Diversity: Do Double Standards Lead To Doublespeak?

Based on an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education by Beverly Daniel Tatum, the president of Spelman College, the answer would appear to be yes.

President Tatum, who describes herself as “an educator with many years of experience teaching about racism in predominantly white institutions,” believes that “the persistence of residential discrimination and the abandonment of busing-based school-desegregation” has resulted in an educational system, “even 50 years after the Brown decision,” in which “young people in America have had few opportunities to interact with those racially, ethnically, or religiously different from them before they go to college.”

This strikes me as considerably overstated. How many high school students, after all, live in religious ghettos? President Tatum credits “predominantly white institutions” with trying to create “truly inclusive environments,” recognizes that they are “considerably more diverse than they were in 1954,” but notes that they are “still struggling” and “still have a long way to go.” She celebrates affirmative action and endorses the Supreme Court’s endorsement of racial preferences in the Grutter case.

Then she asks, but in my opinion fails by a long shot to answer, a good question:

Given that point of view, I am often asked why I would choose to lead an institution as “homogeneous” as Spelman College. Of course, the question is based on a flawed assumption. Although 97 percent of our students are racially categorized as “black,” the student body is, in fact, quite diverse. Spelman students come from all regions of the United States and many foreign countries, from white suburban and rural communities as well as urban black ones. All parts of the African diaspora are represented, and the variety of experience and perspectives among the women who attend the college creates many opportunities for important dialogue. There is a developmental moment in the lives of young people of color when “within group” dialogue can be as important, or perhaps even sometimes more important, than “between group” dialogue. And even in the context of a historically black college, it is possible to create opportunities for both.

This doesn’t work. First, Spelman is a woman’s college, which means that right off the bat it excludes half the human race. And then, apparently by preference and design, 97% of its students are black, or rather “are racially categorized as ‘black.’” But no matter. Whites, according to Michigan and the Supremes, are deprived of educationally crucial diversity if they are not exposed to a critical mass of minorities, but blacks, being diverse among themselves, suffer nothing in a student body that contains only 3% of non-minorities.

Tatum mentions that Spelman is quite selective in its admissions, attracting “4,000 talented young women competing for 525 spaces in our first-year class.” Although she favors “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” her article does not mention whether bonus points or other preferences (say, for overcoming the burdensome effects of being raised in religiously or racially isolated environments) are offered to white applicants.

Say What? (11)

  1. Stephen April 1, 2004 at 4:54 pm | | Reply

    “the persistence of residential discrimination and the abandonment of busing-based school-desegregation”

    This is also known as “people preferring to live among their own kind.” They are entitled to this. Most people do prefer it.

    I do not, but then I am a decided minority.

    “young people in America have had few opportunities to interact with those racially, ethnically, or religiously different from them before they go to college.”

    This is also known as parents preferring to raise their children with their own values. Yikes! Call out the National Guard.

    Is it really the job of colleges to wipe out racial, ethnic and religious differences? That seems to be the message.

  2. Sarah April 1, 2004 at 6:38 pm | | Reply

    “…the abandonment of busing-based school-desegregation…young people in America have had few opportunities to interact with those racially, ethnically, or religiously different from them before they go to college.”

    I beg your pardon. As the second-largest school bus transportation system in the US, we bus 77,000 students every day into ethnically (and I presume religiously) diverse educational environments every day. We have not abandoned school desegregation supported by busing, court-ordered or not. Tatum should come visit us. Our base population in the school district is 70% hispanic, 11% black and the rest of us are…the rest of us. We live in a culturally diverse city and our schools reflect our diversity, aided by school busing which is partly based on schools of choice, partly based on overcrowded conditions (being addressed by current school construction projects). Don’t talk to me about integration or minorities. I know what it means to be a minority in my own city!

  3. Laura April 1, 2004 at 6:56 pm | | Reply

    Bussing for desegregation was abandoned in our city when the student body became 89% black. How can you desegregate by bussing a black child from one black school to another?

    But I think there is something to be said for homogeneity in a school. I attended Mississippi University for Women, graduating in 1982 which was the year the SC forced us to admit men, and I got a great education.

  4. Richard Nieporent April 1, 2004 at 11:08 pm | | Reply
  5. StuartT April 1, 2004 at 11:40 pm | | Reply

    Ms. Tatum also stated: “I meant by ‘diversity’ that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.”

    “That’s a great deal to make one word mean,” the reporter said in a thoughtful tone.

    “When I make a word do a lot of work like that,” said Ms. Tatum, “I always pay it extra.”

    Indeed.

  6. Mike April 2, 2004 at 11:08 am | | Reply

    If you replace the word black with white and vice-versa in this article you would have the entire “preferences community” up in arms. You would be ridiculed as a racist, a bigot, unfit for the post of college president.

    How one can justify a 97% black college and then go on and justify racial preferences is beyond me.

  7. Two Tone April 2, 2004 at 2:25 pm | | Reply

    Richard Nieporent said it all. Bravo!

  8. [...] Yale freshmen, Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum (whom we’ve heard from before, here and here) told the assembled freshmen, deans, faculty, and “ethnic counselors” that Racism is a [...]

  9. [...] the course for preference-pushing diversiphiles. What is glaringly odd, however, as I pointed out (here) several years ago with regard to Ms. Tatum, is that this plaintive lament over the decline of [...]

  10. A Princeton “Diversity” Parody December 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

    [...] College, ” she wrote in an article the Chronicle of Higher Education that I discussed in  “Diversity: Do Double Standard Lead To Doublespeak?” Why the scare quotes, you wonder? Because Spelman isn’t actually homogeneous, Tatum explains: [...]

  11. [...] College, ” she wrote in an article the Chronicle of Higher Education that I discussed in  “Diversity: Do Double Standard Lead To Doublespeak?” Why the scare quotes, you wonder? Because Spelman isn’t actually homogeneous, Tatum explains: [...]

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