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.