Friday, October 21, 2011

A challenge with diversity--including folks in a non-class biased way

It's a mistake to say that elite institutions have never accepted minorities into their fold, whether they be minorities in the sense of gender, sexual orientation, or race. While the numbers of people from minority backgrounds who were accepted into elite institutions like the state bureaucracy, academia, and business, were small before the civil rights movement, they were still there. However, it was most likely the case that, whatever the individual's own beliefs were, in order to gain admittance to these circles they had to conform to upper class white norms. Which points to a problem.

Phil Ochs, in his song "Love me, I'm a liberal", wrote that "Some of our best Negros are friends", which despite its unfortunate phrasing has some truth to it. It's easy to accept folks who have copied the dominant culture's idea of what is right and proper, and idea that is most often not just race biased but class biased as well. What's harder to do, and possibly more worthwhile to do as well, is to also accept people who come from working class backgrounds whose culture doesn't mirror that of the white upper class. Of course, the cultural and class situation is not either/or. It's possible for people to come from backgrounds that are less working class while still retaining non-white culture, but the tendency as I have observed is for the people at the bottom of our economic system to retain more of their unique culture.

To admit people whose cultural norms clash with those of proper white society is the challenge, otherwise, what we're doing is, consciously or not, encouraging access to influential sectors of society by people who mirror the elite and discouraging others.

*on edit: I could also add women as well as GLBT people who aren't from upper class culture to this, white or not, as well as white working class people.

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