Diversity officer

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse:

Two things here: the adaptation of the Star Trek characters; and diversity as a sociocultural concept, including diversity officers in organizations.

Star Trek. There are four Star Trek characters alluded to / parodied in the cartoon: three from the original show — Capt. James T. “Jim” Kirk in the first panel, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (the chief medical officer) in the second panel, and Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (the chief engineer) in the third panel — but instead of the original first officer, Spock, the fourth panel has the first officer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, William T. “Will” Riker, and under the character’s name in the tv series. Riker is presented here as willing to have sex with anything; Riker’s, um, diverse tastes would certainly make him a candidate for the ship’s diversity officer.

Diversity. Meanwhile, back in the real world, we come up against a thoughtful and disturbing piece by Anna Holmes in the NYT Magazine on Sunday (November 1st), “Has ‘Diversity’ Lost Its Meaning?”

The short answer is Yes. Holmes ends with this indictment of organizations seeking to achieve “diversity”, sometimes by appointing a diversity officer (I was once impressed into acting in such a position myself, as an openly gay person):

the work of articulating and creating diversity often — usually! — falls to those who are themselves considered “diverse.”

It’s something I have experienced myself. Over the past few years, numerous editors have reached out to me asking for help in finding writers and editors of color, as if I had special access to the hundreds of talented people writing and thinking on- and offline. I know they mean well, but I am often appalled by the ease with which they shunt the work of cultivating a bigger variety of voices onto others, and I get the sense that for them, diversity is an end — a box to check off — rather than a starting point from which a more inte­grated, textured world is brought into being. I’m not the only one to sense that there’s a feeling of obligation, rather than excitement, behind the idea. [African-American film director Ava] DuVernay herself hinted at this when she, too, admitted that she hates the word. “It feels like medicine,” she said in {a] speech. “ ‘Diversity’ is like, ‘Ugh, I have to do diversity.’ I recognize and celebrate what it is, but that word, to me, is a disconnect. There’s an emotional disconnect. ‘Inclusion’ feels closer; ‘belonging’ is even closer.”

Meanwhile, the extent of diversity in places where it might actually count (like the production staffs in film) remains appallingly low. Tokens are everywhere: a single highly visible “diversity person” is taken to satisfy our culture’s diversity needs.

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