The American Library Association has made explicit what a lot of us have suspected: that to a certain mindset that loves to throw the word around, “diversity” isn’t a measure of the variation in a group, but a particular group of people. It gives this definition:
The American Library Association (ALA) defines diversity as being “those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment, and housing”.
Even Humpty Dumpty would never imagine he could make the word “diversity” mean “people who have certain characteristics.” The point isn’t to define the meaning of the word, but to destroy it by turning it into an anti-concept. See the comments on my earlier post for how this works.
The kind of people who would come up with this definition are the kind who hate diversity yet want to pretend to support it. Actually supporting diversity in an institution means accepting people with a variety of backgrounds, ideas, and viewpoints. It means accepting disagreement for the sake of better understanding. In the academic world, it’s become common for people to value conformity rather than diversity, agreement rather than debate. The only way such people can continue to pretend to value diversity is to adopt a nonsense definition for it.
Under this definition, some people are “diverse” and others must be … “same,” I guess. Not the same as anything, just same, lacking in the characteristics which make a diverse person. Thus, the way to make a group more diverse is to exclude everyone who lacks the characteristic of “diversity.”
It would be bad enough for anyone to twist words that way, but it’s outrageous for the American Library Association. It’s supposed to promote literacy and the understanding of written works. Instead, it’s twisting words out of shape. That is truly shameful.