All posts filed under: Diversity

For Students Who Grew Up Poor, An Elite Campus Can Seem Like a Sea of Wealth and Snobbery

“Where are the other poor black kids?” This is the first question I remember asking myself, a chubby freshman with my hair in cornrows, while walking across the Amherst College campus. I was in the center of the main quad, standing outside Johnson Chapel. The lawn was freshly mowed. It looked pristine, a shimmering deep green. The Massachusetts evening, slightly chilly for a Miami transplant such as myself, was filled with excitement as the incoming freshmen meandered around, nervously greeting one another. Conversations bubbled all around me. Wasting little time, my new peers enlisted me in a rite of passage that, fifteen years later, I now call “convocation conversations”—those quick, casual introductory chats that happen en route to meals and classes, where students conveniently work in verbal versions of their resumes and narrate their summer itineraries for any and all to hear. These strangers—my new classmates—swapped stories of summer fun. Multiweek trips abroad. Fancy parties at summer homes. Courtside seats at professional basketball games. Invitations to private premieres of movies that, as far as I knew, …

Immigration Is Changing America Less than You Think

Few issues dominate current American politics more than immigration. Images of migrants illegally crossing the southern border, and the detainment of those caught by the border patrol, animate both the Left and Right. Central to this debate is America’s large Hispanic and Latino population, mostly driven by decades of immigration from Mexico and Central America. (The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” largely but not entirely overlap). The famous “melting pot” metaphor for assimilation has given way to more sectarian hopes by Democrats that the new arrivals will amplify their numbers, and to fears by Republicans that they will be outvoted. The hopes of the Left were perhaps most famously encapsulated in Ruy Teixeira and John B. Judis’s highly influential 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which forecast a new progressive era largely based on demographic changes. On the Right, white Americans’ fears of becoming a minority in the coming decades helped propel Donald Trump into the White House. Yet from a certain standpoint, the influx of immigrants has changed America far less than imagined. One measure …

How Can We Manage the Process of Western ‘Whiteshift’?

We need to talk about white identity. Not as a fabrication designed to maintain power, but as a set of myths and symbols to which people are attached: an ethnic identity like any other. In the West, even without immigration, we’re becoming mixed-race. This is not speculation, but is virtually guaranteed by the rates of intermarriage occurring in many Western countries. Projections reveal that faster immigration may slow the process by bringing in racially unmixed individuals, but in a century those of mixed-race will be the largest group in countries such as Britain and the United States. In two centuries, few people living in urban areas of the West will have an unmixed racial background. Most who do will be immigrants or members of anti-modern religious groups such as ultra-Orthodox Jews. The reflex is to think of this futuristically, as bringing forth increased diversity, or the advent of a “new man.” But, if history is our guide, things are likely to turn out quite differently. Many people desire roots, value tradition and wish to maintain …

What Does Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Actually Accomplish? Not What You Might Think (Or Hope)

I recently attended a Washington-D.C. event focused on community-building hosted by The Aspen Institute’s Weave project, which works to reduce social isolation and build bonds between Americans. During one portion of the event, various activists described how racism had impacted their lives and their communities. Following a number of such testimonials, a white woman from southeast Ohio named Sarah Adkins spoke about her own community work, which involves raising money to provide post-trauma support to individuals affected by tragedies. Perhaps because several speakers had discussed racism and issues related to white privilege, Adkins spoke about her own self-perceived racial privilege. “I followed the perfect mold…I did all the things, I went to college, and I keep thinking of white privilege in my head so forgive me, that’s what’s in my head right now, very much white privilege,” she said, while reflecting on her middle class life in an affluent neighborhood. But Adkins also went on to describe the reason she originally had become involved in community work—which is that her then-husband had killed both of …

Headline Rhymes

One Halloween I wanted to be Lando Calrissian My mom said, son, it’s time for some listening She said, you are white and Calrissian’s black I said, I figured that out a while back I told her my black friend was gonna be Skywalker She said that was different and things turned awkward She explained how we all didn’t always live free I said, okay, how ’bout I dress as Apollo Creed? She said, you’re not getting it, go talk to your father I threw on a Yoda mask ’cause I couldn’t be bothered I’m much older now, and maybe a little wiser But I think I could still use a costume adviser Can we don the outfit of a black film star As long as our faces stay the colour they are? Can my son play a hero from the film Black Panther? I don’t know if anyone has a definitive answer I’ll continue to read up on the latest rules I hope that by next year Calrissian is cool Views on the news, …

I’m a Male Teacher Surrounded by Women. But Please Don’t Call Me a Victim of Sexism

The conversation surrounding gender discrepancies in workplaces and universities often focuses on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — because these are high-paying fields in which women typically lag men in both representation and advancement. There is far less attention paid to similar or greater disparities in other disciplines. Rarely, for instance, does one hear much complaint about lower-status professions such as construction, logging or roofing, all fields where, in the United States, men make up over 96% of workers. The pattern is similar in my own country, Canada, and in the wider Western world more generally. In regard to skilled occupations that women dominate — such as accounting, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, veterinary medicine, social work and nursing — advocacy groups fighting for equal representation tend to fall mute. My own field, education, also features a striking gender imbalance. As a man with hopes of becoming a teacher, I am embarking on a career that is overwhelmingly dominated by women. According to Statistics Canada, women make up roughly 60 percent of high …

The Infantilization of Black America

In contemporary political discourse, black America often seems to be perceived as a monolith. We are expected to think, act, and vote as one, and any attempt to step outside the bounds of our pre-determined spectrum of thoughts can lead to summary excommunication. Our diversity pertains to our race, ethnicity, gender orientation, or sexual preference when set against the rest of the American population, but the diversity of opinions, beliefs, and values found among American blacks is seldom acknowledged. Even though the ‘black community’ in America includes immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, as well as multiracial individuals and descendants of the slave trade, we are often grouped together as one large indistinguishable ideological bloc. Consider the recent criticism heaped on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott committed the apparently unpardonable sin of saying that he doesn’t agree with the NFL players who chose to protest police violence by taking a knee during the national anthem. Speaking to reporters, Prescott said: I never protest during the anthem and I don’t think that’s the …

Bill de Blasio’s Plan to Displace Asians In New York’s Top Schools

New York City has eight elite specialized public high schools, which admit students entirely on the basis of their scores on a standardized test called the Specialized High School Aptitude Test (SHSAT).  Only the top 5% of New York students qualify for admission to the specialized high schools, and admissions are very competitive, particularly for Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, and Bronx High School for Science. These schools have also become predominantly Asian over the course of the last several decades.  Today, Stuyvesant’s student body is 72 percent Asian, about 22 percent white, two percent Latino only about one percent black, even though black and Latino students together comprise about 70 percent of public school students in New York City. In an editorial on the education news site Chalkbeat, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted the racial composition of the specialized high schools as a “monumental injustice,” and proposed eliminating the SHSAT and replacing it with a plan he believes is more fair. De Blasio’s plan to purge Asians The mayor’s …

Diversity and Discrimination in Open Source

Back in May, I decided to leave the LLVM project, to which I was a contributor. I announced this decision in an open letter to my colleagues, which received some coverage in the technical press at the time, and a number of requests for further comment, which I declined. In what follows, I want to elaborate upon my reasons for leaving and explain what I think is going wrong in open source generally, and at LLVM in particular. First, for those unfamiliar with the tech world, a little background. Software is commonly developed and made available to the public in one of two ways: either proprietary software is developed privately inside a company and sold for a fee, or open source software, as the name implies, is developed in the open for anyone to use and improve. Microsoft’s Office is an example of the former, and the Linux operating system is an example of the latter. Among programmers, there are ongoing discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of both models. I have been attracted to the open …

Shibboleths That Exclude in the Name of Inclusion

The Bible can be surprisingly relevant to academic politics. The Book of Judges tells of an internecine clash between the people of Gilead and their faithless brethren from the Ephraimite tribe, who had refused to aid Gilead against a foreign foe. Gilead retaliated mercilessly against the Ephraimites, first smashing their army and then setting a clever trap for Ephraimite survivors seeking to return home from the battlefield. Any man caught crossing the Jordan had to utter the word ‘shibboleth.’ In ordinary Hebrew, this referred to a part on a stalk of grain, but at those checkpoints it meant the difference between life and death. In the dialect of Gilead the first consonant was pronounced like the ‘sh’ in ‘shelter,’ whereas in the Ephraimite dialect it was pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘sinister.’ In this way, a linguistic subtlety became a tool to identify and kill 42,000 enemies. The stakes aren’t as high when universities hire faculty, but rhetorical nuances increasingly do stand watch at the gates of the professorial ranks. Many institutions now require aspiring …