Tag Archives: equality

Elements of Diversity: How Change Agents, Activists, Advocates, and Other Do-Gooders Seem to Not Get It Right After 40 Years of Trying

by Guest Contributor Hugo Najera, originally published at AmericanPupusa


I am disappointed in the still inconsistent and unfinished definition of the “D” word applied by mainstream spaces and do-gooder change agents. The word is a bad choice to describe the ideal we seek, and the most incomplete to describe the cure my social anger. “Diversity” has been tainted before I got a chance to play for the team, it’s the jersey we wear on the court, and few in the team know this.

This problem came to light when I attended “New Models in Media and Activism” sponsored by Campus Progress. The event was a panel discussion with Amanda Terkel – Senior politics reporter for The Huffington Post, Amy Austin – Publisher for Washington City Paper, Latoya Peterson – Editor of Racialicious.com, and Melinda Wittstock – Founder, CEO, and Bureau Chief of Capitol News Connection about the intersection of women, activism, and social media. The 80+ attendees comprised of about 90% 20-something white females, a sprinkle of Black females, drips of white males, and one Latino Albino (guess). The panel provided good insight, suggestions, and anecdotes on their experiences and contexts, showing a spectrum of voices from Print, Web 1.0, 1.5 to 2.0 media. The event also provided examples of the ineptitude of many change agents to grasp what diversity means in real-world situations. One panelist painfully tried to keep up with the others by saying things like “Well, that’s why women are better at getting along because we communicate better than men, which is why diversity is important” and other lovely words of wisdom. Throughout the event, audience members and moderators mostly framed issues of diversity in simple terms like getting more African Americans and women in the media. A white male student from American University correlated diversity troubles at his school with what was happening in the media, as Black candidates who run for student government president never win, asking “how can we combat that so we can be more diverse?”

Such comments assume that diversity is measured only by the number of Blacks, women, and Latinos in the room, without considering the structural reframing, process, and competencies that can make the term usable. “Diversity” as shorthand for a tally of physical bodies and archetypes is one of the major issues this term faces for validity and understanding. This incomplete definition makes whites feel apart and not responsible, targeted groups into tokens who feel responsible for carrying the burden in get-togethers, and ultimately diminishing collective knowledge. And for those who accompany the word with action, process, and competency, it annoys us when others in the choir don’t sing with the entire range of notes true diversity asks for. Continue reading

Questions and Answers

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

A couple of weeks ago I had the Toronto launch of my novel, Shine, Coconut Moon. I prepared myself in the usual way, going over what I would read, how I would introduce myself and the book to the guests, and anticipating audience questions during the Q&A. This Q&A, however, threw me off. I should have known better than to expect the usual, “So, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?” line of questioning from my Canadian peeps.

The questions they wanted answers to were more along the lines of: So, what would you say is the difference between Canadian racism and American racism? And, Would you say South Asians in the U.S. are more assimilated than South Asians in Canada?

Maybe I brought it on myself with the intro.

Before reading an excerpt, I talked a bit about how, while living in Canada, I never thought of myself as Canadian – I was always Indian or Punjabi or Sikh and then later, South Asian. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. and lived through eight years of the Bush administration, that I felt the most Canadian I’d ever felt in my life. That was when I realized that things I’d always taken for granted (free universal health care being only one of many) were values that formed and shaped who I was. They were the underpinnings of what I thought was right and just. And I was clearly not in Canada anymore.

But having to answer those tough questions for fellow Canadians was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do yet. So much of the experience sits as half-formed thoughts that I had to somehow mold into coherent responses.

Things like the fact that when I lived in Canada, I reveled in my “ethnicity,” wore my Indian-ness with unapologetic joy. But the minute I crossed the border I shrunk from everything that made me appear “too” ethnic. I was hassled at the border several times when I visited home and tried to return. My partner at the time begged me to remove my nose ring and to dress more “corporate” so that I would get across. And the time that I followed that advice, the crossing was smooth and uneventful. I understood, then, on a much deeper level, why that push for assimilation was so strong south of the border. Continue reading