Diversity was supposed to lead America somewhere, wasn’t it? But where?
Diversity became the official brand name of the backseat driver for social justice when Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s written opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 438 U.S. 265 (1978) gave sociology students summer reading material. Fully thirty five years down Diversity Road, since Justice Powell breathed life into the sound bite , “Diversity”, what does your naked-eye observation reveal regarding positive change? Ironically, the bookend Supreme Court decision, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, is about to be stamped “U.S. 2013”even as this blog post is being written.
An ancient proverb I made up a few years ago: “No matter how long you’ve been driving, if you can still see where you left in the rearview mirror, you haven’t gone very far at all.” We still see familiar social warring and deep disparities that mirror those of the 1950s.
As predicted in the report “Workforce 2000” (Johnson & Packer, 1987), the nation and its workforce have indeed become more diverse. The concomitant cultural differences abound, some buttressed by court decisions. Societal enmities and tensions abound as well, as the Diversity Wars, Diversiphiles vs. Diversiphobes, drag along the multicultural landscape like a tail pinned on the Civil Rights Struggle, swatting at the swarming tactics of diversiphobic pushback.
The ostensibly connective Corporate Diversity infrastructure built by diversiphiles over the last half century is at best strained, at worst crumbling under the weight of a relentless diversiphobic commitment to prevail over Diversity’s encroachment, regarded by diversiphobes as nothing short of “colonization.” Cultural walls, ceilings and bulwarks of all types remain. Frustrations on both sides of The Diversity Wars proliferate.
Without doubt, the Diversity paradigm has generated a global focus on differences, but has palliated neither the inability to resolve differences, nor reticence about setting differences aside. Diversity hasn’t bridged the chasm of differences to create equity, parity or peace.
And, even as “Diversity” is failing, it’s leadership is shifting it’s focus and changing it’s titles to “Inclusion,” a concept coined 25 years ago, and set along the same path as “Diversity.” How likely is it that those who who led Diversity to it’s current dead end without measurable success will be able to successfully lead “Inclusion” to true inclusion?
Should it take another 20 years to reconsider the efficacy of the 20th Century “Diversity paradigm”? Does it make sense from a societal, professional or personal standpoint to remain trapped in a 1978 sound bite, and just wait until 2030 or 2040 and see? There’s got to be a better way.