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Monday, October 25, 2021

Diversity Statement

 Writing the diversity statement taught me a lot. I could be perfectly honest, not exaggerate my contribution in any way, avoid the jargon du jour, and still do a credible job.  I also had to write a diversity plan for our department's search. I refused the suggestion that I use the word "Latinx." "Latinx" people themselves do not use it. 

Here are some ideas:


 I have to set aside my own agenda when I help someone else. What they might want to achieve is not necessarily something that would be of interest to me, or even something I would agree with intellectually. My goal is not to propagate my own ideas.  

Promoting diversity is doing one's job well:

We ought to be helping each student as much as possible. If we are not, because of preconceptions about the student's abilities, then we aren't doing the job. 

Diversity should be "hard-baked" into the field itself:

Our field (Hispanic studies) is [or should be] naturally diverse in many ways. geographically, ethnically,  linguistically. If it fails to live up to its own diversity, that is our fault. 

The diversity in the field can cause friction:

Conflict occurs between people, and some of this conflict stems from differences of age, gender, ideology, ethnicity, and any other category. A good diversity practice might look like conflict resolution. For example, two student in my course, of the same gender and from the same Spanish-speaking country, had different ideologies. How could I help them tone down their arguments in class? I did with a very simple trick. 

But sometimes the conflicts escalate. It could be Europeans looking down on people from the US, people from different corners of the Spanish speaking world not seeing eye to eye. Native speakers looking down on non-native speakers. Young people resentful of the old, or the old condescending to the young. Men condescending to women. Yet a workshop on "micro aggressions" cautions us not to assume Chinese people are good at math or not to touch black people's hair. Well, thanks for that. It doesn't really do much for us. 


Leslie B. said...

Setting aside your point of view. I can't remember a time when I did not think about this.

To acquire another language you must set aside your assumptions about what its grammar will be (set aside the grammar of your native language), and find out what its grammar actually is.

People have a hard time with this because they are so wedded to their own perspectives.

Someone called me immature. I am immature because I think US people, when living below the Rio Grande, should realize that America is a vague term and people won't necessarily assume it's the US they are talking about when they say "América." My visitor didn't think this should matter to the South Americans, really felt everyone should accept that the real America is the U.S., and that not to suggest otherwise was immature. It was also hurtful to Americans to suggest to them that they might have something to learn, and it is important to be nice.

My general disagreement with diversity stuff in U.S. is that it assumes everyone shares, in some way, in mainstream US suppositions, takes them as natural, etc. People can get trained perfectly, to say and even do perfect things relating to certain groups of U.S. African-descended people, but revert to complete primitivism when faced with anything unfamiliar. I had that class that sounded practically Black Pantherish on things Black U.S., yet believed Latin American poverty would be solved if people would limit themselves to having 2 children or "not more than you can afford." They had no analysis and no politics, and could only repeat things they had been taught but clearly not processed or absorbed. From this type of experience, I feel that diversity training and statements and so on are no substitute for education and experience, and just give people weapons to cover their a***s with while they continue with their usual discriminatory practices.

Jonathan said...

This is so true. People have no idea how to deal with Latin America, or the (more than) 21 parts of the world where Spanish is spoken.

My colleague in English told me her department was more diverse than mine, but we have 50% from Spanish & Portuguese speaking world + US latinos. They are diverse too, I guess, but not at the 50% level.

Leslie B. said...

We're only 1/3 Anglo and that's if you don't count the Spaniards either way. If you call them nonwhite we're 1/4 Anglo. If you call them Euro and therefore count them with us then we're still less than 50% Euro.

So how do you think, given field, I might possibly work to get Central and Northern Europe out of my curriculum and syllabi, and include just a few more people from the Mediterranean and the Global South? Gosh, I'd never thought of that . . . (yes I am being sarcastic here)