosexual acts are fine.

They will insist on it.

Thus, they will not view their sexual orientation as a temptation to sin that they need to fight against.

Nor will they view it as a purely private matter. They will want the congregation to know that they have homosexual partners, and to have the congregation accept the homosexual relationship.

But maybe your experience has been different. Maybe you have gays and lesbians in your congregation who are not demanding to have homosexuals acts accepted (being accepted as people is another matter), and members who reject homosexual sex acts, but aren't out to purge all sinners from the body.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure anyone could, in an ethically sound fashion, approve any particular sex act *in principle.* I myself would have to see each "act" done, or at least be regaled with a blow-by-blow account, to know the circumstances, to determine if I "approved" or not.

As for 'diversity'--marcoux should be focused on economic diversity. the more the better. Notice that "class" is always omitted from "diversity discourse." There are just "the poor" and everybody else, and "the poor" are typically, wrongly assumed to be "minorities" in need of "help."

The people who believe this most tend to be white, wealthy or close to it, and located far from the city and its public schools. You know, like Marquette faculty. Bleeding heart suburblicans leaving a trail of blood and tears on their daily commute. Subjecting themselves to "diversity" yammer and rules is a feel-good soft asceticism, the light lash they use to flagellate their ineradicable "white guilt."

Rick Esenberg said...

The only Marquette faculty that have commented here are not big fans of diversity yammer.

Lew Wasserman said...

The liberal definition of "diversity" is a group of people that look different but have the same political and social philosophy.

James Rowen said...

Why are some straight people so hung up (read: fascinated?) by gay people and what they do