Social Justice Usage
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
Diversity is a reality created by individuals and groups from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice and by fostering a climate where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic, we will create a success-oriented, cooperative, and caring community that draws intellectual strength and produces innovative solutions from the synergy of its people.
“Diversity” means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference. Diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:
- Understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment;
- Practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own;
- Understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing;
- Recognizing that personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others;
- Building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.
Diversity includes, therefore, knowing how to relate to those qualities and conditions that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. These include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, as well as religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, and work experiences. Finally, we acknowledge that categories of difference are not always fixed but also can be fluid, we respect individual rights to self-identification, and we recognize that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another.
New Discourses Commentary
The first thing to notice about this definition of “diversity” is that it’s oddly long and isn’t likely to match the definition you’ve been carrying for the word. You’re likely to think “diversity” means something about having different identities and points of view represented, and yet this definition immediately asks us for more, first and particularly that differences be explored in a “safe, positive, and nurturing environment.” It also requires “embracing and celebrating” diversity. Therefore, under the auspices of Critical Social Justice, “diversity” mandates creating and maintaining such an environment, which in turn requires controlling it. As indicated, “diversity” includes “knowing how to relate” to others across demographic differences, which will also be controlled under Theory (see also, inclusion).
“Diversity” in the Critical Social Justice usage, while occasionally claiming to be tolerant of differences of ideas and political viewpoints and nodding toward “philosophical differences,” focuses, in reality, almost entirely on physical and cultural differences, which it evaluates according to the Critical Social Justice conceptions of privilege and marginalization (see also, positionality). It therefore aims to privilege the marginalized and marginalize the privileged in order to redress the imbalances it sees in society (see also, equity and progressive stack). This is made more obvious by observing that in this usage, diversity is described as a “set of conscious practices.” That is, not only is diversity something that one is expected to do under a rubric of Critical Social Justice, it is a set of practices that require conscious awareness (see also, consciousness raising, antiracism, and woke).
This may seem confusing, but it is because the Theory of Critical Social Justice takes the view that one’s relationship to systemic power in society is productive of knowledge. That is, who you are demographically and how your group identities relate to systemic power in society determines what you can know and how society values you as a potential knower. Critical Social Justice Theory posits that a person’s “way of knowing” about anything is tied to their identity and its position in relation to (systemic) power in society (see also, standpoint epistemology).
“Diversity” in the Critical Social Justice usage therefore tends to mean uniformity of viewpoint about ideological matters. All diversity of viewpoint, from the perspective of Critical Social Justice’s meaning of the term, arises by providing different cultural knowledge(s), which are only considered authentic if they corroborate the relationship of the identity group in question to systemic power as described by Theory. (This is because Theory insists that various identity groups have identifiable relationships to systemic power that only they can comprehend—see also, lived experience—and that these, in many ways, define that identity group. This, in turn, follows because Critical Social Justice Theory sees systemic power and oppression by it as the only objective truths there are about material reality—see also, essentialism and positionality.)
As a final note, the example given above contains a remark concerning diversity’s dependence upon cultural relativism, that “no one culture is intrinsically superior to another.” The important thing to recognize here is that this statement is not limited under Critical Social Justice to generally arbitrary cultural mores like styles of dress, food, music, speech, and so on, but also includes the belief that knowledge-producing and dispute-resolving methodologies—like science, liberalism, capitalism and property ownership, philosophy, debate, reliance upon evidence, and so on—are mere cultural relics that cannot be compared one against another for superiority. Under such a rubric, folklore, superstition, magic, and witchcraft are cultural artifacts that cannot be gainsaid by others like science, reason, logic, and legal standards.
Ally/Allyship; Antiracism; Authentic; Capitalism; Cultural relativism; Equity; Essentialism; Identity; Ideology; Inclusion; Knowledge(s); Liberalism; Lived experience; Marginalization; Objectivity; Position; Power (systemic); Power-knowledge; Privilege; Progressive stack; Race; Safe space; Science; Social Justice; Solidarity; Standpoint epistemology; Theory; Truth; Woke/Wokeness
Revision date: 7/13/20