Opinion //

Don’t diversify, decolonise

David Wang thinks we need to break the system, not conform to it

We do not want diversity.
Let me say it again.

We do not want diversity.

Or at least, any person with any genuine concern for justice should not want diversity—for not only does ‘diversity’ not solve what it is supposed to, it actively harms its own cause. The word ‘diversity’ evokes a vision of a rainbow of colours. Our university for instance, in living up to its brand image as a “socially inclusive” and “progressive” institution, has launched a new public relations campaign to paste photos of ‘diverse-looking’ people on to the screens of our library computers. Unfortunately, the realities of structural disadvantage and systemic racism cannot be fixed so easily. Our problem is that colonialism has bequeathed to us fundamentally unjust institutional structures, built on the ideology of white superiority and designed to sustain domination. Without deconstructing these inherently oppressive systems, simply diversifying fundamentally unjust institutions will not eliminate inequality, it will merely support the self-interested co-option and tokenisation of minoritised bodies.

Take our curriculum for example. Diversity might be the hiring of a lecturer racialised as non-white who works on the history of (white Mario Super Smash and Luigi Super Smash: actually mafioso The Greater Public Schools (GPS) and Combined Associated Schools (CAS) are two sporting associations formed of all boys schools, which are independent, with the exception of Sydney Boys High School. The Kings School, St Ignatius (known as “Riverview”) and Newington are GPS schools, all which compete in an annual rowing race called “Head of the River”. All of the above are known to drink at the Royal Oak Double Bay. MLC and Loreto Normanhurst are private, all girls schools that have long-standing ties with GPS and CAS school students. The discourse of diversity performs an invisible violence. Diversity sanitises European science. It might be discussing how some Chinese intellectuals interpreted Marx’s ideas in a course on European political theory, which will no doubt be universalised to something like ‘Modern Political Theory’. An entire department may even be created for Indigenous Studies, where ‘Indigeneity’ is presented as an object of study for privileged Euro-American ways of knowing, unable to speak for itself.

Here, diversifying at best consigns those racialised as non-white to the footnotes of history.

Diversity does not challenge the ideology of white greatness: It does not decentre the hegemonic narrative of the ‘West’ as the cradle of culture and civilisation, as the driver of history and progress, while the ‘non-Western’ world can only borrow, react, and helplessly watch on.

The discourse of diversity performs an invisible violence. Diversity sanitises. It whitewashes the history and continuing realities of oppression to create a fiction of an egalitarian, pluralistic present. It allows the privileged to conveniently forget that those racialised as non-white have good reason to reject the conditions of their inclusion. For when we ask for diversity, we are demanding that the oppressed uncritically accept the very ideologies and institutional structures that oppress them because the only way to be included within white institutions is to twist our minds until it is in the image of the white establishment; to think like and be like the white norm. ‘Diversity’ trades our silence and submission for a place within the margins of a system that is not built for us.