Diversity or Conformity?
Josh Hunter | firstname.lastname@example.org
As a black student who for most of his life has attended primarily white institutions, I have often asked myself what we as a society hope to achieve with our efforts to become more diverse. Going to a high school with mostly white students I believed that diversity meant having more students of color. I was the president of the Multi-Cultural Student Alliance, and the Black Student Union at my school. In these groups we conducted various exercises with the purpose of promoting awareness of racial and social inequalities; as well as promote cultural acceptance. At first, I felt that the work I was doing within both groups was fulfilling and that I was truly making a difference. However, after reflecting upon my experiences in both groups, I began to realize that not only was I a victim, but I was perpetuating a system that did not truly support diversity. But rather I was supporting a system that promotes intellectual conformity.
When it comes to politics I am conservative. Upon hearing this most people only hear the word “conservative.” Since my freshmen year of high school I have been aware of what my true political affiliation is. However, I was well aware of the growing dangers of making this statement.
By identifying as conservative many would assume the following stereotypes about me: I must be racist, sexist, homophobic, a sellout, an uncle tom, and just downright ignorant. I knew that as a student with five sisters, and having good friends who are gay, being labeled with such terms would be dangerous to any sort of social life I wanted to have. So I played the part much like many minority students claim that society forces us to act and be a certain way until my senior year when I finally had enough of promoting a system that claims to support racial diversity, but discourages intellectual variation.
By my senior year I was fed up with myself. I preached about how we should not generalize and label, and yet I was a repeat offender of that. The reason I got away with it was because I was going with the status quo and saying what everyone wanted to hear. I even participated in an article that basically called my high school (a place that I love) an institutionally racist place. I said these things while my three closest friends are white. I said these things while I had great teachers who were the furthest thing from racist and treated me with nothing but respect. I said I was liberal, when at home I was secretly a huge admirer of the work of Ben Shapiro and Thomas Sowell. I finally was able to draw the line when I overheard a couple kids accusing one of my close friends of being racist. Because he was planning on voting for Trump. My friend who had never uttered a racist word in his life, and a guy who I knew to treat everyone with a high level of respect was being accused of being a racist right before my eyes.
He was not being called racist because of anything he said or had done. He was being judged simply because he saw politics from a different point of view. I began to see the hypocrisy in the way I was living. What if the roles were reversed? Would it be okay if my white conservative friend was generalizing people they way he was generalized?
It was then I realized that while I believed I was part of the solution; I was merely perpetuating the problem.
It was in that moment that I began to see that instead of fighting against conformity we simply are forcing conformity and trying to get all people to think the same. By being in a place where all opinions and ways of thinking are both accepted and challenged. That is what a truly diverse community is.
At institutions like Bucknell, I found that the common goal of social justice is to fight against prejudices and stereotypes. And while I feel at times that these “stereotypes,” are blown out of proportion, any attempt at improving the circumstances of students on campus is admirable to me. The irony is that while it appears we are fighting to demolish stereotypes based on physical appearance, we have created a new culture of discrimination that is not based on one’s appearance, but it is based on how one thinks.
The most troubling part about the new culture of discrimination is that the people a part of this new discriminatory culture often claim to be allies to those who have felt stereotyped because of their appearance. Just as those who claim to be allies say they are fighting to show that they are more than just their skin color, gender or sexual orientation, I believe we can find a parallel when I say just because a student is black does not make him/her an athlete, being a Trump supporter does not make that person racist.
With this new discrimination we have created an “us vs them” mentality that has become Black vs White, men vs women, rich vs poor. By having so many “us vs them” scenarios we have created what Thomas Sowell calls “Ethnic Polarization,” which means that we are creating a society in which different ethnicities are pulling further apart rather than coming closer together.
I would continue along these lines and say we have created intellectual polarization. All of these scenarios are being pushed by elite progressive intellectuals, who no more than one hundred years ago were supporters of eugenics. Which was a thought process born from social Darwinism. Eugenics was an attempt to prevent the breeding of people that would drag society down which included certain races. I say all this to pose a couple of questions. Are we truly supporting diversity or are we simply conforming to the common beliefs of our time?
Ask yourself is there a difference between rejecting someone because of race and rejecting someone for how they identify politically?
I am not opposed to fighting for social justice. Nor am I here to invalidate any experience of discrimination any student has been through. While in politics I believe social justice has become more of a platform to gather more votes; here at Bucknell the affinity groups, and clubs are made with genuinely good intentions.
I just worry that in our attempts to make everyone here feel safe regardless of how they culturally identify, we are suppressing the freedom of intellectual expression that all students should have.