The Paradox of Equality and Diversity
I once was sent on a conference for work : “Promoting Equality and Diversity”. It was really interesting with lively presentations from all kinds of groups. It was literally all singing and dancing. Tear-jerking (for those into having their tears jerked) and thought-provoking.
I wondered if it was just me, though, that sat there having a semantic crisis with the title. To what extent is it sensible or even possible to “promote” diversity? Why would anyone want to promote diversity? Is it not just … there? (Or not?)
Surely the most you can do is “acknowledge” diversity and ensure that diverse groups have “equality” with one another?
So I sat there all day wishing the banner read “Acknowledging Diversity and Promoting Equality”, then I would have been happy. But hey, it would not have been quite as snappy.
Then there’s the problem of equality. Obligatory reference to Orwell:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
To make everyone actually equal first of all isn’t practically possible. Secondly, conceptually, equality flies in the face of diversity. Thirdly it clashes also with fairness, on occasion.
Legal equality I think is “a good thing” and protects people from being discriminated against in public life.
But actual, practical equality is different. People are different. They have different skills and abilities, preferences and habits. They have different beliefs, morals, lifestyles.
This need for perceived equality is reaching the level of farce in some contexts. As Mr Incredible and his wife argued:
Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation!
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! People keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…
The paradox with diversity comes as equality does imply that things should be the same for everyone. If things are the same for everyone, does that not mean that diversity (which we wanna promote, right?) is lessened?
The fairness problem comes in many forms, most easily seen with money. If someone works hard and supports themselves and pays taxes, and someone else draws benefits and ends up staying in a house in the same street as the working man, they could be equal in terms of housing, but the fairness of the scheme could be questioned.
So, that’s my quibble with “promoting equality and diversity”, although I am always willing to acknowledge diversity and to promote legal equality. I can call a spade a spade. And I can call a spade a shovel. If I want them to be equal I could call them both spades. But, bang goes diversity, as it were…