My hopes for diversity in 2017 #BAMEed

When Amjad, one of the BAME founders, asked me to write a blog post for #BAMEed I agreed straight away. The team behind #BAMEed are good people and it’s an important topic. – 597 words

So what are my hopes? I have a few but I’ll write briefly about one here.

  • That ‘diversity’ doesn’t become a catch-all term to water down the need for serious work to address inequalities faced by a variety people in our society. This includes people who belong to one particular sub group or a combination.

 

Can diversity still exclude?

A school could have an all-white staff and all-white curriculum but legitimately say they have made steps to address diversity. How? Because they have women on their team.  All positive representation in the curriculum could be of white people and the school could be completely mono-cultural in all aspects but because women were involved or well represented the school could feel happy about representation.

A school could have an ethnically balanced staff and curriculum but still have serious issues related to sexism. Their ethnically diverse staff could be led by an all-male senior team.  The curriculum may only highlight the contribution of significant male figures in history.

A school could be making great strides to address gender and racial disadvantage but may not be a safe place for LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) people to learn, thrive and work.

Diversity as a concept is, of course, important but I sometimes wonder if it’s become a term that is now used to make people in the majority (which majority depends on the particular aspect of diversity) feel comfortable instead of having to use words that they might find unpalatable.

 

“We wish to become more diverse” is maybe a little more palatable than “We are working to become less racist” or “we are working to become less sexist” or “we are working to become less homophobic.”

Additionally, by using the umbrella term “diversity” it leaves majorities open to address the section of diversity that they find most palatable rather than the ones that challenge them or may need the most addressing in their community.

Being specific

So what am I saying? I’d like people to be a little more direct. Sometimes terms can be so wide that they lose meaning. Sometimes this is deliberate- to start conversations that people may find uncomfortable- but to actually achieve anything we sometimes need to be specific. If we are talking about wanted to improve ethnic diversity – let’s say that. If it’s gender diversity let’s set that out as a clear aim.  Alongside that, people in different diverse groups need to recognise where we can have strength as a collective but don’t necessarily need to allow majority groups to set the terms – including what we are called.

Finally, the second part of my original hope- let’s not forget that there is diversity within diversity. Black women exist. Gay Indian men exist. Disabled transgendered people who aren’t white exist. Different groups under the umbrella term of diversity experience life in a variety of ways and some people live at the intersection of a more than one minority- which may make their experience different to the expected standard.

In summary, let’s not dilute what we are trying to achieve regarding equality of opportunity and outcome for different groups by using terms that are so vague, bland and far-reaching as to loose meaning. Let’s also remember that some people, like me, happen to tick more than one diversity box and our experiences are just as valid as those who tick one or none.