A Brief Meditation on Diversity and Duhversity
Allow me to be selfish. How relevant is diversity to me? Me, as in Korean-born, soon to be American citizen (hopefully), educated on the border of the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem, awkward teenager currently attending a Catholic university in the Midwest? I’m honestly going to say not very much. Or at least, not in the way that Raymond A. Winbush thinks is diversity.
Winbush mocks the government and certain white experts in their definition of diversity. In their attempts to force diversity through affirmative action, they have created not real diversity, but “duhversity,” a white man’s safety blanket. Rather than attempt to integrate different cultures and understand why there are racial problems, what they are trying to do is just have a clean ratio of white people to black people. Duhversity is a concept that the government is comfortable with. It was a quick solution and statistically more pleasing. But is it a “fake” diversity?
Sure, the example of Tennessee State University being court-ordered to increase acceptance of white students over black students shows that there are flaws in affirmative action, but I don’t believe affirmative action creates false diversity. Winbush finds fault with that AA forces white people to mix with black people, rather than encouraging discussion of the race issues. And affirmative action in that way does sound like a quick solution to a complicated problem. But the thing with people is that they like to talk. It is inevitable that if you throw in a bunch of different people in one room, someone will start talking to another someone. And that is what I see here at Notre Dame.
Sure, it isn’t the most ideal situation. Most people tend to stick with people of their own race, whether that is intentional or not, but there is definitely crossing over. Case example: me. I am most of my friends’ first Asian friend. Heck, I’m pretty sure I’m their first non-Caucasian friend. I have prodded them in the direction of seeking out diversity. I ask them uncomfortable questions. I tell them my uncomfortable opinions. I make them think uncomfortable thoughts. And that’s not duhversity. That’s diversity.
The issue, in my opinion, is not with this idea of a duhversity, but instead that affirmative action is purely based on race. This is what I think affirmative action is: it is a way for underprivileged people to have as level a playing field as the privileged people have. In universities and colleges, it is a way for college admissions staff to take into account that there are people of certain ethnicity who do not have the same support and opportunities as people of another ethnicity do. Thus the former have to try that much harder in order to obtain the same results. And a lot of the time, just because you are a minority that does that mean you are less privileged! And in the same way, just because you aren’t a minority doesn’t mean you aren’t less privileged.
So affirmative action is trying to empower these specific racial categories and thus accepting these general classifications that caused the problems in the first place. It is a very awkward process.
Now back to my first question. How do I benefit from all this? What does diversity do for me? As an Asian, I don’t benefit from affirmative action. In fact, affirmative action hurts me. Asians are well represented in most prestigious universities across the nation, and an impressive percentage of Asians attend college. So when affirmative action strives to diversify campuses and the workforce, it skips over the Asians, because we don’t need that extra help. And in that sense, diversity is not relevant to me. As an Asian, I am separate from this idea of diversity. I don’t know if I like it. Does that make me superior?
I do think that something like affirmative action is necessary. It is hard to deny that there are socioeconomic problems linked to race still in America, and it is a commendable effort in trying to level the playing field for those who have been discriminated against for generations. But is affirmative action a quick solution? Is it throwing attention away from the multitudes of other issues that are all linked together, such the American education system itself? For now, I am leaning on the side of affirmative action.