Diversity v Equality?

Diversity has become one of those words that no one is really sure about anymore. Some say it is a superficial sprinkling of one interpretation of what is supposed to be good, others say it’s a distortion of reality that is all about optics and not the substance, and some go as far as saying that it’s a cruel farce that pretends to advance equality but cares little for justice.

One curious factor is that it very often includes Race but ignores Racism, includes Gender but ignores sexism & misogyny and appears seemingly less cofrontational because it includes everyone, and we can choose as to which discipline takes priority. What may be an attractive proposition to some is that it does not give Race any special attention and accords with the presumption that “Race” has had its fair share of attention and we should give the other disadvantaged groups a bit more time.  Many companies now use “EDI” (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) as a “professional” response to inequality that is not “tainted” by left wing politics and it can pick and choose where it applies its efforts in areas that are less contentious. The sad reality is that sometimes we pretend that the “Politics” is not an issue when it is the only issue

There was a time when inequalities were identified, and steps were taken to change the systems and individuals identified were either educated or appropriately or not appropriately punished. This education was manifested in training courses and documented instructions which unfortunately were rarely followed through and were very often used as evidence of future good deeds that only sometimes came to pass…..and of course very few individuals were actually punished, and some were moved on within the organisation to deliver their misguided views to even more people. The new evidence in the Stephen Lawrence case, where a new perpetrator has just been identified, highlights the fact that people in the self-declared racist & misogynistic Metropolitan Police system were guilty of more than incompetence and up to now no officers have ever been punished. I must confess that I have never seen an organisation apologise so much without actually doing anything…a bit like the old reparations argument and the Windrush scandal. Apologies are a waste of time without change and only makes the perpetrators feel better as they try to assuage their guilt.

Many organisations have zero tolerance policies, EDI policies, anti-racist policies, equality statements and a whole range of worthy declarations and much is made of declaring such policies and suitably compliant BME faces are pushed upfront to showcase these efforts. Sometimes flags are flown and individuals come together to march and testify to their commitments whilst ignoring issues of racism in the places where they operate from. How many of these people actually stand up to individual cases of racism which take place on almost a daily basis, and we have witnessed so much of this with the cardboard waving Black Lives Matters protesters.  Of course, it is much easier to virtue signal one’s position than to directly challenge individual cases of racism that may involve people they otherwise had thought were “the good guys”. We say a great deal about systemic racism and institutional racism as if it is this indefinable element that invades the workplace like sleeping gas; when it is a consequence of individual acts of racism that can be challenged if people have the bravery to call it out! The declaring of systemic racism and institutional racism sometimes deflects from individuals taking responsibility for their part in it.

The real problem about such posturings is that it takes the place of any real action and those sympathetic about wanting to do something about combatting injustice are sucked into this whirlpool of non-productive virtue signalling that convinces us that we are making a difference but what is even more dangerous is that it convinces everyone else that there is a lot going on to combat injustice …..and sometimes too much…..and perhaps what is going on with White RAF officers will be seen by many as a perfect example of the enormous advantages that Black people have had at the expense of mainly White men.

The use of social media has given us the luxury of exercising our liberal credentials without actually doing anything but at the same time still tightly holding on to the small advantages that we have secured as a result of those injustices. As a society in the UK, we are surrounded by what I call “The Bling of Diversity”. By that I mean the way in which the media over represent Black people in circumstances that gives a false impression of how well we are doing. This is manifested in adverts dramas, reality tv and advertising…to the point that it creates a resistance that now contributes to the cancel culture philosophy which feeds into the premise that too much is being dne for the so-called disadvantaged!

Look… it is not all bad news. The clarion call for Diversity has, at least, recognised that we all have differences, but the big question is how much value we attach to those differences. Are we committed to taking tangible steps to address those differences and are we prepared to give up some of the advantages that have been accrued as a consequence of those differences…the jury is still out!

Don John