No doubt just as he expected, the remarks of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas created a flurry, contending that the America is “more race and differences-conscious than in the 1960s…” If the Hon. Clarence Thomas is correct, it could be inferred that the Diversity Practitioners and Consultants in America have accomplished their mission in terms of building a powerful and pervasive national awareness of differences, including race.
Among other important questions it raises is whether the Diversity Paradigm has accomplished the awareness-building job the right way.
SCJ Thomas knows how to choose his words carefully, as he should. The nuanced use of the suffix “-consciousness” rather than “awareness” was adroit.
The kind of consciousness SCJ Thomas inferred seems more than a simple state of awareness. When used as a suffix, “-conscious” or “-consciousness” is often a kind of negative. Self-consciousness, for example, indicates some level of discomfort, unease with oneself. Class-consciousness, race-consciousness, image-consciousness, reputation-consciousness, all bear an implication of discomfort at some level, or worry over the matter to at least some extent, and a sense that there is something more that has to be done with it or about it to avoid some negative consequence.
Even the most positive deployments, like “beauty-conscious” or “safety-conscious” can still powerfully imply the downside of a failure to keep it a prominent feature of one’s conduct and behaviors, a negative motivation to keep that awareness first and foremost in mind. Though in those cases, that kind of burdensome awareness brings benefit. It becomes an obligation or responsibility to maintain the focus, as in to stay “safety-conscious” for our own good and the good of others. That’s not quite the way it plays out in connection with race, all too often falling to the negative end of the awareness/consciousness continuum.
Is the Diversity Paradigm and its adherents responsible for creating or fostering that type of awareness that SCJ Thomas expressed as “differences-conscious?”
The best D&I Consultants argue that Diversity Training has had positive effects for people in crucial situations. On the other hand, others feel there may be more continuing societal damage than benefit done by the thin veneer of civility Diversity Paradigm has created over the decades. True, thin may be better than none.
How thin is it?
You likely watched the veneer dissolve in some of the same news reports most did. One example might be found in a CNN interview involving three bright, talented, highly respected and knowledgeable people — all of the same race, mind you — male, female, gay. The three of them weren’t able to spend even a few minutes talking about race without attacking one another…all of it over the remarks made by a fourth person of the same race.
Apparently, race wasn’t the real issue. The issue was their own differences, which they did not manage well when discussing the divisive issues of race. Were they aware of all the Diversity books and courses on “managing differences?” Of course, but you’d think not. Their interaction was a perfect example of the differences-consciousness to which SCJ Thomas referred. Their ‘dividedness’ was painfully apparent. The negativity dragged the discussion downhill fast.
Did the “Diversity Paradigm” bring this about? Honestly, the line isn’t quite as crisp as in the prior discussion of responsibility for the general awareness of differences. What is certain is that the “Diversity Paradigm” defined as the “set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline” called “Diversity” hasn’t fixed it or even kept the lid on it in that case, and in similar displays on a number of other media outlets.
Here’s our next Google search: “Managing Differences.” The results, once again, demonstrate where the lead role falls in the ongoing discussion of differences, and continuing to elevate awareness or consciousness of differences.
What we experienced after SCJ Thomas’ remarks on a “differences-conscious” is not just America’s awareness that differences exist, but that we are still not equipped to manage them well, even among the intellectual elite of the media and its professional interviewees.
Here’s the dilemma for Diversity Consultants and Practitioners. If SCJ Thomas is right, and America is not managing, embracing and valuing its peoples’ differences well, then the Diversity Paradigm has not accomplished its mission, it has failed. If SCJ Thomas is wrong, it might be difficult to prove.
So, now, the question was one of causation. Has the Diversity Paradigm actually caused the increase in contentious differences-consciousness? Hard to say. No one’s doing that research, though many contend that it has done and still does exactly that.
Importantly, the Diversity Paradigm didn’t create differences. Diversity’s consultants and practitioners merely exploit differences for monetary gain. They have a vested interest in generating awareness of more and more differences, calling out the conflict between them, and then teaching mitigation techniques through the magic of Diversity Training.
So, the logical question, asked by one internationally known Diversity Consultant, becomes, “is the D&I sector to be held responsible for the Judge’s perception?”
Given the history of culture conflict, it could not be a matter of “Diversity” having created the perceived negativity and discord so much as perpetuating and exacerbating the negativity of the differences-consciousness,” perhaps without realizing it. It might also be the case that through the last half century of promoting a philosophy, pursuit and practice of putting “differences” on the front burner, it simply made no difference in the ongoing conflict between differences. Even putting differences on a pedestal to be embraced, nurtured and valued, a continual sacrament offered at that Altar of Differences, doesn’t seem to have quelled the ruckus. It’s always just below the surface, it seems, ready to erupt, even into incredibly brutal violence or sweeping injustices.
Defined as a paradigm, “The generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at a given time,” that being “Diversity,” may or may not have caused the perceived increase of “race and difference consciousness” in America. Neither has it abated the increase, it appears. It may well have made no difference at all when it comes to differences and the inherent conflict between them.
Please follow this link to a related post:
Celebrating Negativity – The Invisible Power of Againstness
for more reading on the negativity inherent in the Diversity Paradigm.
Copyright © Robert D. Jones 2013 – All Rights Reserved
If you’re tired of the expensive and perpetual challenge of managing diversity, CONTACT US to learn more about how to break the cycle of Diversity Conflict in your organization and in your life.