Thursday, 8 September 2016

The cocoon of diversity

In my lifetime the cause of civil rights has transformed the lives of millions in what we now call 'minorities'. From the gradual liberation of women and allowing gay people to actually live free lives through to the insistence on equal treatment for people with different skin colours, we live in a very different, and more civilised, society than we did when I was born.

I also know that prejudice continues - from the laughable idea that someone can't be English because they've a slightly darker skin through to the casual way in which women, gay people and the disabled are excluded. In some ways what we do goes too far - positive discrimination tends to favour those individuals from minorities who probably need the least help and the straightjacket of 'protected characteristics' leaves some groups facing prejudice without recourse to the protection offered to others.

Now the problem is that, with all this placing of people into discrete groups - ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual preference, age - we have allowed groupthink to take over with the result that far from an inclusive, united and open society we have one characterised by self-segregation, exclusion and mistrust. A sort of self-imposed apartheid is growing from this corrupted soil:

Robert Lopez, a spokesman for the university, confirmed to The College Fix that the students’ demand for housing specifically for black students had been met, saying that the school’s new Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community “focuses on academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory.”

What sort of world have we come to where intelligent, educated young people want to segregate themselves from others purely on the basis of their skin colour? Don't get me wrong here - if a bunch of black students (or for that matter brown, yellow, red or white students) choose to live together that's entirely their business. But to demand, as students at California State University in Los Angeles did, that the college authorities set aside a place purely for this purpose is to make diversity a protective cocoon rather than a chance to realise that all those other folk - men, women, gay, straight, black, white, able-bodied, disabled - are just other human beings.

This process of segregation - shocking given the history of racial oppression in the USA - is spreading across college campuses even to the extent of segregated induction and segregated staff:

UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center held meetings separated by race July 11. “The center held two distinct sets of ‘processing’ meet-ups. First, two ‘processing circles,’ one for white staff and another for non-white staff, were held in the morning, followed by racially separated ‘processing meet-ups’ for students in the evening,”

It seems that, far from seeking engagement in society, a section of black America is trying to create parallel structures and organisations simply to prevent any risk of 'microaggressions' resulting from sharing space with white people. This attitude is not only very disturbing but, worse still, acts to reinforce the unpleasant view that black people don't want to be part of wider American society. Put simply, all the work done - from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King onwards - to get a society where minorities have equal rights is unfurling as these students, indulged by college authorities, recreate a world where group characteristics like skin colour, gender or disability are what defines a person not the 'content of their character'. And rather than this being a consequence of others prejudice it is rather the desire of these groups to avoid any place where words or actions might offend - a cocoon of diversity.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But didn't they spend years getting rid of apartheid?