Diversity is a concept which refers to the various ways in which human beings differ from one other. These differences include but are not limited to racial identity, social class, religion, and ethical belief systems. I disagree with Walter Benn Michaels’ take on diversity because first, he addresses identity as one of the least important things about human beings. In my opinion, identity is what makes an individual who they are at the core. As such, the argument that it is an insignificant part of any individual is not valid. Secondly, I also disagree with Michael’s remarks on the celebration of diversity and why it should not happen in an ideal universe. From my perspective, the celebration of diversity is important because it does not only help in preventing prejudicial views but also it is also crucial in fighting them. Thirdly, Michaels’ has talked about the lack of correlation between social justice and the appreciation of racial diversity. This statement is not entirely true as I believe that diversity and social justice are inextricably linked especially in a country where fights against racism have been long-standing.
Michaels’ position on diversity is problematic for several reasons. One, he fails to acknowledge the fact that diversity cannot be ignored especially when the country and the institutions in it, both big and small, are becoming more and more diverse each day. Second, Michaels’ position is that of an individual who fails to recognize the fact that racism has existed in the U.S for a long time and continues to exist in a myriad of forms. The inequalities that relate to race are quite apparent in American society, and failure to acknowledge this in his arguments makes his position problematic. Lastly, he talks of race as having nothing to do with economic equality when over the years; statistics have shown the existence of a glaring gap between races when it comes to economic well being.
Kartha Pollitt has strongly disagreed with Michaels’ on the issue of racism, and she points out that Michaels is “proudly obtuse about racism and sexism” (Pollitt, 2). According to Pollitt, Michaels’ remarks are racially insensitive and inappropriate. Pollitt has also disagreed with Michaels on the statement that affirmative action has not made universities more equal than they used to be. Michael’s has supported this claim by saying that student from rich families come in appropriate colors. Kartha Pollitt has addressed this statement in her argument by referring to Michaels as a “primitive Marxist” (Pollitt, 4). In her perspective, rich people use their money to get what they want including admission in universities. As such, if diversity increasing measures are abolished in the admission of students, it would not guarantee that more universities and employers would give more consideration to low-income people. In light of the arguments offered by these two individuals, I agree with Pollitt as her arguments are more compelling and reasonable.
Kelefa Sanneh has also weighed in on Michaels’ take on diversity. Sanneh is in support of the arguments made by Michael on diversity, and he has used the insights of other writers to conclude that focusing on the concept of diversity can lead people astray (Sanneh, 13). This particular argument is in line with that of Michael in which he says that “commitment to diversity is at best a distraction.” According to both Sanneh and Michaels, the language of diversity, though powerful, cannot help people in achieving equality. Additionally, Sanneh adds that diversity will eventually become too weak a term to encompass all expectations and while it implies fair treatment to everyone, it is a “plastic and broadly appealing concept” (Sanneh, 13). This argument is also in line with those offered by Walters.
Lastly, Alan Wolfe has also commented on Walter Benn Michaels’ take on diversity. In his arguments, Wolfe has strongly disagreed with Michaels on the argument that talking about race will result in people ignoring class and how it has resulted in inequality. According to Wolfe, “the only person who has ignored race while addressing the issue of class is Michaels himself “(Wolfe, 5). Wolfe has gone on to suggest that instead of talking more about class as is suggested by Michaels, the focus should be on how to talk about class. This statement shows that Wolfe is not entirely against the talk of social class. However, he finds Michaels’ approach to the issue not agreeable especially when Michael’s mentions that affirmative action is a “bribe that rich people pay themselves for ignoring economic inequality” (Wolfe, 2)
In conclusion, while Walter Benn Michaels makes a good case for why he thinks that class should be the main focus in finding solutions to social injustices as opposed to diversity, I still do not agree with him. He has failed to recognize that shifting focus from diversity to class will not guarantee justice for people from various racial groups as has been elaborated by Kartha Pollitt. He has also failed to acknowledge that both class and diversity can be considered collectively in the fight for equality as has been pointed out by Alan Wolfe. I, therefore, disagree with Michaels’ arguments on diversity.
Michaels, Walter B. The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. Macmillan, 2016.
Pollitt, Kartha. “Show Him the Money.” The Nation, 20 Oct. 2006, pp. 1-5.
Sanneh, Kelefa. “The Limits of Diversity.” The Newyorker, 2 Oct. 2017, pp. 1-13.
Wolfe, Alan. “Should We Shut Down Diversity.” Slate Magazine, 3 Oct. 2006, pp. 1-5.