What good are diversity schemes?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the kind of person who gladly shares diversity tickets to tech conferences and indeed owes several life changing experiences to the willingness of those with more resources to share them on behalf of those without. I’m an advocate of affirmative action – although it’s always important to add that more needs to be done to offset poor mental health and decreased confidence which can be exacerbated by feeling like ‘the only one’ and the slew of negative expectations; not to mention that simply having a policy of affirmative action means nothing if the environment is still racist. I can appreciate the importance of representation, though hopefully not at the expense of personal/communal dignity and wellbeing.
But as I read the dutiful updates of Zuckerberg’s travels in Africa, the focus on diversity drives within companies such as Google, I also think about the fact five times more black people than white people per head of population in England and Wales are imprisoned. Simply having more black faces at the top of the food chain provides a dubious satisfaction. How does diversity impact the everyday material experience of a community? Can it?
The article from Model View Culture on how Liberalism upholds racism ably explains how it can’t. Diversity schemes operate on the basis of the individual after all and as such are limited in the way they can address structural inequalities. The following article on how minority funders are still again illustrates a real problem: what is the point of asking minorities and the disenfranchised to show up (as though they never were to begin with *insert eye-roll here*)? Oppression isn’t their fault.
I learned a shocking statistic recently: Less than 1 percent of venture capital funding goes to black founders. This must change. When funders fail to give entrepreneurs of color a fair chance, it’s everyone’s loss. Read More
I’m always one to say that technology reveals more about humanity than it doesn’t. There is no magic here – the way it is created, distributed and absorbed reflect the nature of those who do the creation, distribution and absorption. By its nature it both reveals and further encodes notions of ‘difference’.
It’s all very well asking minorities to get more involved, but unless we’re able to totally reprogram the status quo it’s important to understand the limits of diversity schemes. It’s important to check ourselves before demanding the oppressed need to step up and lean in.
Honestly though, if we’re talking about black liberation? Yeah, diversity schemes alone aren’t going to cut it.