Yesterday before I went to bed I had an idea for a blog post and in fact wrote half of it in my head. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, except it started with a rather icky story from my childhood – but there are so many of those that I don’t remember which precisely.
So instead I decided to follow right up on what Kate was saying yesterday and jump onto “Diversity is our Strength.”
Has anyone ever proven that? I mean in the terms that PC understands diversity that is.
Look, when I was a kid, I had a group of five friends who gathered around for any group work. This was actually an issue as most teachers wanted groups of three. (The forms were usually 34 people, Portugal not having yet heard that low student to teacher ratio was essential for learning. This was the gifted forms, btw, which at the time was interpreted not as “you’re special flowers” but as “You can take all the punishment we dish out.” We were doing graduate-level research in 9th grade. And doing it well. I’d stack my middle/high school learning against anyone who went to a school with “good ratio of students to teacher”.) But we’d found a “diverse” enough group.
Now you couldn’t tell by looking at us. I mean, we had a blond and a redhead, but they were blond and redhead by Portuguese standards. I believe in the rest of the world their hair would be called “shades of brown.” And we were all more or less of Portuguese ancestry. (If you take in account that for centuries Portugal was crusade land, and that most of the people coming for the crusades were French (come on, Jean Pierre. Why go to the holy land? We’ll go to Portugal. It’s an easier commute, the climate is better, and the moors will never see us coming. It’s a mini-crusade, close to home) or various shades of German/Italian, and if you add that on top of the invasions that came before, Celts, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Alans, Swabians, Guanos (okay, I made up that one) Visigoths, Astrogoths, Rockinggoths (I might have made up that one, too), British, Irish, Spanish… well, Portugal was sort of the welcome mat of Europe where everyone wiped off their DNA. Saying we were of Portuguese ancestry would be like selling a cat as “Genuine Domestic Short Hair.” I can guarantee most of us were homo sapiens, but then Portugal was one of two places in which Neanderthals lingered a few thousand years longer than anywhere else and demonstrably mated with homo sap, sooooo. Soooooo even on that homo sap, you’d be taking a risk.)
By current Portuguese standards we weren’t diverse at all. (Current standards? Why, yes. You see, in an effort to be a “modern country” they’ve imported affirmative action. This despite the fact that in the continent, when I was a kid, there was really no identifiable minority. The first time I saw a really blond guy, I had nightmares for weeks. You see, I thought he was a doll that had come to life. As for black people, I think I saw the first when I was six. Of course there are a lot more now. (Once in a sfwa forum someone told me I was lying about that, because she’d met black people in continental Portugal and eaten their wonderful food and danced their lovely dances – could that be any more patronizing? – apparently unaware that all these black people came to Portugal to escape the glorious liberation of the African colonies, when the places were handed over to Russians and their Cuban mercenaries.) So the principle of affirmative action doesn’t even make any sense in the sense of redressing evils, etc (except in the same way an immigrant who comes here from Africa today is suddenly entitled to “redressing.”) HOWEVER to be hip and modern and all that, Portugal now has affirmative action applying to gypsies (non of which consider themselves nationals of any country, but never mind) and of course every other shade of tanning. Not blonds, though, though they ARE a genuine minority in Portugal and made fun of in a lot of jokes.) And we were all girls, because the school was all female.
BUT each of us had a “specialty.” We had the artist, the writer (waves hand), the researcher, the scientist and the historian.
Our project on ancient Egyptian religion was kept by the teacher as a reference to TEACH ancient Egyptian religion, because we had more fun than should be allowed in school, from detailed drawings of the gods, to scientific explanation of the mummification process, to … well, all of it. (I had much fun with symbolism in the writing of it.)
This is because we had a genuinely diverse group. Diverse where it counted. Inside the head.
PC “diversity” seems to be “diversity of grievances” and is only useful in the sense of trying to inure yourself against lawsuits. “We had a black person on the team to ensure that black people will not have problems with this desert topping that is also a floor wax.”
In an age when people SERIOUSLY maintain that “brown bag” is a racist term (and not, you know, a description of the fact that it’s a bag and it’s brown) and think niggardly has anything in the world to do with race (because everyone knows black people are stigmatized as frugal, right? Look at all those black Scots.) this is not an inconsiderable good, but it is a problem for two reasons.
First, it assumes people are widgets. No, seriously. What would the idea that “diversity is having a black person on the team” mean, unless you think the contents of every black person’s head are exactly alike.
And once you realize this is what is at the basis of it, you’ll have trouble not laughing like crazy. Yep. Thomas Sowell, or the black guy next door? Totally the same thing, even though the guy next door is twenty and studying English. He could totally teach economics at any second. Because he’s black, and that’s all that matters.
Me? I’m Latina, and so exactly the same as the Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. I could totally fill in for her on her days off, and she could finish my books.
THAT is racism. Stone cold, outright racism and worse than anything even racists ever came out with. You’re a widget. Your thoughts are determined by your melanin, your eye color, your accent.
And if you think I’m just being silly and what they mean is “diversity of experience” – okay, that’s slightly less racist. It’s also not what they’re filtering for. Otherwise Harvard would have set aside places for white guys from Appalachia, as different from their run of the mill student, in experience, as you could get. But even then…
Look, my experiences are not that uncommon. Technically you could take half a million people of my age/generation in Portugal and we’d have the “same” background until the age of twenty or so.
… until you looked more closely. Most of them (I don’t know anyone my age but me) didn’t grow up under grandma’s tutelage. Most of them didn’t fall madly in love with English first year they learned it, and start reading books in English for native readers by the end of that year. (With a dictionary in my other hand. And a pencil to write the translation over the word. My kids found my copy of Dandelion Wine the other day, and had MUCH fun.) None of them had the other, more private experiences that made me me. (And I don’t mean sex. I mean stuff that relates to me and my family background but which is not for public consumption.)
There is no way that a government, a governing board, an institution can assure “diversity” by hiring from anything that fits in the forms.
Yes, diversity can be and often is a strength. At least for creative and intellectual projects. I don’t think road crews could be made stronger by hiring skinny girls who can’t lift heavy objects and burn in the sun. So even in that, diversity is not just an unalloyed good. Sometimes the best people for a project are a family group who inherited the trade (say embroiderers or, thinking of Portugal, beggars.) Depends on what the project is and whether you want innovation or just “the same thing, as it’s always been done.)
BUT diversity is not skin color. Diversity is not even general experience of the “was hungry as a child” form. Diversity of the sort that creates strength is the sort that is inside your head. It expresses itself in insights few other people could have; in ideas that not only aren’t in the box but can’t find the box; in strengths and abilities that are natural to you or trained from very young, but other people simply don’t get.
These are not things that fit on a form. They have to be determined by knowing the person often more deeply than you can know anyone after a job interview. They require seeing people at the job and then moving them around. “Bob, I think you’d be better in this team. They need someone with your analytical skills.”
The best team my husband ever worked in was assembled sort of like that. The boss would get to know people and then shamelessly poach them for his team. And they were all “diverse” in what was inside their heads. (They were also fairly diverse in appearance and such, but that was just a side benefit for corporate headcounters.)
This is a system – arcane and near forgotten known as meritocracy.
It relies on REAL diversity – of thought, of opinion, of ideas – (which prevents debacles like Windows 8, written by geeks, for geeks, with no understanding of who the end users are) – of experience. It relies on real, individual competences and assumes that each person, regardless of color or visible differences also has some failings, which can be compensated for by other people who don’t have them.
BUT of course it doesn’t treat people as widgets (and now I remembered my original post. Never mind. Tomorrow.) Which makes it really hard for bureaucrats to administer society from the top down – and to treat everyone as pieces to be picked up and inserted into places where the bureucrats think they will fit.
And since meritocracy by itself destroys the idea of the all powerful and “scientific state” it must be ignored, and instead we must pay lots of attention to external characteristics and parrot “diversity is our strength” while requiring that everyone be just like everyone who looks like them.
PSA announcement: To my subscribers at the level you get all my stuff and those who are still waiting for the final copy of Witchfinder (i.e. cleaned up, not an e-arc) – the delay is because my husband is writing a program to put you all in the right categories, so that some of you don’t get three copies and the others none. It’s not as easy as it seems, and I appreciate your patience. This is also the reason I’ve delayed putting up a subscribe button for Elf Blood. If any of you wants copies of anything earlier (I really NEED reviews on The Musketeer’s Inheritance. Even though it’s a reissue of A Death In Gascony (and apparently tons of people didn’t know it was the fourth in the Musketeer’s mystery and only discovered it now, judging by how it’s selling) it’s decoupled from that edition, so it has zero reviews) or really needs a final of Witchfinder right now, ping me on Goldport and I’ll send?