Stop Using 'Diversity' As A Blanket Term For Anything Related To People Of Color

lena dunham and donald glover in an episode of "girls"

What comes to mind when you hear the word "diversity"? More specifically, what do you think of when you hear "diversity" in terms of a group of people?

Personally, I think of a large group of people stemming from different cultural and religious backgrounds, and all different sizes and shades. 

What's unfortunate is that for most people, diversity just means adding a few Black and/or Brown people to an overwhelmingly white group.


At this point, I’m not even sure what people mean by "diversity" anymore. It seems like it can be anything they want it to mean when they’re trying to make themselves (or their company, family, etc.) look better.

"Oh, our entire leadership team is white? Let’s add a Black man for good measure." 

"We only read white authors, but let’s do a section on the Harlem Renaissance."


That's why the rampant use of "diversity" in the popular sense has become a problem. Instead of using it as something to aspire to in regards to work or everyday life, people use it as a blanket term to fix everything. 

For example, Lena Dunham used to get called out all the time for only featuring white actresses across all six seasons of her HBO show, Girls. You were lucky enough to see a Black person in the background of a scene. (Despite a lot of the show taking place in Brooklyn. Weird.) 

In a move that was arguably peak white feminism, Dunham once brought in Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) to play her character's token Black boyfriend. They even get into an argument about Hannah (Dunham) only being with him because he's Black. 

That casting sums up Dunham and Girls'  approach to "diversifying" its cast: Instead of organically bringing in more characters of color in supporting roles — like she does in the final season with Riz Ahmed, who plays Hannah's fling — they throw in a Black dude to hook up with Hannah, which allows them to get in their race joke.

In reality, we should be using "inclusion" or "equity" instead of "diversity." By definition, equity and inclusion work in tandem to make sure that all people are represented. (See: This is Us and Scandal as perfect examples of this — they feature representation between races, body size, sexual orientation, and religion by both their casts and the characters they play on screen.)

By saying everything is "diversity," it absolves decision-makers (and white people at large) from really addressing the issue of insufficient representation, which stems from a culture of white supremacy. 

If we continue to label everything that includes a Black or Brown person as "diversity," the term loses its meaning and becomes as useless as saying “But my friend is Black!” when discussing racism.

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