Daily Kent Stater

Celebrations of diversity not bad

Dear Editor:

It seems that Jeff Schooley (Feb. 4) needs to be reminded that skin color is a palpable element of the “natural identity” given to us. Granting due respect for Dr. King’s hope that this difference will one day be effaced in the recognition of character, it is, however, only in acknowledging difference that a culturally impartial, bias-free assessment of character might eventually allow an uncompromised rapprochement of racial differences.

The “Tower of Babel” account in Genesis may be read as an admonition directed at the arrogance of ethnic and linguistic hegemony; thus scripture vindicates the cultural diversity Schooley, the Christian, wishes to see no longer celebrated.

However, I want to go a bit further and show that Schooley’s argument is both feckless and irrelevant. In post-modern society, aside from its edifying value, commemoration of cultural diversity seems to function as appeasement in several ways.

It acknowledges acceptance of a minority by the mainstream (which is what Schooley appears to be arguing for), but at the same time, it seems to circumscribe that acceptance by highlighting the minority’s most outstanding cultural achievements along with customs and lifestyles. It does so in a way that often serves to overshadow and obscure subtler, more intractable barriers to fair and equal treatment (for example, African-Americans within the criminal justice system).

Diversity celebrations function in symbolic ways and mask capitalism’s dismantling of the differences these events purport to showcase and extol as ethnic traits are co-opted and absorbed into an increasingly homogeneous mainstream.

If Schooley saw more clearly the manner in which celebrations of diversity operate as appeasements to those within and those outside a minority “functioning both overtly and covertly,” he would realize they serve no divisive function.

Rather, they provide the semblance of an integrating — one that acknowledges difference but in a way that is more apparent than real.

They present no obstacle to Schooley’s conception of what might more candidly “in an anti-eschatological re-phrasal that is contrary to his view” be termed “reduction to a common denominator,” whether it is called “source,” “essence” or simply “human nature.”

Robert E. Wood

Alumnus M.A., 1973