Monday, March 22, 2010

Diversity: Its Costs and Challenges Part II

Since my last post entitled "Diversity: Its Challenges and Costs," I have been busy greeting the newest Latina to our household, the beautiful Isabella Soleil Roman. While engaging in the typical wonder and amazement that every new parent seems to share, I also wondered what would the world look like for the newest love of my life. I had many many questions and some typical fears. I wondered: Will she have to contend with the challenges of diversity many my fellow travelers have written and struggled with over the years? Will she even be viewed as a Latina (a complex label that will perhaps be addressed in subsequent posts)? Will she and the world she resides in as an adult even consider her a woman of color? Will her gender limit her life chance or pose professional development challenges?

While I suspect her world will be very different from the 1960s model of diversity her dad seems to focus on, I fairly confident she will face at least some challenges as a result of being female and a Hispana.

In many respects, my first post on diversity typifies my generation. I am arguably a second generation of critical race scholars that grew up in a world that has recently transformed dramatically. In the world I observed as a child, important social justice efforts such as freedom marches in the South were greeted with water cannons and attack dogs. If someone would have suggested to me when I was a child, or even three years ago for that matter, that an African American would be President and a fellow Boriqua that happened to ride the same 6 train to Jerome Avenue that I did as a teenager would be our newest United States Supreme Court Justice, I would have accused the person of being intoxicated. The world has changed much over my 46 years and my Bella's world will likely continue to develop and evolve.

It is in that spirit of hope that I want to continue to opine on the challenges of diversity. While due perhaps to stubbornness or old age, I continue to believe that those that advocate a dominant cultural view that question diversity and affirmative action should equally question the benefits of what I have labeled "affirmative affinity." In other words, can legislative or other remedial efforts to assist ethnic and racial minorities come close to the benefits of not being presumed to be an outsider or a member of an underclass? While early race scholars have posed similar points a bit more aggressively by using terms such as "Whiteness Being a Property Right" or "White By Law," my goal in these posts is to pose the question in a fashion that will not immediately cause most non-minorities to immediately dismiss my position. In similar fashion, I recently notice how labels like "White Supremacy" will cause even the most liberal of non-minorities to insist on an apology, despite historical accuracy of a particular depiction.

Among the questions that may arise include: If in fact I seek to challenge bias and fight for social justice, do I serve my purposes if I only speak and write in a fashion that appeals to my fellow travelers? If in addressing affirmative action or other social justice efforts, I live up stereotypes of the angry minority in the eyes of some, should I even continue my efforts? Or should I follow the advice of family members and write on securities regulation or antitrust, areas I had practice in a former life?

When reviewing recent lateral hires and new administrative appointments, there appears to be something to be said for avoiding the tough or uncomfortable questions questions concerning race. In the end, my upbringing in the streets of New York City causes me to always be available to stand up for what I think is right. However, nearly half a century of living has also taught me the value of honey over vinegar. Thus, an advocate of social justice should recognize the real costs of possibly being labeled a difficult or angry person. Are such labels just if they stem from merely writing about historical events? Obviously not!

Nonetheless, I have recently grown to appreciate the true value of professional relationships and limits traditional measures of achievement such as scholarship. As one fellow blogger recently mentioned to me concerning her research on diversity on corporate boards, "one common thread in all of those we interviewed was the need to be perceived as one that gets along with others." Am I suggesting here that by writing on issues of diversity or related matters, one may face a cost of being perceived as non-team player? Yes, I am suggesting this very point. This does not mean one should avoid addressing matters that are important, but one should recognize (what may be obvious to some) that there are possible costs to such efforts. I do nonetheless believe that such perceptions, no matter how unfair, are real and may be faced in a host of circumstances and in a variety of ways. I do, however, believe such thinking may be able to be overcome, at least to some degree. For instance, I, for one, have made it a professional mantra to work on developing relationships, and, among other things, letting people know how much I value them and how I appreciate their efforts. When one focuses their writings on addressing bias or other wrongs, one must be careful to maintain balance. While such statements may sound a bit spiritual or even sappy, I believe in them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Nuestras Voces welcomes passionate and respectful commentary. The administrator will delete comments that insult or threaten other blog participants or that fall outside of the bounds of respectful discourse. Trolling, spamming and other annoying behaviors are strictly prohibited. In the rare event that your post has been deleted, do not post comments regarding that fact. Peace!