Diversity-Speak: Animal Farm at Wright State University
Stephen Paul Foster, Foster Speak, March 2, 2017
When talking about race-relations in America these days one cannot overstate how corrupt the use of language has become. “Racism” is now a term of art reserved for demagogues, ideologues, character assassins and “professionals” who make a career of their race. An honest, dispassionate discussion of race in America is verboten, and nowhere does the production of verbal smog with its semantic deformation and fake moralism on this subject rise more rapidly to match the level of Soviet-era, Pravda-style Newspeak than on the campuses of American universities.
In most American universities there are now firmly entrenched “diversity” commissars — here a Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, there an Associate Provost of Multiculturalism, everywhere a PC zealot with a hefty title. These are people with no real jobs. Installed by craven university presidents they serve as scolds and busybodies, self-proclaimed authorities on whatever might hurt the feelings of those in the currently certified victim classes. Within their purview are micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, safe spaces and correct usage of pronouns in the service of transgenderism. Since these czars, are charged with conjuring into reality such elusive and nebulous abstractions like diversity, inclusion, equity, etc., who can ever remotely guess what it is that they are suppose to be doing?
The language of academic Diversity-Speak is a subgenre of Newspeak. Its constricted vocabulary and closely regulated grammar make it into a straight jacket of ideological orthodoxy the constraints of which no one is supposed to break out of. The key words, in typical Orwellian fashion, are twisted beyond normal recognition. Everyone knows this: everyone pretends otherwise.
The diversity VP at any typical university now serves as the institutional superego. He/she plays the role of the priest, a stern moralist who intones the politically correct incantations, but, most importantly, functions as the living symbol of the university’s vigilance against what must never be tolerated in even the slightest degree, racism and its spin offs – sexism, ableism, homophobia, the forced march on to infinity. This is no small task since racism and its feral cousins are now so pervasive and manifest themselves in so much abundance, some of its forms so recondite, only to be discernible by the priest and his acolytes. Thus: institutional racism, systemic racism, casual racism, overt racism, covert racism, legacy racism, environmental racism, economic racism — on it metastasizes with an ever more complex taxonomy yet to be constructed and guaranteed job security for the well-paid necromancers.
These high level diversity positions are steeped in perversity so glaringly obvious that the fact that no one can mention it (resistance is futile) suggests that higher education is now firmly in the grip of political extortionists and con-artists posing as moralists. The ludicrous perversity is that of the inevitable motive of self-interest built into the heart of the “diversity profession.” The more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic an institution is (the more victims there are to attend to), of course, the greater the role, the higher the charge, the larger the entourage, the more power there will be for the officially anointed voices of the voiceless. Attending to lots of victims requires lots of resources – increased personnel, more offices, bigger budgets for travel to conferences on diversity, the Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition in San Francisco, October 2017, for example. What chief diversity officer anywhere, even if he wanted to, would admit to a serious reduction in all the “isms” and “phobias” in the institution where he is employed? Fewer “isms” and “phobias” mean fewer staff, diminished influence, less visibility, ultimately another line of work with more accountability.
But to return to the notion of the corruption of language, specifically Diversity-Speak, focus for a moment on the recent official announcement (below) of the appointment of a Diversity Chief at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. The announcement is worth parsing since it is so generic and tediously formulary that it could come out of almost any American university or college. The language in the announcement, as should become obvious momentarily, is stereotypical, banal Diversity-Speak. Its design, ironically, is to say nothing that any remotely thoughtful and reasonable person would say depicts any aspect of reality. This is not language that is meant to reveal or describe anything but rather to soothe and misdirect.
Matthew Boaz, Wright State University’s director of equity and inclusion, has been named to the new position of chief diversity officer….. Boaz is a nationally recognized leader in diversity, inclusion, equity and access. He has extensive experience in helping underrepresented students, strengthening recruiting efforts and coordinating Title IX policies. As chief diversity officer, Boaz will provide leadership in promoting a campus culture that supports diversity and inclusion, forging strong partnerships with students, faculty and staff. “One of my goals as chief diversity officer is to create and maintain an environment in which every member of the Wright State community will feel valued because of their unique identity and authentic self so they are proud of their experience with the university,”…..
To begin: “Boaz is a nationally recognized leader in diversity, inclusion, equity and access.” This lead-off talking point is a throw-away line, sufficiently vague and ill-defined as to be meaningless. One might ponder the dubious premise behind this fake encomium and speculate that anyone with a ‘diversity’ title can rise to this stature since there are no recognized standards or measurement of achievement that could be offered in support.
To continue: “He has extensive experience in helping underrepresented students….” Who were these students? Where were they? What did he do to help them? What did he help them do? Why did they need help? No clue (wink-wink, it is obvious, isn’t it?). All we are supposed to know is that he is a guy who helps people. What else does one need to be to be a diversity VP? Just string together a few more of those vague generalities and bolster the fiction that there is a large contingent of needy people who will flounder without him.
On to “partnerships”: As chief diversity officer, Boaz will provide leadership… in forging strong partnerships with students, faculty and staff. Ah, yes, the obligatory “forging partnerships”, another key filler phrase to signal how busy he will be but with no clue about what he will be doing. What kind of partnerships? Why are they necessary? What have these partnerships achieved in the past that make them valuable?
It gets worse: “One of my goals as chief diversity officer is to create and maintain an environment in which every member of the Wright State community will feel valued because of their unique identity and authentic self so they are proud of their experience with the university,” Boaz said.
Clearly, Mr. Boaz won’t be wasting his time on trying to appear modest. The sum total of “every member of the Wright State community” if you count students, faculty and staff, would be in excess of 20,000 people, each with a “unique identity and authentic self”. Unclear is how he will have time for any other goals. Still, given that Wright State University draws many of its students from the surrounding conservative rural counties, it seems reasonable to conjecture that some them might possess an “authentic self” (perhaps a traditional Christian self) that will not sit well with the pronoun-neutral apparatchiks in Student Affairs who warm the seats in (are you ready?) The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Ally Affairs. One needs to twist furiously away on the Diversity hermeneutical-decoder magic ring just to decipher the meaning of the office title and to guess at how the people inside fill their days. Those members of the “WSU community” who can’t quite get the hang of transgenderism and its Talmudic pronoun assignment challenges might have to undergo a compulsory “attitude adjustment”, a correction to their not-quite authentic selves so as to emerge proud of their experience.
This announcement is PR gobbledygook. No one should take it seriously and it is likely that few people do. It was written and issued no doubt with the hope that no one would pay it too much attention, and thus suggests how crude and cynical is the rationalizing of what diversity people are all about and how spineless the university administrators are who sic them on everyone else.
Leonard Shapiro, a prolific historian of Soviet history and politics in attempting to distill the essence of Stalinist era propaganda wrote that “the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought reveals itself as jarring dissonance.” (The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Random House, 1971, p. 477) The above example of Diversity-Speak resembles the propaganda described by Shapiro — no attempt to convince or persuade — just a predictable uniform public utterance to discourage dissonant thinking and remind everyone that the right people are still in charge.