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June 1st, 2006

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02:17 pm - Are Americans Suffering Diversity Fatigue?
Are Americans Suffering Diversity Fatigue?

People are willing to be tolerant, but only to a certain point. And from California to the Midwest and Florida, signs of exclusionary thinking are popping up all over.


Posted Wednesday, May. 31, 2006
Has it become okay to exclude again?

Perhaps one of the most treasured of American rights is the freedom of association. This is the right to hang out with whomever we want, wherever we want. It's a complicated right, because when we hang out with "people like us," inevitably someone gets kept out. Where and how to draw the line is a question we all seem to be struggling with right now.

Black Jack, Mo., made national headlines late last month when it drew its firm line. An unmarried couple with three children tried to move into the house they had just bought. The house is zoned for single family residences—and the city decided this family does not fit their legal definition of family. The couple pleaded with the city council to change the law. The city said no, and intends to evict. When this news broke, many assumed Black Jack must be one of those white, religious conservative towns in the Bible Belt. But Black Jack turned out to be a suburb of St. Louis, and it’s 70% African American. Their enforcement of the zoning doesn't seem to be motivated by race or religion—just a genuine desire to preserve the pro-family environment.

My friends in liberal Manhattan were appalled. "It could never happen here," they insisted. But it is happening there—at the corner of 70th and Broadway. The Sherman Square condominium tower rejected the application of an unmarried couple. (No, the couple is not gay.) The co-op says it isn't a moral judgment. It feels it shouldn’t be forced into a legal contract with two people who are not even willing to be legally bound to each other. Isn't that reasonable?

Down in central Florida, developers have broken ground on a new township called Ave Maria, which they hope will be populated with conservative Catholics. The town will surround a colossal church, shaped like a pontiff's hat, with a 65-foot crucifix at the front door. They're also moving a university from Michigan to Florida, so the students and faculty can seed the town. If you're a parent who does not want your child to attend the Catholic elementary school, you will have to put your child on a school bus to be educated elsewhere in the county—Ave Maria plans no public schools. The planners know darn well they can't exclude non-Catholics from buying one of the 11,000 planned homes. But they won't need to.

These anecdotes make us liberals uncomfortable, but isn't congregating with like-minded people a natural impulse? Lawyers like to drink at lawyer bars, and moms have their mommy groups. Cubs fans don't go to White Sox games, and while Girl Scout troops don't exclude lesbians, they do exclude boys.

Nor should we assume this urge to withdraw is only a conservative tactic. In the state of Nebraska, the only black member of the state legislature is Ernie Chambers. Ernie is so liberal that a colleague in the legislature said, “Ernie sees racism when he pours his breakfast cereal.” But Ernie Chambers recently pushed through a new bill that carves Omaha’s school district into three—a black district, a white district, and a Hispanic district. He thinks this will protect black schools from being cheated of their fair share of bond proceeds. He also says black families should decide what black children are being taught. They think they’ll be better off taking care their own.

Meanwhile, out in Northern California there's a city called Hercules which decided it hates Wal-Mart. Hercules wants to build a cozy tree-lined street of small shops where an old dynamite plant used to be. They don't mind chains, like Starbucks and The Gap. They just don't want a Wal-Mart, which they believe will crush the small stores like sugar ants. Hercules has found no legal means of forbidding Wal-Mart from building on the vacant lot it owns, so this week the city voted to use eminent domain and take the $15 million lot from Wal-Mart. So far that appears legal. Across the Bay in San Francisco, people cheered.

Even in socialist France, they now want immigrants to swear to their love of French culture. We can't do that here, because we protect free speech, so we're just making English our "official," language, and leaving the rest implied.

People are willing to be tolerant, but past a certain point it feels like being ordered to eat the peas. So at West Side High School in Gary, Ind., school officials let a transgendered teen named Kevin Logan come to school in drag every day. He's a popular boy who performs with the girls on drill team. But last weekend, when Kevin showed up at the prom in a slinky fuschia dress, he was barred from entry by the principal. They already had a rule that boys can't wear dresses to the prom. Kevin's classmates were angry. But much of the country is siding with the principal. I disagree here. If a boy has already spent $200 on a manicure and pedicure, he should be allowed to showcase his glamorous toes.

It's clear people are tired of walking on eggshells, afraid to offend those with different beliefs, ideas, and lifestyles. It's grown exhausting, and they want their lives back. The idea of diversity seems to have worn out its welcome. It is now like a house guest who has stayed too long.

We don't want to lose what makes us "us." We're freezing up, right as our melting pot gets to the melting point, and our disparate identities are about to blur away. Can we as a society turn the heat back on without passions becoming so inflamed?


Okay, so this article is terribly written and avoids citing relevant examples of diversity fatigue (National Vanguard anyone?). However, the notion of "multicultural backlash" is fascinating to me. Perhaps because like most POC in this country, I've never had a choice to NOT deal with people who weren't like me. If anybody should be writing about diversity fatigue it should be us, since we are supposed to be open to everyone and anyone who wants to participate in our spaces. On another note, it's pretty obvious to me that the "people/we/us" cited in the two graphs above refer to white folks.

So are any of you *points* suffering from the dreaded diversity fatigue?

PS. LOL @ melting pot
Current Mood: cynicalcynical

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Perhaps because like most POC in this country, I've never had a choice to NOT deal with people who weren't like me.

You hit the nail on the head.
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
The "multicultural" backlash is really one thing- fear of losing privilege. You might have heard some neo-cons have started throwing around the terms white privilege in order to discredit it, which is also linked right in with the immigrant fears.

Basically, white America is starting to realize that America doesn't equal white, and they're dancing around how to keep America white. As the demographics shift, and with that, eventually the political power, there's definite fears that privileges will be revoked, and suddenly black people, latinos, arabs, asians, and even indians will be just as American as anyone else.

This article, like most of the stuff coming out recently, doesn't need to be well written. It just needs to put out some muddled ideas into the ether, to basically build up an emotional response to be called upon later.
Date:June 1st, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC)
Saying that people are becoming more exclusive, is implying that they were inclusive in the first place which is a damned lie.

If anybody should be writing about diversity fatigue it should be us, since we are supposed to be open to everyone and anyone who wants to participate in our spaces.

What? Negroes love us some white folk! Without 'em, who'd watch us sing and dance?

But seriously, YES. And it's gets old when everywhere you turn are are just pictures and pictures of white people and we're only around to play the occaisonal token role. (That many insist on us playing in real life like we're cartoon characters come to life.)
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
This is such bull. Not allowing nonmarried couples with children get housing somewhere because they don't fit your description of a moral family unit? Not allowing a mtf (or other non-exclusively-male-identifying) student wear a dress to the prom? This isn't diversity fatigue. This is imposing your own biases on people.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2006 06:57 am (UTC)
So I forget the word "to" twice in that quickly-typed post. Ehh.
Date:June 1st, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC)
It's clear people are tired of walking on eggshells, afraid to offend those with different beliefs, ideas, and lifestyles.

I think this sums it up. I think a lot of these folks have decided that NOT BEING IGNORANT is too exhausting, if only because it makes them uncomfortable.

I've never had a choice to NOT deal with people who weren't like me.

True dat. Can i call in to work with 'diversity fatigue"?
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)
well, treating other people humanely when you don't think they deserve it is very hard work.

white people were bound to get tired of talking about starting to think about doing it some day in the totally hypothetical future but only under penalty of death eventually.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)
I'm with most of the other posters when I believe this "diversity fatigue" is really "sick and tired of not being able to be overtly racist/sexist/homophobic/classist anymore." The fact that these folks are getting tired of treating those who are different as fellow humans (or at least mouthing the words and going through the motions) speaks frikken VOLUMES and confirms my fears that America had it's most diverse moment in the decade right after the Civil Rights Movement. White folks got their multi-culti party on in the 70s, got bored with it (especially when they encountered those marginalized who did NOT feel it was our life's ambition to entertain and provide for White folks' every whim), voted for Reganism in the 80s and have been retreating from those Civil Rights ideals ever since. It's just that they're becoming more and more honest about this movement to take their bat and ball and go home away from those recalcitrant darkies/uppity women/flaunting gay folks.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
You know what, I get tired daily of dealing with white folks.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)
So are any of you *points* suffering from the dreaded diversity fatigue?

oh my god, yes i am [and i feel so bad about it, but...] i was JUST having this conversation about 10 minutes ago driving through downtown detroit which was swarming with drunken, sububurban, white Tigers fans being rowdy and generally just drawing way too much attention to themselves. and i know if it was some loud black event i wouldn't have been nearly as annoyed, if at all. i feel bad about it but, ehh.
[User Picture]
Date:June 2nd, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)

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