Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Diversity, or Yes I Am Prejudiced, and Here's How

It wasn't faaair...Yesterday, Word Press bloggers were "challenged" to blog about "Diversity."

Since this site is not hosted by Word Press, little they know, but for several weeks I'd been lugging around a bag full of drafts of things I meant to post when I found time. One of them was a poem I wrote several years ago, called "Three Ways of Being Multicultural." It told, in rhymed couplets, three anecdotes about how feeble and useless public schools' efforts to teach "diversity" used to be, and how, nevertheless, I enjoyed living in a neighborhood that actually had diversity when I grew up and lived in the city. Yesterday morning I picked up the bag and saw that the hole in the seamy side had grown, overnight, to the point where I thought I'd better carry a different bag, and picked one that didn't have room for all those drafts...

Rather than try to replicate the poem I'll say, for now, that what I learned from my diverse experiences with "diversity" was that "diversity" shouldn't be the goal. Instead of looking at people and trying to work out whether you're "diverse" enough, it works better to let people sort themselves out by doing something that interests them, and then step back and notice how diverse they really are. In ways that are not necessarily as obvious as color. Like not advertising "Bloggers With Major Disabilities," but just advertising "Blogs" and discovering how many people blog about having disabilities.

As regular readers know, my family has diversity by the trainload. I have a long pedigree (even by Virginia standards!) that includes only a slight majority of Irish ancestors, some rather notorious English aristocrats, a blue-eyed Frenchman who arrived on the Atlantic Coast as a slave, a few Cherokees, at least two German Anabaptists, and others. People usually guess that I'm White, but from some different, more southeasterly part of Europe than the parts my ancestors actually left; they usually hope I can speak their language, so I usually hope, when I see those people approaching, that their language is Spanish, which I speak with an accent. Whatever ethnic group I have to admit I don't belong to, however, in my extended family somebody probably married one. I'm not Greek, Italian, Indian, Arabian, or even Jewish, but I have relatives who are.

My (culturally British West Indian, officially Anglo-Canadian, legally immigrated U.S. citizen) husband's family certainly didn't simplify matters; he also traced his ancestry to a British aristocrat on one side, and to the southern peninsula of India on the other three sides. He had a freckle-faced blonde sister, a brother who looked "Indian," first cousins who looked about as "French" as I do--and he was melanistic, like many people on the southern peninsula of India, with a face the same shade of "black" as my hair is. He called himself black, with a smile, because it was almost literally true, and because he had been married to a Black woman and legally adopted (for immigration purposes) his blonde sister's grandson, whose real father was Black. He was only slightly less conspicuously a "minority" type, in the D.C. schools, than I was. (Among other things he was darker than most of those Black Americans...)

When your extended family looks as much like the United Nations as mine does, you become jaded about what some people who are waaay behind the cutting edge are still hyping as "diversity."

A few summers ago, one of those homeboys who are handsome and intelligent and reasonably successful, but don't appeal to me sexually because they feel like the distant relatives they really are, was looking for someone to go to a "diversity conference" with him. "Just to get out of Gate City and meet some people who are different! I mean, there'll be Black people there! And lesbians!"

(1) There are Black people in Gate City, although he might reasonably have forgotten to count them since, if you're not feeling extra-sensitive to color, they fit right in with the rest of us.

(2) I'm pretty sure there are lesbians in Gate City, too, but they're discreet enough that nobody really cares whether they are or not. (The ones I know about for sure didn't count; they were only visiting.)

(3) But anyway...why would that count as an attraction, when there may well be both Black people and lesbians (about whom I know for sure) at my extended family gatherings. It's not as if I'd never seen anyone in those categories before--or lived under the same roof with them, called them "Cousin," or hugged them. In order for speakers to count as attractions you'd have to specify which Black people and/or lesbians and why they, individually, would interest me.

There's one good-sized category of people who go around advertising that their being Black and/or lesbians and/or some other widely publicized "minority" type/s is their main attraction, and they totally bore the daylights out of me. I think I've heard everything they have to say. I think they're narrow-minded, ignorant, shrill, bigoted, and boring as all get out. Not because they are this or that "minority" type; because they are Left-Wing Clueless Clones, as documented by a self-identified left-winger here:

Well, y'see, when I even post that link, or this link...

...I feel this urge to say that even though there is a real need for this new stereotype to reflect reality and balance a familiar stereotype, this new stereotype, let's call it The Illiberal Leftist, is so not based on Ralph Nader. Or...well, I don't know who wants to be called out here and who doesn't, but it's not based on any left-winger I knew in Washington, with the possible exception of a mixed-up kid I used to date and once caught trolling under the screen name "Craig." Craig was the son of a right-wing bigot and, having inherited the bigot gene, he became a left-wing bigot, especially annoying when in pain from squeezing his oversized body into his tiny politically correct car on a long road trip. But he was reasonably civil to my parents in their home, so even he wasn't the true real-world incarnation of The Illiberal Leftist. The mouthpieces of the Obama Administration are that.

I feel a need to mention, in this context, that many left-wingers I've known personally were salt-of-the-earth types who would happily give you their shirt if they thought you had any possible use for a secondhand shirt. If they said they'd meet you at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, they'd be there at 9:55, and if they said they'd pay you $100 and you did a good job, you'd get $110, and if they said they wouldn't preach left-wing propaganda at your six-year-old, they wouldn't consciously do that either. They would be walking statements that Leftists Are Good People, but they wouldn't say that, in so many words, if they agreed not to say it.

Well, let's just say that these Illiberal Left-Wing Clueless Clones have never experienced a need to find out that anybody who's not a left-winger, even if what they are/were is/was ahead of their time (like C.S. Lewis, Wendell Berry, or Piers Anthony), might be a decent human being too.

In order for "diversity" to mean anything to me, it must not be confused with a panel of people saying "I'm Black and I'm an Extreme Leftist...I'm Jewish and I'm an Extreme Leftist..." etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. Anyone with a reasonable talent for narrative can share stories about growing up Black or Jewish or Korean or lefthanded or pitch-deaf or gender-confused or "gifted" or in any other way different from the Great American Stereotype Shown on 1950s Television, although these days you have to be fairly old to remember 1950s television, and those stories can be reasonably interesting...but they have to be going somewhere other than "I'm an Extreme Leftist, I'm an Extreme Leftist, I'm an Extreme Leftist," to remain interesting.

As far as I'm concerned, if you want to claim "diversity" as a selling point, you have to include some diversity of opinions as well as backgrounds. (Like this blog's feed, incidentally; displaying the feed on the screen you see is somewhere down around 500th position on my to-do list, but it includes at least one writer who's claimed socialism as the religion of her childhood and at least one who'd like to go all the way back to "McCarthyite" leftist "hunting.") You want a left-wing Catholic and a right-wing Catholic, a left-wing Protestant and a right-wing Protestant, a Jew, a Mormon, an atheist, a Neo-Pagan, and if possible a Sikh too, for "diversity." You want a practicing homosexual and a person who believes God doesn't want her to sit at the same table with a practicing homosexual, at the bare minimum, if you're going to talk about "diversity" in sexuality at all. You don't want to force a Vietnamese-American and a Vietnam veteran whose PTSD flares up at the sight of "slanted eyes" to sit at the same table, but if you want "diversity" you want to cite things both of them have said or written.

And, hello, do you want to include HSP introverts? Er um...the only way it would ever have been possible for me to have become friends with the people I have is that, although they really show "diversity" as defined above, they are HSP introverts. That is My Kind Of People.

Frankly, although I honestly don't care what skin color, hair texture, or eyelid shape people have, and my only concern about ethnicity is whether we can at least agree on one mutual language even if it has to be French, I'm none too keen on The Other Kind Of People--the ones who are not HSP introverts. I have no ethnic prejudice whatsoever and am glad to say I could find at least one point of agreement with the Devil itself, if it has a "self." Still, in my way, and it's not so much a conscious choice as a physical reaction I can't conceal for much longer than the veteran can conceal his PTSD, I, too, am prejudiced. As a Christian I've made a conscious choice to practice love toward all God's creatures (whether I like them or not); as a biological life form I'm able to like only people who are like me in the one important way.