Does diversity mean me, too?

2 Jun

Although I do a lot of reading on the topic, I’ve generally shied away from issues of race on this blog because they’re difficult to talk about.  But, I read this article the other day that’s really got me thinking.  I’m just posting this to share it without too much commentary of my own.  But here’s the one thing I’ll add: at some points I have felt that diversity and multiculturalism are code for “and not you”.  I don’t know if that’s wrong, but it is how I’ve felt.  That’s faded a lot as I’ve gotten older and realized that everyone (yes, even a middle-class white girl from the Midwest) has a culture and that all of those cultures (even mine) are welcome in a truly multicultural society.  But, it’s taken me a while to get here and it’s something I’m still working on.

So, without any further comment, here’s an excerpt from and link to Salon’s piece on white Americans struggle to find their place in multiculturalism.

“Plaut’s research “‘What About Me?’ Perceptions of Exclusion and Whites’ Reactions to Multiculturalism,” with co-authors Flannery G. Garnett and Laura E. Buffardi, looked at five different studies designed to measure white and non-white attitudes toward multiculturalism and diversity programs. Plaut and her co-authors found, maybe not surprisingly, that whites tended to feel excluded by multiculturalism, where people of color felt included. But this reaction could be lessened, or intensified, by a couple of variables. In one of the five studies, one group read a description of multiculturalism and diversity activities that made clear that the experiences of white Americans were part of the mix; a control group read an identical description, with no mention of white Americans. The whites who were told diversity approaches included the experience of whites felt more “included” than those who were not. In another study, researchers looked at subjects’ “need to belong” — it has an acronym, NTB, who knew? — and found that whites with a strong need to belong felt particularly excluded by activities and approaches around multiculturalism and diversity.”

One more caveat, the beginning of the article’s a bit intense and seems to set up some straw men to knock down.  But, keep reading and you’ll get to some interesting paragraphs.

No questions today because I can’t think of anything that don’t start with “Are you white?” and that’s really not somewhere that I want to go.  But thoughts and perspectives (from anyone) are welcome.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new on the Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about Internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a whole new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

6 Responses to “Does diversity mean me, too?”

  1. plantainperiodicals June 15, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Hi Maggie,

    About 5 years ago my college (in London) had a muti cultural day. A lot of the activities on the day were to do with black and asian heritage and so a lot of the white pupils felt excluded. However everyone was given the chance to organise an activity but the white students some how did not feel it applied to them. I think the reason for this was because the term multi cultural was penned in order to include non whites and somewhere along the line the focus has been laid so heavily on making non white people feel included with the result of making white people feel excluded…

    • Maggie June 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. I think you’re my first British reader! You’re right about the way that, even though everyone’s invited to participate, some people might not think that it applies to them. At my college, we has a black student center/multicultural center that was separate from the general student center. It always had free printing (a big plus when you’re in college) and had really great events/speakers with free food. I would see the signs for them around campus and would want to go, but thought that I wasn’t welcome.

      Obviously terms change over time and often deviate from their original intent. (Just look at all the words used to describe people with intellectual disabilities.) But, I think that it might be a time for a new word that makes everyone feel included. I can’t think of any words associated with and sort of multicultural/diversity effort that don’t leave some people feeling excluded. Am I missing something?

    • thegreatantagonizer November 6, 2012 at 12:20 am #

      Great comment 🙂

      It’s a great irony that multiculturalism has evolved in this way. I think that the problem is that people have associated questioning multiculturalism with being racist. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this problem off the top of my head. I do believe that multiculturalism has achieved great things, but you are right that it has started to exclude white children, sadly. The idea of a black students association or an Asian students association is completely acceptable. Yet, if someone tried to make a white students association, it would be immediately associated with the KKK (I am white, and I would automatically make this association). This kind of thinking needs to change.

  2. sally July 21, 2011 at 3:17 am #

    People of all colors can live,play,study and work together.

  3. Ro June 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    I am at a quandry because although I understand that in order to see themselves in multicultural work, Whites must feel included, however there is also a piece that needs to be addressed on what the exclusion of the dominant group can be “the” things that makes some non-whites feel included. This of course depends on where they are in their identity development, but as a facilitator I feel responsible for both including Whites, but also helping them understand why their exclusion is sometimes the thing that comforts People of Color. It is what it is, and whether wrong or right, it is a reality that we have to face and eventually address.

    • Maggie O'Toole June 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Ro. It’s been so long since I’ve written this post that I’d kind of forgotten about writing it, but it’s still a topic that I find myself thinking about. Recently, I’ve been puzzling over the way that I see a number of white Americans pushing back against the label of white and defining themselves as Irish Americans or Italian Americans or what have you. I’m wondering if it’s an attempt to get themselves removed from being seen as part of an oppressive majority and included in the group of multicultural minorities that it somehow seems more PC to proudly identify with. (Yeah, try to work your way through that sentence… Clearly you as a facilitator are able to much more eloquently express yourself on this subject than I am.)

      I do see what you’re saying, though. Seems kind of like a safe space concept, which I can totally get behind. But, I wonder how much something that reads like a safe space to one group reads as purposefully exclusionary to another and I worry that that feeling of exclusion can quickly turn to resentment and then anger. And then we get arguments like “Why don’t we have a White Entertainment Channel?” and “What’s wrong with men’s rights groups?” Clearly, from the outside, they’re bad arguments, but I think they really do come from a sense of exclusion and loss of place. As to the eventuality of needing to address it… I think I’ll leave that one to you to solve!

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