Sunday, November 06, 2011

Not by the color of his skin...

            Before I answer the question of diversity at Weber State let me be clear about my bias. As an undergraduate I majored in Anthropology.  Most anthropologists consider Anthropology, “the study of human diversity.”  Still, researchers come at the study from two apposing views. Both groups catalog diversity but they are trying to prove two completely opposing points.  One group wishes to disperse any concept of commonality.  They wish to prove that all aspects of thought, personality, bias, and belief are culturally constructed, and so all conventions are relative and unreliable.  The other group studies diversity to find commonality.  They wish to prove that diversity is superficial, that under it all we are all still human.  As a personal bias I tend to lean more toward the latter view.  The interesting thing is that both sides feel completely vindicated by the data.  Each group looks at the same research and claims divergence or commonality, depending entirely on their pre-conceived bias.

            So is Weber State a diverse school? Does it face problems of diversity?  If by diversity you mean a variety of religious, ethnic, or racial backgrounds, then perhaps Weber State is less diverse than most schools.  If you mean do students at Weber State approach life from a variety of mental backgrounds, then yes Weber is exactly as diverse as any university holding the same number of students. 

            Let me give you a hypothetical example. Let’s imagine three people at Weber State were evolved in an argument about a hot button topic, like abortion. Two of them are white, LDS, heterosexual, and male, and the other is African American, Buddhist, Lesbian, and female.  Let’s imagine that the two men take their expected pro-life role and the woman takes her expected pro-choice role. (I am aware that either group could take either position, I am speaking hypothetically to prove a point.)  So we could easily conclude that the two men, who have more in common, support the same view because of their commonality, and that the woman chooses a different view because of her difference.  But, let’s assume that one man has chosen his position because of his compassion for the unborn child while the other wishes to protect the sanctity of sex as a means of procreation.  Imagine the woman has also taken her pro-choice view because of her sense of compassion toward women burdened with unwanted pregnancy.  In this situation the diversity lies between the two men and the commonality between the two proponents of compassion.  This example is hypothetical but by no means unrealistic and illustrates that race, religion, gender, sexuality, even positions on political issues beliefs and biases, are superficial to diversity. 

Many other students this week criticized the idea of “color blindness.”  I agree that it is wrong to ignore diversity, but diversity is not related to color, religion, gender, sexuality, or political preference.  All those things are superficial.  To understand what we have in common and where we diverge demands that we look past these superficialities.  That is what people mean by color blindness, not that they don’t see diversity but that they don’t see color as a viable means to judge someone.

            It is impossible to determine a school’s diversity by observing superficial qualities.  To determine if Weber State is a diverse school or not demands deep understanding of the underlying values.  Values, as I stated in the beginning, which I believe most people hold in common.  Diversity, in the common sense of the world, is a mask that hides our true commonality.     


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