Diversity is a term that is much bandied about today, with dramatically different meanings depending on whether you live in the academic world or the real world. In the academic world, it is defined as follows:
- “The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”
In the real world, however, people know that the term diversity was created to replace the politically-incorrect term affirmative action, which was created to replace the even more politically-incorrect terms of quotas and reverse discrimination. In the real world, a person who refers to diversity is not talking about recognizing individuals as unique, but rather is talking about expanded minority (and possibly gender) involvement.
I recently encountered the term diversity when I was studying SA2020, which is Mayor Castro’s 11-part vision for creating a better San Antonio. The part in SA2020 that I was interested in – Civic Engagement – established two goals: (1) increase voter participation by 2% every two years from its baseline of 34% in 2010, and (2) increase the activity level and diversity level of city boards. Unfortunately, the SA2020 goal for diversity is TBD – to be determined.
This undetermined goal for San Antonio creates an interesting question. San Antonio, according to the 2010 census, is 63% Hispanic, 27% Anglo, 7% African-American, and 3% Asian/Pacific. So, in a city that is almost 75% minority – what is diversity? Should an ideally diverse board or commission have percentages the same as SA’s population or should it have 25% for each of the four major groupings? Or is there some other sort of objective?
On one hand, most proponents of diversity, with their mindset mired in a world of quotas, probably crave percentages that mirror the population. One of their favorite expressions is that every collection of representations needs to “look like” those they represent. For these people, an ideal San Antonio commission or board would have six Hispanics, three Anglos, and one African-Asian American.
On the other hand, one of my campaign opponents, Ron Nirenberg, delighted in telling candidate forums that District 8 was the most diverse in town, with 43% Hispanic, 42% Anglo, 8% African-American, and 5% Asian/Pacific. Because our district is significantly under-represented in Hispanics compared to the rest of SA, he seems to be taking the position that the ideal diversity would be 25% of each.
Implicit, perhaps, in all of these formulations, is the consensus that there are too many Anglos in positions of power, but that is certainly false with respect to the City Council. There are currently eleven politicians on the Council, with eight Hispanics, two Anglos, one African-American, and 1 Asian. Thus, every ethnic group is over-represented except for the Anglos, and depending on the results of the District 8 runoff, there will be one more Hispanic or Asian, and certainly one less Anglo.
The City Council’s minority-dominated composition explains why SA2020’s quest for diversity is limited to boards and commissions and fails to mention the most powerful political body in town, the City Council. Although these facts reveal a blatant inconsistency, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”
Incidentally, the minority-dominated City Council recently initiated a program to give scoring preferences to minorities bidding on city contracts. According to the Council’s rationale, too many contracts were going to Anglos and not enough to minorities. And if the scoring preferences didn’t sufficiently “move the needle,” the next step was going to be quotas.
What world are these people living in? They are living in a world where quotas and affirmative action were honorable objectives smeared by hegemonic Anglos.
After several phone calls and emails to the SA2020 bureaucracy about their TBD goals on diversity, I was informed by an email from the Chief of Engagement:
- “In response to the above question, I just wanted to let you know that we were, in fact, able to baseline the information. We will be releasing a complete data report on June 4 and are currently finalizing all indicators.”
I can’t wait.