Is diversity dividing us?

Diversity’s good – right? I believe it is, anyway. But what about when a workplace gets a ‘diversity officer’ who wants the employees to do a survey to “reveal their unconscious biases”, as I recently heard about? To me, that smacks of being a diversity police-officer. “We’re coming for your thoughts and they had better be the right ones, or else it’s re-education for you, my friend”, is what it says to me. I’m old enough to make the leap to the thought control practises of communist China and Russia. That all started off small and with good intentions, too. I’m not old enough to remember McCarthyism* in the USA, but that was a real mind-f*ck time, as well, by the sounds of it.

Salesforce, a big IT company in the USA, boasts on its website that it has 12 different minority employee action groups, from disabled to faith to separate race groups, right through to LBGTQ+ and veterans. No older women appeared in the pictures of these diverse groups, just as a fyi. However, moving on – whilst I appreciate the attempt of Salesforce to foster diversity and respect for everyone, what a minefield that could be to negotiate every day! Safer to stay in one’s group for the main part, I suspect, rather than risk giving offence to another. Hang on a minute, isn’t the goal supposed to be unification through acceptance and understanding, not making diversity divisive?

Diversity is becoming big business. Already it’s opening employment opportunities to regulate it. I can’t see our wonderful world of marketing and advertising execs not exploiting it, either. Oh wait – they are already. But only the right kind of diversity, of course, as dictated by who the hell knows what or who, but dictated it surely is. The wrong kind of diversity gets a person cancelled, and their career destroyed. Diverse opinions, beliefs and ideas can arbitrarily be categorised as wrong-think and wrong-speak according the new oppressors’ rules, and get bundled under the ‘hate’ umbrella. That umbrella’s getting mighty big.

I am a Vegan, and I can piss people off with that. Partly, it’s simply by me being vegan that challenges the status quo’s assumption to their right to gratuitously use animals as they wish. And partly because I can be really annoying about challenging the status quo’s assumption to gratuitously use animals in any way they wish. (Funnily, Salesforce doesn’t have a Vegan action group – must be the wrong kind of minority.) A lot of people would like to cancel and destroy me and other Vegans, and have told us so in no uncertain, and sometimes bloody, terms. But guess what? They’re not allowed to, because we have codes of conduct about that to protect us. I have the right to express my beliefs and opinions if I don’t make actual threats of harm, or directly invite harm, towards those who eat animals. They may feel threatened based on their own beliefs, but feelings aren’t facts.

But if someone says they believe that sex is a biological fact and gender is mutable, instead of the other way round, holy moly – the hurt feelings explode in a gory blood-fest that the gory blood-fest of animals being slaughtered at the slaughter-house has nothing on! No other words need to be said for all the horrors from hell to be rained down upon the heretic who said such heresy. However, in this case, all codes of conduct to protect a person stating their beliefs suddenly disappear. Cancelling and destroying is inexplicably condoned by those who should know and be better. That kind of diversity of thought appears to be strictly verboten!!! It doesn’t fit into the small, and getting smaller by the minute, box of allowable diversity at all. Anyone who has wrong-think will have the diversity (police) officers, not to mention the baying mob, after them. Diversity is becoming strangely rigid, narrow, and divisive. Is this how a good word goes bad?

Humans have always bickered, scrapped and argued with each other. It’s what we do. And what we will always do. Unless threats of physical harm are made, or there is a clear denial of others’ human rights and safeties, as in racial hatred or men’s rights groups, a different belief or opinion is debate, not hate. Debate is arguing the point, not the person. I once cheered when a couple of very right-wing speakers got cancelled from giving public talks. Although I wasn’t instrumental in making that happen, it felt good to flex a bit of righteous muscle by proxy. I can’t say that I liked the nature of their talks, but I can now see that cancelling those talks was wrong just because they were contentious and hurt some people’s feelings. We can’t help how we feel about things, but (unless we have a mental disorder) we can all control how we act on our feelings.

Diversity should be a good word and a good thing – even the kind of diversity we don’t like. Conflict is essential to us (not talking about armed conflict here, just to set the record straight). Conflict invites debate, and debate sparks us up. It ignites the fuel that drives creativity and innovative progress. Humans might be all sorts of things, but you can’t say we’re boring. But if we shut down debate because it’s wrongly labelled as hate, then we may become very boring and bland indeed.


*McCarthyism, name given to the period of time in American history that saw U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.


Header pic by: Bee Felton-Leidel

18 thoughts on “Is diversity dividing us?

    1. Frances Sullivan

      “We” do like to complicate. Love this post. Opening a can of… :). Have already experienced the ‘standard’ myself. It crushed me to be told my actions were rooted in white elitism. Never been told that – always gentle about appropriation . Hurt me. Been on the forefront since the early sixties and guided by some pretty good teachers. Blah. Not sure what’s being asked any more. Love this post

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Frances. Yes, the call for diversity and inclusion, whilst good in itself, seems to be becoming a hot “no boundaries” mess of vitriol and vilification in reality, for the slightest of perceived offences.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. A true diversity program isn’t about hurt feelings or “political correctness.” It’s about who gets heard when creating company policy. For instance, who is able to apply for family leave, and for what purpose? Is it just for pregnant women, expecting parents (including LGBTQ ones) of both genders, caregivers of aging parents or grandparents, people who are adopting a child? In the US, most companies buy health insurance for their employees; some of them exclude coverage of birth control, gender reassignment surgery, and therapies for HIV-positive people. A good diversity program addresses those issues, so that no one is excluded.

    Put more bluntly, it’s about distribution of power within a corporation. A good employer supposedly allows all of its employees to make decisions about how they provide benefits, promotions, and income. Re your comment about not seeing any diversity groups that include older women, it’s no secret that ageism is a rampant problem in IT companies. I’ve seen people chucked out of companies they’ve worked at for years just because they hit 50 or even an earlier age. I’d love to see a company that addresses that problem directly, though tech tends to favor young people who are more willing to put in long workdays and are flexible about schedules, compared to middle aged people with families, including older parents and young children. (I am very curious to see what happens when the executives at Facebook, Twitter, and similar companies turn 50.)

    As for the suggestion that diversity programs suppress open debate and freedom of expression, I’d ask in turn if we are punching up or punching down when we discourage racist and sexist behavior in the workplace. Given that most corporate boards and executive suites are made up of white men, I doubt they have any fear of being oppressed or threatened. But as an Asian American woman working at predominantly white companies, I often had to deal with coworkers making incredibly offensive, ignorant comments about my citizenship, my loyalty to the United States, and my personal habits. I was dumbstruck when an office mate asked me if I ate dog meat. When I said no, they went on about how they’d heard about Chinese and Koreans eating dogs. I said 1) I’m of Japanese ancestry, and 2) Asians aren’t a monolith, some of us are vegetarian. He somehow took offense, which was ironic given the situation, and said, “I’m not racist, if that’s what you’re thinking!” Later I asked my supervisor if I could move to a different office, which was granted after I explained what had just happened. Thinking back however, the idiot coworker should have been moved, not me. But people of color often have to deal with these small but ugly moments at their place of work. When they accumulate, they make it impossible to focus on work; you just want to get up and leave, which many of them do, if they are able. And these aren’t just “feelings”: a work environment like that can make you sick from the stress and hostility. Making a company more friendly to the many different people working there only benefits everyone, except maybe white supremacists and Nazis.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As you say, true diversity enriches our world, distributes power more evenly, and benefits us all – and I acknowledge and endorse that. When I hear of a workplace hiring a diversity officer who wants the employees to do a survey, though, to “reveal their unconscious biases”, that to me is the thin edge of the wedge of thought control.

    And when good and intelligent writers and academics are shut down and their careers destroyed because they might have a different point of view to the current rigidly defined ‘right thinking’ dictated by the new woke mob, I kick back at that (btw, that’s not an endorsement of a racist or sexist point of view). I used to describe myself as woke, but I have distanced myself from that now, because I have never in my life witnessed such vile and vicious attacks on people for ‘wrong think’ and ‘wrong speak’ as I have in recent times from the new woke mob. If we don’t let people speak, how can we have a conversation or a debate? As Stephen Hawking said “Humankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and it’s greatest failures by not talking”.

    I must say that I like your ponderings on when the executives at Facebook, Twitter, and similar companies turn 50. That gave me a good laugh 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with everything you’ve said. Diversity is great but we don’t need the thought police, and this cancelling people is just childish. I’m also, mostly, vegan. Cruelty to animals is so much more important as an issue than whether someone questions the nature of gender identity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lettersquash

    Great post, and I’m now following your blog.

    Drat, left the page open and then my comment didn’t post last time, so a short version now.

    This made me realise what the cause and solution might be to the problem of conspiracy theories going viral on social media platforms, currently being tackled mainly by censorship and fact checking. The latter are against freedom of speech and either inflame the deluded QAnon followers (they’re already complaining they’re silenced everywhere) or are ignored (the fact-checking sites are rejected as part of the evil conspiracy). But the problem is so massive that it’s interfering in politics – Trump repeating QAnon BS, for example – and it’s going viral, also damaging people’s mental health seriously.

    Light-bulb moment reading this post: it’s the platforms’ fault, using their algorithms to push anyone clicking on a bit of the madness down a rabbit hole, as we’re all being herded into our filter bubbles. They gain from this because anger and vitriol is one of the ways they keep us on their sites, feeding their advertisers and making them all even more money to hide in offshore tax havens. What we need is for our governments to require them to change this. If they have to shape our content delivery at all, it should include more diversity of opinion, balancing the things they click on with opinions that counter that. Then I wouldn’t feel the need to spend so much time arguing with the victims, on forums where I’m virtually the only voice posting factual information, trying to drag them back from the bottom of a deep hole and getting accused of being a shill.

    Actually, that was longer than the original! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Social media is both a nightmare and a useful tool to connect with others. It’s hard to fathom the depths of depravity and stupidity that social media also encourages, though. That’s an interesting observation that you made about it damaging people’s mental health – I would have to agree with you. With it being so easy to find plenty of affirmation for whatever altered reality one believes in, it’s no wonder. I’m old enough to watch all this unfolding with both fascination and horror. As you say, there is such a gain for the social media giants to be made from this that I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Are the victims you argue with mostly young, or mixed ages?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lettersquash

        Yes, I’m “old enough to watch this with both fascination and horror” too! I don’t know how old most of them are, but my guess is predominantly younger age groups. Most of my arguing is on YouTube, which has particularly steep-sided pitfalls for the unwary/inexperienced. I’m occasionally surprised to find someone I thought was about 15 is actually over 60. Some people just don’t learn much in the way of thinking skills, ever, but even quite clever people can get conned by conspiracy theories. I read something that re-affirmed my hypothesis (it was known ages ago, in fact), and which also said the first rule of arguing with such people is not to insult their intelligence, so I’m trying that – it’s tempting to let my frustration cause me to call them idiots and take the piss. Thanks for the returned ‘follow’, by the way!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. As long as anyone is able to back up their beliefs, I’m ready to listen to them. Power-wielding people who make things up as they speak, such as Donald John Trump, supporters of DJT nod their approval because his incoherent word piles seem to support an agenda that they favor.
    Joseph McCarthy obtained lists of artists who were then summarily blacklisted. Censorship is deadly stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely! And that’s why we have to stop cancelling people from speaking their beliefs, so we can make judgements on our own beliefs . If people aren’t aren’t inciting hateful actions and violence against another group – and I don’t mean just being controversial or disagreeing with ideology – then let them speak, whether we like what they say, or not.


  7. Pingback: 2020 – what a year to write home about! – A B'Old Woman

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