Last fall (October 2016), Literary Hub featured Jamaican-born author Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize) speaking about misguided approaches to “diversity” and “inclusion,” especially in the academic world, in the diaspora:
[. . .] It’s not just that diversity, like tolerance, is an outcome treated as a goal. It is that we too often mistake discussing diversity with doing anything constructive about it. This might be something we picked up from academia, the idea that discussing an issue is somehow on par with solving it, or at least beginning the process. A panel on diversity is like a panel on world peace. It should be seeking a time when we no longer need such panels. It should be a panel actively working towards its own irrelevance. The fact that we’re still having them not only means that we continue to fail, but the false sense of accomplishment in simply having one is deceiving us into thinking that something was tried.
[. . .] The problem with me coming to the table to talk about diversity is the belief that I have some role to play in us accomplishing it, and I don’t. And the fact that I have to return to that table often should be proof that such discussions aren’t achieving what they are supposed to. [. . .]
[. . .] Diversity can’t accomplish anything because diversity shouldn’t have been a goal in the first place. The other problem is the continued insistence on having the writer of color talk about these things, as if by getting Claudia Rankine to talk about diversity, one has accomplished it. Rankine would be the first to point out the hypocrisy in the assumption itself, probably in the first line of her speech. You would think our sole purpose as writers at these panels is to broaden the understanding of white people, when we could you know, talk about writing. Worse, it’s the same talk we gave last year, and the year before that, and the year before that one, going back years, and decades. Either we’re not speaking loud enough, or clear enough, or maybe nobody is listening. Maybe a diversity panel should be all white.
Think about it: A panel on diversity with no diversity on it. The outrage would be immediate, even from people of color. And yet maybe that is what should happen. And maybe the first question should be why do we need a black person on a panel to talk about inclusion when it’s the white person who needs to figure out how to include? [. . .]
[Photo above by Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune.]
For full article, see http://lithub.com/marlon-james-why-im-done-talking-about-diversity/