Whose Diversity? members ask the University to consider its relational position to its neighbors as well--how does the policing of men of color through crime alerts coupled with the new housing that is for predominantly white students representative of the violence this sort of cosmetic diversity accomplishes? The University of Minnesota “celebrates” its 150 years of being a land grant institution designed for the “common good” which allows for “learning, discovery and engagement.” But what does this mean when celebration obscures reality? When the “common good” excludes the voices and experiences of historically marginalized populations? Cosmetic diversity thus allows for the corruption of language--where the common good upholds the interests and protections of the majority. Whose Diversity? will no longer allow diversity to be used a mantra for the “success” and “progress” of the University, a notion that stifles discussion, obscures reality and disregards how students of color bear witness to the struggles of their communities in and outside of the University.
The consequences of cosmetic diversity are evident. These consequences are a reflection of the discord between the University’s diversity rhetoric and the realities of historically marginalized students.
- The mismatch between students of color and the professors they learn from.
- The failure of the University to create spaces in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for (dis)abled students.
- The sanitizing of the rich cultural backgrounds of historically marginalized students.
- The role of racialized crime alerts in reinforcing stereotypical images of young black men as perpetual threats to students, faculty and residents of neighboring communities.
- The mismatch between students of color and the medical providers that treat them, especially those in counseling and mental health services.
- The lack of gender-neutral restrooms for transgender students.
Many of these consequences are the result of a system that believes diversity is an event or moment. Diversity is not (and never was) a fixed or stable category. It is a process. In believing that diversity has an end-point, the University is free to absolve itself of any responsibility to remain committed to this ongoing process, once it has claimed to “reach” its end-point. Rather than entertaining the delusion that diversity can be finished, done or complete, substantive diversity embraces the beautiful struggle to forge alliances across different and intersecting identities. While substantive diversity is beautiful, it is also messy. It's messy because true diversity acknowledges not just rich biographies of different bodies, but also acknowledges our differences in worldviews and ideologies. As individuals already labeled “different”, we embrace and wrestle with the differences between us. In doing so, we help expose many of the blemishes concealed by cosmetic diversity. Among these blemishes are the existing hierarchies based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and (dis)ability. By taking an intersectional approach in efforts toward diversity, we remain mindful that the history of diverse social movements has often made strides at the expense of others. As an intersectional coalition, we have no intention of increasing our own self-worth by devaluing others. We will constantly interrogate ourselves and ask, “Who's being written out of this substantive narrative?” We call on the University to wrestle with these same questions. In doing so, we are confident that the University will see that there are countless lives written out of its narrative of diversity.