What we mean when we talk about inclusion

We live in the golden age of diversity and inclusion, yet so many still feel so excluded. How did we arrive in this place, and where do we go now?

These have been interesting times for the diversity debates. Last week James Damore—the former Google engineer who mapped a path to infamy via a memo to his bosses about their diversity policies, and the nature of women folks’ brains—filed a class-action suit against Google. It claimed that he and other class members were “ostracized, belittled, and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males.” Just a few weeks earlier, a U.S. Congressman, Steve King, had provoked a huge outcry with an inflammatory tweet in support of Hungary’s anti-refugee PM decrying the “multicultural Left” and declaring, “Diversity is not our strength.” The tweet won thousands of Twitter likes.

This comes on the heels of other fights that have coalesced inside and outside the courtroom. A 2014 suit alleging that Harvard University’s affirmative-action policies discriminated against a group of Asian-American students sparked an investigation into the school’s admissions practices by a diversity-skeptical U.S. Department of Justice. Meanwhile, across the pond, a well-respected historian, Mary Beard, found herself embroiled in a bun fight over inclusion, thanks to her suggestion that the Roman Empire was more racially diverse than we may realize. The comment, made in an online debate about a black character in a BBC cartoon about Ancient Rome, sparked fierce criticisms (and then much worse—see: woman and Internet) that Beard was presenting a sanitized, revisionist picture of the times to better suit modern sensitivities. A historian at Cambridge University, Beard was suddenly just another academic with a progressive, “politically correct” diversity agenda rewriting the historical record with feel-good fictions.

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