Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Diversity Doesn't Always Help!

So this is it-- my first blog post. After 5 years of serving as an independent resource to hundreds of schools in the US and abroad and 18 years of involvement in educational spaces dedicated to diversity and inclusion, I have finally "found the time" to create a blog. In the spirit of full transparency, I was also " strongly encouraged" by Joe Mazza, my STEM professor at University of Pennsylvannia, where I am currently a doctoral student.

While I don't regard myself as a "blogger" or "writer," per se,  I am nonetheless committed to my longstanding idea of providing a resource for educators, faculty and staff, and students interested in enriching community and promoting inclusion within their schools-- public, charter, independent, and parochial. I hope that this is the first of numerous relevant, meaningful and instructive posts to that end.

After successfully jumping the preliminary hurdles of identifying a platform and setting up the blog, I then encountered the challenge of naming the blog. This was doubly frustrating because I wanted to choose a name that could be easily recalled and searchable amidst the sea of blogs, but I also acknowledged the baggage associated with the word "diversity."I have found during the nearly two decades that I have have engaged in diversity work that "diversity" doesn't always help!

Why? In many circles, "diversity" functions as an identity and represents specific historically marginalized groups, ranging from blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays, Jews, women-- anyone but straight Christian men. While this view is rarely articulated, it is commonly understood. Think about it-- whom do you picture attending a "diversity" meeting? I've even heard a number of people proclaim , proudly, that they are "diverse"-- which suggests that other people aren't diverse. It makes sense, then, that people think that "diversity" initiatives only serve to benefit the "diverse." Or, that the goals of "diversity" aim to indict or take away from "non-diverse" people in support of "diverse" people.

Conversely, many have lamented not being able to attend diversity meetings as they felt that their needs and identity would not be addressed. So whom do diversity initiatives benefit employing this framing? It's time we rethink and reframe "diversity" if the goal is truly to promote fostering an inclusive, equitable and democratic society.

So part of intentionally naming this blog" Diversity Derrick" is an effort to reclaim and reframe "diversity" in a way that actually promotes increased humanity, while integrating the perspectives and experiences of all people. Diversity should ideally encompass all identities while also galvanizing people from all backgrounds to collaborate toward our common community goals. This also suggests acknowledging the ways in which identities are stratified in a society that don't value all people equally.

If you have 7 minutes, I invite you to watch my Tedx Talk where I explore this notion of the double-edged sword of diversity:

And with that, the first blog post has been written!


  1. Hello, Derrick. I just read your post and watched your talk at Tedx and I am looking forward to what will be written here. So far, my first concern is to see how you will be defining identity, as a discrete and well defined category, or as a more fluid category. I am also anxious to see if you envision this blog to go as far as discussing what "identity" is, or if you think this is not the right place to address this question. Congrats on the blog ^^

  2. Derrick - After participating in one of your "diversity" professional development days, I am excited to read everything you have to say about inclusion and diversity and developing school communities that are healthy. If anyone can reclaim the word diversity, I fully believe you can.
    Mandy McCubbin (FCDS)