Apr 24, 13
I wrote this as part of a paper, and I touched it up a bit and added to it because I've been wanting to write this stuff as a blog post anyways. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts (and I may, of course, have some responses).
This last year, I’ve been learning a lot about the dangers of extremes and the pendulum effect. I like to call it being reactionary (action based off of a negativity) versus being actionary (choosing to act based on it being right). I’ve started to realize that even our general human history over the last 2,000 years has reflected this in our philosophies. We went from pre-modernism, where we trusted authorities such as the church, to reacting with modernism where we trusted logic that we could distinguish and decipher ourselves, to reacting with post-modernism where truth became subjective entirely to what we feel or decide. I’ve started looking at much of what culture, philosophies, and even my own beliefs do in terms of this effect. I’ve realized how often we see something bad, wrong, or often just a perversion of a good thing, and we do the opposite of it as a solution, which often causes new problems, even going as far as contradicting the original purpose of the change.
In terms of diversity and discrimination, I think this has happened a lot. Racism and slavery in America is one of the best examples. We have had discrimination based on numbers (which is currently acknowledged almost as if it is the only kind) where white people kept black people as slaves, and then they were still segregated even after slavery was abolished. This is something terrible and wrong, but reactions have gone too far. The ways we have reacted have produced new forms of discrimination psychologically, where we have enabled culture to discriminate and oppress white people.
Not only do numbers discriminate, but financial power can too, where corrupt rich can use their money to oppress a poor majority. It really comes down to a mix of power and a heart that uses that power wrongly. The thing is, we have created social standards that oppress people, and these standards are often called “political correctness.” To discuss discrimination against whites or stereotypes of white people is considered “politically incorrect," and puts white people in positions they cannot escape because they feel ashamed for being white. Shame is another power that is held over the heads, and hurts people just like slavery and segregation. This is a psychological version of what so many fighting for social justice have wanted to fight against, and my opinion is that it is just as bad as any other version of discrimination. It doesn’t just apply to white people, but I’ve seen it applied to the rich, to men, and to many other social groups, and what’s even sadder is that we still have the original issues, such as racism against blacks, right alongside it.
I’ve begun referring to this issue as “pop diversity,” where people have seen the popular diversity issues and are reactionary. We see issues such as racism and sexism as popular and thus more and more people hop on the bandwagons to fight them. However, so many other groups such as introverts and physical touch people are discriminated against, but the subjects aren’t popular so many are fighting to have them even acknowledged.
I think having classes like my class Human Diversity here at Multnomah are an excellent idea. I think they are a great way to fight discrimination, and I’ve very much enjoyed the class. However, I feel like a lot of diversity movements in general are only half of what is necessary. We are teaching people blind passion without actually equipping them. Passion is important and powerful and really the only way we change the world for the better, but passion should be our fuel, not the decision maker.
It’s similar to if culture teaches our kids how important it is to drive cars, so they have the passion, and classes equip them with information on how to actually drive it, but no one teaches them about how to be safe, to obey safety rules of the road, and to be careful of other drivers. They’ll speed, drive recklessly, and cause more damage than driving cars does good! Movies like Five Minutes in Heaven illustrate how teens who were given passion without wisdom in Ireland were killing people and not even understanding the repercussions. They had focused so much on the discrimination that they had no way to realize they were doing the exact same things, until someone told them. Imagine if diversity classes came bundled with wisdom on how to not go too far and how to not contradict your own values.
I think we need more diversity classes, but I think each individual topic and the class as a whole needs to look at the risks of seeking diversity. In fact, the classes need to actually explore the philosophies behind diversity. Movements that don't consider their own weaknesses or potentials for extremism are some of the most dangerous forces in existence. Not only do we often enable the pendulum effect by not cautioning people when fighting discrimination, but we don’t spend enough time establishing why diversity is valuable so that we can build opinions on that foundation; at times, it can appear more of an assumption without clear reasons.
One additional area I’ve been challenged to think through is in regard to events like Black History Month and MLK day. I liked MLK day, but I didn’t like Black History Month very much, and it took me some time to figure out why. I think the problem is that there’s no balance between accepting and valuing a person's diversity, and being required to embrace them and be involved in their passions.
Black culture is an amazing thing, and I am glad people take time to celebrate it and keep history of it. However, what frustrates me is that many people shame white people for not celebrating it, even though those same people probably wouldn’t attend a “white history month” (I wouldn’t want to either). If I have a geek culture month, or a blonde culture month, I wont be offended if people outside of those interests don’t attend. I’m not petitioning for our government to celebrate those either, though I’d definitely attend a geek culture month (in fact, you could say these are what events like ComicCon are). I’m not going to attack anyone for not attending a nerd convention, even if nerd’s have brought about the amazing technology everyone uses.
Martin Luther King, Jr. day, on the other hand, I very much enjoy because we are celebrating MLK, and not just because of something subjective we relate to (such as body features or personal cultural preference), but because he stood for social justice, which we can all rally around. Luther both acted on social justice, which is worth celebrating, and he gave us ideas that apply to people everywhere. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Not only will I attend events like this, but I will be rather shocked when other people don’t seem interested in this topic or others like it.