# 260: Implementing Diversity

Michaels, Walter Benn (2006). The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality, 6.

Story behind the Passage

Today I found my new book in the mail. The press sent me 10 copies of it — hardcover. Actually, this should be a day of joy. I worked on the book for at least three years and then spent another six months or so editing it during Covid. I had to do it because this book had to be published, it was my inner urge, I just had to do it, even though it is irrational and not economic. Publishing an academic book like this one costs you several thousand Euros — and you do not get much in return, hardly anything. Still, I did it. And today should be the day of celebrating the hard work that went into it — the goal has been achieved, I am holding it in my hands.

And I feel nothing.

I kind of knew that before but witnessing it now gives testimony to something I also knew before: If you achieve ego goals, you will not feel fulfilled whenever you achieve them. The book and its content were not ego-related, the story behind the book and the degree were. But it does not matter, it is as it is. And I will probably feel happy or at least somewhat ‘proud’ when I look at the book once in a while. It is pretty in a way and it represents me and my thinking — my ‘identity.’

What else could you expect?

The story behind the book is that I left out an entire story. There was another part in it about diversity management. But in order to not make things too complicated, I cut it out because I want to publish the diversity part separately. Still, the funny thing is, these past days, the issue of diversity has become very prominent again in my business. So, I decided to show a passage from Walter Benn Michaels today. Not because I am a big fan of his. Actually, I met him at a summer school many years ago and the only thing I liked was that he was/is an enfant terrible. I did not particularly like what he said, but, well, that is what academia is all about. People write books, give talks, and he talked about diversity when I saw him.

My Learnings

“So we like to talk about the difference we can appreciate, and we don’t like to talk about the ones we can’t.” In order to understand this sentence, you kind of have to understand where Michaels is coming from with his argument. That in and of itself is a challenge. I would summarize it by saying that he wants to draw attention to the issue of class. And diversity, according to him, is a concept that nonchalantly avoids talking about this. This is also what he expresses in this sentence. Obviously, there are diversity dimensions that we love talking about, e.g., race, and then there are some that we are simply mute about, e.g., class.

“We,” particularly refers to people in the U.S. and the ‘West.’

To make a long story short: I liked the book when I read it because Michaels presents much data that is highly relevant for understanding the role diversity plays in higher education and other insitutitons. I also agree with him that there is an obsession with identity in contemporary research (in the humanities) and beyond. What I just neglect, and that will make my post today very short, is this: It is fine if you (dear intellectual so and so…) are able to subvert popular arguments and common measures that seek to contribute to a more diverse world by employing some supposedly “neo-liberal” concept. I only have one personal request:

Could you please take your honored brain along,

Go to some institution in the public or private sector,

And help implement whatever you think is the “right” kind of diversity?

Thank you!

P.S.: And please do not write another book or give another (highly paid) talk at some Ivy League institution before having completed the homework I am assigning above.

Reflection Questions

1) How do you define diversity?

2) Which academics do you know who are currently changing the world?

3) Did you ever reach a challenging goal and felt nothing?




Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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Silke Schmidt

Silke Schmidt

Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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