Majority creates a metric of normalcy that, in turn, produces a level of invisibility cloaked by uniformity and custom. Diversity, in several regards but, more specifically, racially, has not fully penetrated the majority on many college campuses as, in many instances, the entire population of non-whites does not exceed 50%. Likely, it never will. How can it? Save for a small subset of higher education institutions that serve students of color primarily (generally a result of location or intentional design), having a majority of white students on college campuses, particularly elite ones, is expected – as the racial demographics of our country still indicate whites as a majority by a large margin. As a result, it becomes easy for society, at large, to overlook the issues that plague minority demographics. Therein lies the privilege that Blacks are not afforded.
Referring to recent recognition of historical wrongs related to slavery, Harris et al. state, “It also reflects the convergence of the important, if little remarked, changes in Western political and intellectual life:…the emergence of what Charles Taylor has called ‘the politics of recognition,’ a politics keyed not to individual rights but to the collective rights of groups to have the identities and histories they value acknowledged in the public sphere.” With respect to colleges finally reckoning with their troubled relationships with slavery, it begs the question: Is recognition and acknowledgment enough? As Sara Ahmed mentions, regarding university multicultural documents, “To read the document for what it is saying would be to miss this point by making it the point.” Ultimately, any document purporting to address inequality means nothing if it does not affect change. Ahmed follows this up remarking, “As I explore in more detail throughout this book, it is as if having a policy becomes a substitute for action.”
Nice job putting our texts for today in conversation with each other. I wonder if Harris et. al. in some ways lead us out of the diversity cul-de-sac (using diversity to endlessly circle but not advance) that Ahmed sees in higher ed institutions? I say this because Harris et. al. point to movements for reparations as an important element of recent inquiries into the connections between the university and slavery. Coming at this from Ahmed’s work, I wonder to what extent “diversity” language in the university has been made to intentionally steer clear of reparations language?