No. 3: Thoughts on Diversity Culture and on the Difference Between Objective and Sociological Diversity
June 5, 2014
This article for a long time now has stuck with me, I’ve returned to it several times and it stands out to me as an expression of what might be called “Diversity Culture,” and I thought, for the sake of posting new content, I might explore the concept a little. You’ll have to excuse me then if this is a little rambly.
The author, Rebecca Carroll, in her xoJane bio, describes herself thusly:
I am the Managing Editor at xoJane. Before that I was the Managing Editor at The Aesthete, and have held senior editorial positions at Artinfo, The Huffington Post and PAPER magazine. I am also the author of books (including Sugar in the Raw, and Saving the Race) and stuff and stuff and things, which have appeared in a broad array of publications, such as The New York Times, The New York Observer, GOOD, , and The Daily Beast. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, a college professor, marathon runner and former DJ who is slightly obsessed with sneaker laces, and our 8-year-old son, who has never met a sport he can’t learn to obsess over.
She is part of what, in my opinion, is one of the strangest, most delusive, and most frightening wings of Social Justice ideology, black, female feminists. People like Melissa Harris Perry and websites like Black Girl Dangerous exemplify this breed of Social Justice. To give you a few examples of the sort of mental instability you’re almost guaranteed to encounter with this class of Social Justice Warrior:
- “Why I Don’t Date White Men,” “Personally, I have also had trouble imagining intimate relationships with white men. This is because the history of oppression, exploitation, and dehumanization of Black women’s bodies by white men is searingly painful and enraging for me. Too often, vestiges of that uneven historical relationship are present in my mind and invariably color my observations of contemporary black woman/white man interactions.”
- “Trayvon and George: Why This Case is Really about Women,” “Unlike many people, I don’t actually blame those women on the jury. I firmly believe that women have been so deeply brainwashed by racism and patriarchy that we can’t trust each other or see each other as fellow human beings. We are so separated that we can’t even empathize around common experiences like the death of a child. White women and women of color may make meaningful individual connections but those require true openness, empathy, and a willingness to check your privilege. Moreover, it requires the ability for us to acknowledge that while our struggles are similar, sisters who are of color, poor, not native born Americans, and/or not straight are not just affected by sexism but also by racism, classism, xenophobia, and heterosexual bias. Our psyches are so damaged by white male patriarchy that we don’t even realize that we are taught to fear and marginalize black teenagers with Skittles wearing hoodies.”
There is something disturbingly pathological about pieces like this, and Carroll’s in particular at times feels so out of touch with reality so as to feel genuinely, well, crazy:
“When Trayvon Martin was shot, my son was concerned about how the shooting might impact his own life, but also mine, his mother’s: “Will people shoot you because of the way you look? Will they shoot you and me?”
I explained that yes, there was a chance that people might shoot us because of how we look, because we are black, because there is a long history of violence and unrest between black and white people in America — a power struggle, residual anger and hatred — and we, black people, and especially young black boys, are left with the burden of fear that we might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Her son, who is only eight-years-old, here asks his mother, the one person in the world who is supposed to protect, comfort, and shield him from the pain of the world more than any other, if, because of Trayvon Martin, she will be taken away from him by a random, racially motivated act of violence. In my mind, the correct and only answer to this question should be: “No darling, it’s ok, you know mommy would never leave you,” but Carroll, instead, elects for a different, far more unsettling route in which, rather than comforting her son, she foists her unhealthy, delusive, and ideologically toxic views about race onto her innocent son in a deliberate attempt to induce fear and worry in him.
I mentioned at the start that this article sticks out in my head because it’s simply too perfect in how absolutely disconnected from things it is. Is there really any danger whatsoever of this woman being gunned down in the street by bloodthirsty racist zealot of the Right-Wing?
She’s a professional ideologue, her husband, a white sociology professor. They live in Brooklyn. She was raised by her adoptive, white parents in “a rural community of farmers, mechanics, gas attendants, school teachers and librarians, a small enclave of artists and craftspeople, and an even smaller number of wealthy New Englanders, often patrons of the arts who had moved to the area from cities like Boston to raise their children in a bucolic setting.” Her father, one of these ‘artists,’ was awarded a MacArthur grant in 2006. While visiting with her son she attends charity barbeques, cavorts with her family’s wealthy friends and stays “at the unoccupied cottage owned by family friends.”
All in all, it sounds like a pleasant holiday surrounded by family and friends, right? Well, that would be if it weren’t for one tiny problem that is:
“I am always cognizant of the extreme whiteness of Warner”
“Even my 8-year-old son thinks it’s arcane,” she boasts at one point, that there would be a community like this, full of nasty, icky white people, “Who are these people and why did they bring me here to this town surrounded by all these white people?” She asks herself about her loving parents.
“On our second day, Kofi and I went out for breakfast with my parents at a hometown restaurant, owned and operated by a local family — the waitress had been a few years behind me in school; the hostess familiar from the post office.
We had just sat down to look at our menus when Kofi leaned over to me after surveying the other customers in the relatively packed dining area, and whispered, genuinely mystified: “Mom, why is everyone here white?””
It should be obvious by this point what makes this article just so darn curious, here we have a privileged black woman, raised by well-to-do intellectual parents looking down, with disgust almost, on a waitress who was beyond any question whatsoever vastly less ‘privileged’ than herself. A girl she went to highschool with, a townie, someone who never had the chances she did, who wasn’t raised by well-connected, sophisticated parents, one of the “farmers, mechanics, gas attendants, school teachers and librarians,” who had the nerve to not be diverse, to all be white! Where do they get off? Oh doesn’t it just steam you up?
What I wanted to discuss her is demonstrated quite nicely by the extreme lack of self-awareness on display by Carroll here. We do, in fact, live in a Post-Racial society, one in which the concept of Race is used as a decoy to prevent the ascendent value structure of 21st century American society from being conceptualized and critically commented upon.
To continue to conceptualize our contemporary society in terms of race is to immediately lose the argument for people who have anything even remotely negative to say, because, as I’m sure we’ve all seen, to do so is to expose yourself at once to the charge of ‘Reverse-Racism,’ in the same way that Feminists legally define rape in such a way so as to conceptually exclude even the very possibility of a man being raped, so too does Sociology define Racism, so as to render all racially motivated discrimination of unjust mistreatment of ‘white’ people forever impossible.
When we say “Diversity” we must distinguish between objective diversity, on the one hand, and what I would describe as sociological diversity on the other.
If you were to collect together a room full of Christians, of Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Methodists, Baptists, Mormans, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is objectively speaking, a very diverse group of individuals, sociologically speaking however, it is completely homogenous.
Add a Muslim into the mix, now you have a little diversity. Add another, a little more. Take away the Christians one by one and replace them Muslims one by one and resulting group of people would likely be considered very diverse, even if they were all members of the same church and in terms of belief were entirely and utterly homogenous.
Sociology establishes a canonical set of “Minority” groups, people whose presence in a place Sociology permits us to say increases its “Diversity.” These are, in no particular order: Blacks, Hispanics or Latinos, Asians, Indians, Native Americans or other Aborigine individuals, Muslims, Jews, Women, Homosexuals, and Transgendered individuals. To a lesser extent there are several whose status is less universal that are, especially now, in the process of asserting recognition by Sociology of their legitimacy as “Minorities,” these being Fat (Women), “Gender Non-Conforming” individuals (whatever that means), the Disabled, Mentally ‘Unhealthy’ individuals, etc.
These groups are, I think, as a set, inseparable. As different denominations of Christians are to the concept of Christianity, so are these canonical groups to the concept of “Diversity.”
In the same way that a group of Muslims gathered in a room contains no Christians, a group of “White People” gathered in a room contains no “Diversity,” which is to say, the basis of diversity here is not objective, and that the canonical minority groups are a product of theoretical analysis by Sociologists of what we might call the object, the abstract idea of “Society” as their discipline theoretically conceives it.
What’s going on here is somewhat difficult to wrap our heads around, as we are so used to the conceptual division of society using the concept of race, that to break completely free of the frame this concept imposes on our thinking is genuinely a challenge.
To return to Carroll’s article, consider her disgust with her surroundings, where does her contempt arise from? The lack of diversity? What does that mean though? Sociological Diversity has an attendant culture. I visited New York last weekend and that would likely be considered by Carroll to be a very diverse place, but the prevalence of diversity there refers only to a culture in which the residents of New York City by and large participate in, a culture that stands in stark opposition to the rural culture of “White People.”
The cultural ingroup consists of both members of the canonical minority groups, or people who interpret themselves as belonging to, as well as ‘white’ people who identify with the attendant Diversity culture. This is why there continues to be such expansion of identification with ‘alternative’ gender-identities for example, people who identify with Diversity culture consequently will conceptualize themselves as somehow being so by contriving a minority group for themselves to belong to.
This culture oozes sentimentality.
It is a culture where to overcome opposition or rather, to succeed in the face of the mere non-acceptance by others of aspects of your lifestyle, appearance etc. is valued as the highest success an individual can attain to. In the culture of homogeneity that lingers in some of the country’s more rural areas, the value is a different one, the sacrifice of one’s personal ambitions, happiness, and comfort within a system of unfairness or hardship in order to conform and thereby provide for one’s own family.
As seen on many recent sitcoms, like Community, Happy Endings, or How I Met Your Mother, the cells of Diversity Culture are not families, but rather an incestuous circle of overly involved friends bound together by sentimental indulgence and group vanity. As the family might be considered a microcosm of the old culture of Homogeneity, these groups serve as microcosms of society under Diversity culture.
I believe the articulation of a new culture is essential to the opposition of this worldview, more important than the resistance of it politically or the dismantling of it theoretically even. The sentimentality of Diversity culture and the emotional incentives it creates are needless to say incredibly appealing, though how to create a culture of Reaction is still an open question….