Sunday, January 18, 2015

To hell with “diversity”: try not being a dick

As a framing for a debate, “diversity” is a disaster. I'd like to go back to calling prejudice and exclusion by their real names, and abandoning the “accentuate the positive” crap pop-psych.

Why? Because “diversity” is a fluffy term that lets the debate get framed by whoever is speaking.

After Linus Torvald's – whose work I admire, and whose personality is such that I wouldn't buy a beer to put out his hair if it was on fire – pratful keynote at Australia's Linux conference went all over the world, he “explained” himself to all who might listen. I link to Ars because the organ I work for, The Register, wasn't listening at the time.

Which is fine by me, because Linus' self-explanation looks at the problem from the wrong end:

"There's a lot of talk about gender and sexual preferences and race, but we're different in so many other ways, too” is how he tried to flick off the question of diversity.

There are two problems here: Linus' attitude, and the reduction of prejudice, exclusion and abuse to a question of “diversity”.

The two are conflated, because it's so easy to accept a particular framing of a question – or to exploit it, if you're cynical enough – and not question the framing.

My simple two-part answer to Linus and the whole world that uses weasel words:

Diversity” defines only who you include.

Prejudice” defines who you exclude.

I consider this an important distinction. There's no point in arguing “we're diverse because we include W and X”, if you're still prepared to accept that your community will exclude “Y and Z”.
There's no point in saying “we have a diverse community” if that “diverse” community will still pile on women, gays, Aborigines, or anyone else your “community” designates as an outsider.

And pleading “diversity” as an excuse to let yourself and those around you practice exclusion is exactly why I reject the “diversity” framing.

It's not about diversity, it's about not being a dick. 

No comments: