SHABAZZ: 'Diversity' is about thought and opinion, not race

March 12, 2016

There’s been a lot of talk about “diversity” in the media lately, or the lack thereof.

There have been protests at college campuses over the lack of a diverse faculty. I didn’t know there was a black way to teach Calculus III.

There’s the recent controversy at the 88th Academy Awards over the fact that no black actors were nominated for an award. I don’t recall any protesting the year Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won best actor and best actress.

And television host Melissa Harris Perry recently quit MSNBC, complaining that she was not being taken seriously as a black woman by the network. I’ve seen her work, and her not being taken seriously has nothing to do with being black or female.

In other words, a bunch of people who look like me are complaining that there aren’t enough people who look like them in certain fields. They say that is not good for diversity and they want it fixed or they will go burn down some neighborhood that was already burned down.

Let me start by saying I am all for diversity, whether it’s in the media, academia, wherever. However, when I say diversity, I don’t mean just race and ethnicity, but also thought and opinion. One of my best friends on this planet is a white guy from Kansas. We attended college together and were amazed at how much we had in common, despite how different we looked.

Had the “diversity” crowd put us together in the classroom, they would have been happy with “diversity” because he was white with long hair and I was black with a Jheri curl. Never mind that we had similar views on the major issues of the day.

On the reverse, my cousin who grew up a few blocks from me in Chicago is the biggest tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, Black Panther-partying vegetarian you will ever find, and we have nothing in common. There is more diversity between the two of us than between Martin Luther King Jr. and David Duke. See what I’m talking about?

For a brief time in 2015, I co-hosted a program on WTLC-AM 1310 with the late Amos Brown. He took the more liberal/progressive approach to issues, while I took the more conservative/libertarian view. I was frequently on the receiving end of complaints alleging I was being the spokesman for white people because I had this wild, crazy belief that—while black people might share a common cultural background—we don’t all share the same opinions. To put it bluntly, we don’t all look alike so why on earth should we all think alike? So, simply putting a black face on television or in a classroom is not going to guarantee you the “diversity” you’re looking for.

It’s offensive—and, in fact, quite racist—to think a black person or minority has “black” or “minority” opinions simply because of the color of his or her skin.

I have found that black people have a wide variety of opinions when it comes to education, the economy, national security and all the other issues that affect us today. So, before you think putting a black person or other minority in a certain position will guarantee a certain type of diversity, might I suggest talking to that person first and making judgments based on the content of his or her character? You never know what type of “diversity” you will come across.•


Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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