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What "Diversity" Means to Black People

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What do you all think about this meme?  For some time now, well over a decade I've been thinking about the term "diversity" in the content of what it means to Black people.


Basically the assumption is that if something is diverse Black people are included, but this is not true.  I recall reading a brochure about a private school my kid went to, in which the school proudly described themselves as 20% diverse, but my kid was the only Black child in her class of 40.


The same was true in most of the corporations I've worked for, on paper they were very diverse, but that diversity was not evident by the number of African Americans in the offices or cubicles.


Now diversity is a great thing.  I seek it in all facets on my life from the people I engage, to the food I eat, and the places I visit.  But when it comes to advocating fro Black people.  I find "diverse" efforts lacking.


You see diversity includes the LGBT community, Muslims, Christians, Women, atheists, the physically challenged, poor people, hispanics, Asians, native-Americans, mixed race and yes Black people.  


Usually the Black representation in diverse groups are token representation.  In fact, the Black people are often part of multiple groups.  Imagine a disabled, gay, black, female member of a diverse group; who are they advocating for?  Indeed forget the individual, is it possible for a group to do advocate effectively for all the disenfranchised groups?  


Diversity is the new Black, but Black people have been "Blacked Out" of these diversity initiatives--especially Black men...



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Diversity, of course, exists among black people.  We are not monolithic, what with how the culture of the underclass is different from the black middleclass and there's a gulf between black liberals and black conservatives. So using race to designate diversity is irrelevant. Or does diversity necessarily promote good will. 


America's entire population is a example of negative diversity.  There is no collective consciousness or common ethnicity in this country.  The great melting pot was a noble concept but the idea has eroded over time and the nation has become polarized by its differences rather than enriched by them.  People nowadays aren't that comfortable with diversity.  They would rather be around their own kind in order to avoid conflict.  

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I agree completely with you Cynique.  


In fact I would suggest what drives the Black community apart more than anything else is class.  


Today I was on twitter looking at the engagement on a post of an interview I published with David Oyelowo about the new film Selma.  Twitter often suggest celebrities to follow.  I always ignore these suggestions, because I don't follow celebrities.  For some reason I took a look a Samuel L Jackson twitter account.  I don't know what I expected to see, but I was struck by the number of white people in the photographs he (or his publicist) posted.  In fact, one could easily assume this account belong to a white person, were it not for the fact that Samuel himself.  The point is Samuel L. Jackson lives a very different live than most Black people.  


No, we are not monolithic.  As a result, it is extraordinarily difficult for us to pull together, as so called Black people. 


One thing I like about diversity initiatives is that it acknowledges the fact the suffering of poor people, for example, transcends race.  If poor people of all colors pulled together to do something about the increasing wealth gap in America we could be more effective.


It is just that, in practice, I have not seen a diversity initiative that has actually benefited Black people. 

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How about busing. It seemed to help Charlene Hunter Gault. A black women who was one of four presenters on The PBS news hour formerly the McNeil Lehrer Report. Closer to home you and I have both benefited. We have opportunities or experiences that are out if reach financially or philosophically to most People on the planet. In my opinion you are being romantic , idealistic or humanitarian when you align yourself with the poor. However a find it commendable since it feels like a rare disease affecting some affluent Blacks.

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Del, you and I are relatively smart.  Hunter-Gault may be actually be brilliant.  Still, the opportunities that were afforded all three of us, almost 1/2 a century ago are largely gone today.


The are a large numbers of Black people, the majority, that will not likely ever benefit from the minimal advantages afforded us.  They will not have a chance to get a good education.  The the major urban centers the number of decent paying jobs and housing are are largely out of reach.  The likelihood of a fulfilling job, that pays the bills is virtually out of the question.  There are communities where most of the women are obese from a shit food supply, and most of the men have been involved with the criminal justice system.


Del it is not about romanticizing a situation.  I'm actually being practical and realistic.  Working as an entrepreneur and a teacher serving Black people, and living in Harlem for the last 15 years has allowed me to see these things first hand. None of this is evening being by any diversity initiatives.

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It's becoming a polarized country. If you have frequent flyer mileage your affluent, You also are influential but you don't see that either.

Man, I'm dying at this one... but Del definitely has a point. If you have frequent flyer mileage you are in a different class, LOL.

Diversity is interesting. I taught at a school that had 100 dialects. It took 30 minutes to do the introduction at graduation! I think diversity overall encompasses Blacks, but very often Blacks are not in a position to be taken into account. This is de facto and de jure. It is a choice and not a choice.


For instance, Memphis is almost 70% Black. I don't think any other city is as Black as Memphis... The school system here is controlled and operated by Blacks. However on the outskirts of the city the county schools are primarily run by Whites. This city has an unspoken policy of Self segregation and nepotism that dictates how diverse a business is. People want to be around people who look like them. It's a matter of comfort. I'm kind of rambling, but my point is diversity is a lie. Black people often don't want to identify and be with other cultures because it is seen as being less "Black". At the same time some Black people need to be accepted by Others because they associate this with "making it". While what I'm saying is a generalization it is a point of debate.


Cynique is definitely right about this one. The melting pot has failed. I actually wrote that America is a potpourri pot. A lot of branches, twigs and flowers combined in a pot that masks the shitty smell of conflict and divisiveness.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chris when writing my article on The Best Cities for African American Readers I collected data on the Black populations of the largest 300 American Cities. Memphis (the 20th largest city, with a Black population of 63%) isn't in the top 5.  83% of Detroit's population is Black and darn near 80% of Jackson Mississippi is Black.  Baltimore and Birmingham have higher percent Black populations too.


But I agree with your point.  People tend to self-segregate.  Historically this was the law, which was a bad idea.  But in practice I see little difference from the time there was a law.  


Schools are still largely segregated.  Rich people simply send their children to virtually all white private schools, live in all white communities and hire the highest paid folks for the best jobs.  Black people are largely excluded from these schools, communities and jobs.


For course, there are exceptions, but these people usually don't have the power to "hook another brotha up."  Even if they were inclined to do so, they would not, because they would be afraid of losing their place.  It is a real funky position to be in.  


We KNOW the best and the brightest don't always get into Harvard, we KNOW family connection and money is a factor which helps white folks tremendously.


We live in a country when two of the strongest presidential candidates will come from families in which another family member served!  I would never vote for Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, for this reason along.  I hate political dynasties, monarchies or whatever you wanna call them.  New York's Governor is the son of a previous governor. 


Of course there are countless examples, harsher enforcement and stiffer penalties when it comes to the application of the law.  


Don;t even get me started on the lack on Black influence on the web... 


What is also so astonishing to me is that the Black population is largely unaware of all of this.  Which I guess is why so many Black people are advocates for diversity, we don't recognize how disenfranchised we truly are.

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  • 5 years later...
Guest John

In NYC, when a school is predominately White or Asian is labeled as not diverse yet predominately Black and Hispanic schools are never mentioned as not diverse enough. Seems like the same across the nation. All racial groups are diverse amongst themselves. But this country has become white versus black, light versus dark. Racial groups that share physical similarities are lumped together (Whites/Asians/Jews versus Black/Hispanic/Arabs).

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