A goal of global resolution of social differences is an enormous societal project. Yet, Twentieth Century diversiphiles bravely set out to build corporate programs holding out the promise of training away crippling discomfort with the new wave of ‘cultural differences’ interposed by law. Those differences have been managed with a vengeance from C-Suite to shining C-Suite. Yet, from impenetrable corporate glass & bamboo ceilings to dirt floor poverty, from gay rights to income and health, from educational attainments to sentencing and incarceration, from immigration to accessibility, the array of palpable disparities remains as diverse and daunting as the sea of differences itself. And why would anyone be surprised?
No matter the definitions of differences beyond race, the modus operandi of Diversity is at its core merely an extension of 1950s “integration.” The Plessy v. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court decision (1896) ruled that “separate but equal” was constitutional. Almost sixty years later, the Supreme Court reversed Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), ruling that segregation was “inherently unequal” in the field of education. The application has since morphed to encompass all things “cultural” under the rubric of a sound bite “Diversity.” Homogeneity vs. celebrating diversity being the contemporary iteration of separate vs. integrated, the quality of equality has again slipped through the net amidst all the celebrating.
The Gandhi-style King-led Civil Rights movement deftly reframed the cultural conflict dynamic from violent to peaceful. However, the Diversity Wars peacefully roil on. Another sixty years beyond Brown v. Board, racial integration hasn’t translated into education equality, nor has integration resulted in economic equity. In much the same way as integration, Diversity has proven unable to displace or slow the entrenched, powerful, pervasive Disparity Paradigm.
Governments and employers and their individual members, top to bottom, must all be part of the equation for determining our “What’s Next” state of being. Perhaps the top gun corporate coach Marshall Goldsmith summed it up with, “What got us here won’t get us there.” But there’s a high level of uncertainty as to exactly where “there” might be. Many recognize that the current Diversity paradigm is breathing its last. Yet, Diversity’s net benefit is questionable, at best.
Is there a better, smarter, more effective way that moves toward what’s next rather than sliding backwards to the way things once were, or floundering along right where things are?
© Robert D. Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved
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