Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the question: “What does diversity mean to you?” And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the response: “An old, old wooden ship, that was used during the Civil War era.” To tell you the truth, attempting to pin down diversity into a sentence or an article or an essay is a fruitless endeavor, as we have given a name to the most common aspect of humanity: the fact that we are all different.
However, pitting it as a social construct and shoving it down the throats of the youth, there are those that aim to somehow prove that because we are all different, we are all the same. It is because the 65 percent caucasian school I attended appears to have a issue with diversity, or the lack thereof, that I ask the following question: At what point does the notion, promotion and application of diversity become a detriment to society?
One major caveat must be put forth before we continue: I am not trying to make diversity out to be a good or a bad thing. Diversity, in its own right, is its own entity. As such, it deserves to be interpreted by the individual. However, following the mentality that even too much ice cream can be a bad thing, I will assert that the excessive promotion of diversity can lead to a diversity tummy ache.
When an entity, public or private, supports diversity, all they are saying is that they support the inherent differences between human beings. But what is expected by this support is something that has been socially constructed, and as a result, distorted to become a hot-topic buzzword. Though the intent is to show that the entity is progressive and inclusive, the true effect becomes the labeling of diversity as an issue. Even when diversity may not have been an issue before, the attention drawn in its direction implies there is one now.
Diversity is seen as the answer to all of the problems that are present in our society, or at least the problems that people see. Entities then try to promote it in the interest of combatting these issues.
Promotion of this concept most commonly comes in the form of diversity training workshops. In a short three-hour seminar, you too can become aware of all the people around you! Humorous is it that a company would pay for someone to come and tell you for three hours that you should watch what you say, or that there are different types of people out there.
Recent research at Eastern Washington University suggests that: “Many such programs garner negative reactions from participants. Charges of ‘political correctness’ and ‘white-male bashing’ may typify such responses.” Diversity workshops are but one example of how theoretical diversity promotion is viewed positively, but in practice it clashes with preconceived notions of the actors and polarizes opinions. Convictions of diversity are so far-flung among people that these workshops can have detrimental effects on those who attend them.
It is possible our method of thought leads us to believe that if only we had more diversity, or if only people could understand others better, all the problems of the world will be fixed. The misinterpretation of the issue has led to the radical promotion of it in ways that paint diversity as the issue. Our current idea of diversity doesn’t embrace the differences we have — it isolates them — and places them into categories while creating stereotypes. We are told in school and in the workplace that we should always be tolerant of others and their values. But when we are forced to identify with ideologies, races or ethnicities, we are also forced to take sides. “History is also littered with lost civilizations that failed to set high standards for appreciating the unique-ness of others while also recognizing a common humanity. Part of the human condition is struggling for this balance,” the researchers wrote.
This balance is the common ground that all must strive to stand on, as entrenching one’s self on either side of the battlefield only exacerbates the problem. Diversity has become a problem, not in the literal sense, but instead on the metaphorical level, where we struggle with the very idea of inclusionary acts and differences between humans. Such an instance can be found in higher education, where Anthony Kronman examines the role of diversity in that sector: “The diversity debate has tended to divide its participants into two sharply opposed camps — those who insist that racial and ethnic diversity is an educational good, and those who deny that it is … It is my belief — my hope — that one can be supportive of the diversity argument and skeptical about it at the same time.”
What Kronman is asserting is exactly how I would like to address diversity, something that we can all strive to understand, but in doing so, remain critical of its arguments.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking that you’re damn right the tree doesn’t make a sound if no one is there to hear it.