Guest Commentary: In Defense of Diversity

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By Robb Davis

Telos is a Greek word that means “ends”, specifically “ultimate” ends—what in French is “raison d’être” or the reason for a thing, why it exists.

The first enormous truth flowing from our civilization is that, today, everything has become “means.” There are no longer “ends.” We no longer know towards what we are headed.  We have lost our collective goals.  We dispose of enormous means, and we put into action prodigious machines to reach nowhere… Humanity is moving ahead at astronomical speeds towards nothing. (Ellul, J. (1948). Présence au monde moderne. Geneva, Editions Roulet. Pages 62 and 66—my translation)

Naming our “Ends” (Telos)

Too rarely, in our public discussions, do we focus on the true ends of our actions.  We put forth policies often without clear reference to the kinds of ends we are trying to achieve.  For example, our industrial food system, as Michael Pollan has argued in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, can produce prodigious amounts of food commodity, but often without reference to the true end of food production: human health and well-being.

Because this “human” end is not clearly articulated, food production (food commodity production) has come to be about very different ends: tonnage produced, commodity value, commodity as a contribution to GDP, commodity as a factor in trade balances, etc.

His analysis seems to confirm what Ellul argued: we have lost sight of the ends we want to achieve as a society concerning food production.

This failure to articulate clear ends is common in much of our public discourse.

In this piece I want to argue that diversity—whether in biological systems or political representation—is an end we should articulate and then set out to achieve.

But, in addition to being an end in itself, diversity, especially in human decision making and policy formation, can also be a means to help us focus or refocus our attention on important ends related to human thriving.

Diversity as Telos

Mono-cultures are, perhaps, efficient, but they are brittle.  Technocracy—a kind of decision-making monoculture that relies on narrow technical knowledge—may also yield more efficient decision-making structures but fail to preserve key human values such as justice or inclusion.

We see this, again, in modern food systems that overproduce certain commodities, but invariably require more toxic chemicals to maintain productivity.

The overproduction itself can lead to disastrous health outcomes when, for example, the by-products of corn production are converted to products like high fructose corn syrup.  Highly efficient systems can lead to nefarious ends and can be hard to sustain simply because they are divorced from the complexity which is our world.

In the same way, human decision-making systems can and often are monocultures.  I have experienced this myself.  When I led a non-profit response to Hurricane Katrina, the “system” in which I operated suggested certain voices (leadership) should be at the table to help formulate our organizational response.  However, those voices, as expert as they were, were wholly disconnected from the people most affected by the disaster in New Orleans—African Americans.

While it was less efficient to back away from the pre-determined system of decision making and invite a more diverse set of voices and experiences around the table, doing so enabled us to produce a more thoughtful and adapted response that was built upon the lived experience of people who had experienced exclusionary policies related to housing, jobs, and medical care (all relevant issues post-disaster).

This is the first reason I believe we need to list diversity in decision-making systems, like our local school board, as a desired end in itself: it will help us to create a more robust and resilient (school) system that eschews mere technical solutions to consider a broader set of factors in decision making.

The second reason I believe we need to list diversity as a desired end is because of the unique history of exclusion of voices and experiences within the US context.  Though some writers claiming the “conservative” mantle (Patrick Buchanan comes to mind) seem to argue that history is for the victors and folks just need to move on and accept the status quo that history has established, there are many others who understand history as having a long arc of impact that constrains freedom for many people across many generations; but also that “history” is not buried in the past in some final way.

The former is argued most eloquently by Louis Gates Jr in his book Stoney is the Road and by Ibram X. Kendi in Stamped from the Beginning. What is striking in both books is the argument with carefully researched evidence, that exclusion of black people in this nation was deliberate, planned, was reinforced within legal structures, and, especially in Kendi, was done to maintain the benefits those in power (and white) had.

It is impossible to read either book without acknowledging that “history did not just happen” to black people but that exclusionary practices were carefully “curated” to assure that blacks would not be able to participate as full members of American society.

In other words, for deliberate reasons, practiced over many generations in this country, we have systematically excluded the perspectives, understandings, and lived realities of many of our black brothers and sisters.

The other argument—that history is not buried—is on display all around us and reminds us that it is not just black people who have “a history” in this nation but that other people of color or simply “othered” people face exclusion every day.  If you are Mexican American—as are my grandchildren—you are suspected of not being fully American and, perhaps even “illegal”.  If you are Chinese American, you are lumped with the “bringers of plague” and told that you are part of a wave bent on destroying our country.

The point is, we have many historical and contemporary means to exclude the voices of people and it is only in recognizing this exclusion and declaring our intent to include and diversify the voices to which we listen that we can grow the more responsive and resilient society we say we want. This is why, I believe, we must declare diversity to be an end—a telos.

A final note on diversity as telos: when I say it should be an “end” I mean that we should explicitly talk about the need for diverse perspectives when we make decisions about whom to elect as leaders and whom to put forward to serve as appointees to various advisory structures.  We should encourage electors to consider diversity as a factor in their decision making, and we should encourage people with diverse perspectives given ethnicity, race, or heritage to run for office and support them to succeed.

Diversity as a Means to Telos

In addition to diversity being an end in itself, I believe that diversity has the potential to help us focus on other important ends we seek because it opens the door to different questions and different perspectives on what matters.  Here, I should be clear, I am speaking specifically about decision making or policy-making that affects community members—schools, policing, recreational programs, and others.

In my field of intercultural learning, a key pedagogical outcome is the ability to appreciate and analyze how I “make meaning” and consider how others “make meaning”.  The point is not to encourage an abandonment or denigration of “my way” or to argue that how others make meaning is desirable (I say this because I hear some voices who seem to suggest that modern liberal education is about forcing people to abandon their values—that is not the point).

An important concept in intercultural learning is “cultural humility” (developed by Jann Murray Garcia and Melanie Tervalon in the health care field) which positions each person as a learner concerning the “meaning-making” in the other.  We understand, because we live in a globally interconnected world, that people DO make meaning differently, but cultural humility places us on a quest to examine ourselves and be curious about others.

Cultural humility requires suspending judgment about the actions and practices of others while engaging in perspective-taking that tries to examine the world through that elusive lens of the other.

In addition to perspective-taking, cultural humility pushes us to ask how systems of which we are a part, exclude voices so that those voices might be considered and valued.

I share the foregoing as a reminder—the way I make meaning, the things that I value, the way that I set priorities—is not the only, or, in a given situation, even the most useful way of dealing with contemporary challenges.  An interesting example in this time of COVID-19 concerns whether a highly individualistic way of viewing my place in society is well adapted to the kinds of collective responses (wearing masks, testing/tracing/isolation/quarantining) that are necessary to stem the virus’ spread.

And so, having diverse perspectives when policies are established opens the door not merely to a richer discussion of options, but can also help surface different questions, different values about what matters, and about whose needs are, or are not being met.  In this sense, diversity makes it possible to consider other ends that would not even be brought forward in its absence.  Diversity is a means to other ultimate ends.

I support diversity, not as an abstract “feel good” concept but as an end towards which we should strive.  I do this because I believe it creates more resilient decision making.  I do it because we have, for too long in this country, excluded too many voices—and we are poorer for it.  But I also support diversity because it opens the door to consider in new and different ways the collective ends to which we should be working. Diversity is a means to new ends.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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84 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: In Defense of Diversity”

  1. Ron Oertel

     the lived experience of people who had experienced exclusionary policies related to housing, jobs, and medical care (all relevant issues post-disaster).

    All of which are basic human needs, and none of which are dependent upon skin color.

    In this piece I want to argue that diversity—whether in biological systems or political representation—is an end we should articulate and then set out to achieve.

    Two different things.  By combining them together, one is suggesting that humans are biologically “different” from each other.  The very foundation of racism.

    And so, having diverse perspectives when policies are established opens the door not merely to a richer discussion of options, but can also help surface different questions, different values about what matters, and about whose needs are, or are not being met.

    Implies that those of the same skin color “think alike”, and “differently” than those of a different skin color. And, without any context regarding real-world decisions, and without any ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes (e.g., based upon observation and conversation). Essentially implying a lack of basic intelligence.

  2. Ron Oertel

    The thought has occurred to me that (for example), the effort to revoke the school board’s decision (based upon skin color) is actually implying that those on the board who made the decision did so out of racial bias (or “insensitivity”) to it. 

    Pretty insulting, when one looks at it that way.

  3. Alan Miller

    The logic in this article is really hard to follow.  And I gots me collige deegree from You See Davees.

    But I get the jist . . . what surprises me is that the author didn’t step down from the City Council the moment he was elected, to prevent one’s contribution to the biological toxin of mono-ness in the city political Telos crystalline 5th dimensional ethos structure.

    1. Ron Oertel

      what surprises me is that the author didn’t step down from the City Council the moment he was elected, 

      Hadn’t thought of that.  Then again, I apparently don’t focus on on skin color (as a “means to some undefined ends”), as much as some others do.  😉

    2. Tia Will

      Alan

      But I get the jist “

      Your comment suggests to me that perhaps you did not get the jist and perhaps the article was harder for you to follow than you know.

      1. Alan Miller

        perhaps the article was harder for you to follow than you know.

        Thanks for pointing that out.  It is true that my IQ is so low that I am incapable of understanding how stupid I am.  Or even writing the previous sentence.  I had to call someone to help me formulate it.

    3. Robb Davis

      Sorry A.M. – I will acknowledge that this is not one of my best efforts (hard issue for me to write about). So Cliff Notes:

      1. We need to be clear about the ends we want to achieve in decisions that affect the public. If we aren’t clear we will achieve ends that may be harmful to the public

      2. One end I believe we need to achieve is diversity in systems (representation in this case).  I believe we should articulate it as an end we seek for two reasons:

      a. Because diversity makes any system more resilient (less brittle)

      b. Because historically certain voices, representing diverse perspectives, have been silenced and we are poorer for that.

      3. We should also seek diversity because it helps us identify other ends worthy of pursuing BECAUSE diversity adds new/different perspectives that we may not have thought of or considered as valuable.

      (I guess I could have written just that)

      As a footnote: Yesterday I facilitated a virtual panel discussion for graduate students who are preparing to launch careers in their health-related fields.  Panelists came from industry and were former UC Davis doctoral students or post-doc researchers.  They all work for global companies and the panel was about how to succeed in a career in a globally-connected organization.  They all stressed the importance of having, seeking, and valuing different perspectives that can only come by inviting diverse voices to the table.  Indeed, as I probed them to say more they ALL described how their own technical expertise could become a box that confines them and that the best decision making was to include voices from other sciences because they might bring better ways of solving problems.

      Once again, the call for diversity is clear.

      1. Alan Miller

        RD, thanks for the summary.  What I was saying in my own arseholian way is that this was a really heady piece, almost a small academic thesis sort of presentation, and if your goal was to reach people with your message, it may have been a bit much for cranial digestion.  I kinda saw the pieces you were fitting together, but it didn’t seem completely flushed out, and although it may have mad a fine academic paper – the point was kinda lost.  I don’t really agree with your overall point in a political sense (and that’s OK) – and I do appreciate the summary version and I think that does get your points across clearly.

        I do agree with your point on Covid-19 . . . but I’m going to put it at the bottom of the comments where it won’t get lost . . .

  4. Tia Will

    ” we should explicitly talk about the need for diverse perspectives when we make decisions about whom to elect as leaders ”

    This is one key precept I believe we need to always consider. Allowing the choice of leadership from only one group binds us to the perspectives of that group only. Too often this establishes, whether intentionally or not, an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between the group in power and those not so favored.

    All of which are basic human needs, and none of which are dependent upon skin color.

    While this is true as written, it completely ignores a basic fact of our society. “Race”, a scientifically false narrative, has been used as a means of determining whose basic human needs are met and whose are not. It has been used to determine who controls ownership of land, access to nutritious food, safe housing, adequate medical care and even who gets to vote on policies regarding all of the above. I want to live in a society where all have the ability to have their perspective considered.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      It has been used to determine who controls ownership of land, access to nutritious food, safe housing, adequate medical care and even who gets to vote on policies regarding all of the above. I want to live in a society where all have the ability to have their perspective considered.

      That is true, but implies that (for example) those on the school board would pursue this result, based upon the color of their skin.

      I simply don’t support quotas (based upon skin color, gender, disability status, age, LGBT status), etc.  And ultimately, that’s what is being repeatedly suggested.

      That approach will breed resentment (and more racism), as well as legal challenges (as its done in the past, when attempted).

      Ultimately, no one wants their “own” group to be repressed, legally or otherwise.  Solely because the result can, and likely will impact them at an INDIVIDUAL level (e.g., legal discrimination when applying for jobs, enrollment at colleges, etc.).

      1. Eric Gelber

        I simply don’t support quotas (based upon skin color, gender, disability status, age, LGBT status), etc.  And ultimately, that’s what is being repeatedly suggested.

        You are confusing quotas (setting aside a fixed number of slots for a particular group, typically setting a strict upper limit) with goals for improving diversity. Goals are aspirational; quotas are mandatory.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Goals are aspirational; quotas are mandatory.

          I’m not confusing them, though I left out the word “implied” in regard to “aspirational”.

          And, the impact is the same (e.g., a suggestion that an old white male shouldn’t run for council, for example).

           

        2. Eric Gelber

          One person’s foolish comment about old white males doesn’t change diversity goals into quotas. I don’t see anyone seriously calling for a fixed limit on any one group serving on the board. Even if the outcome of an election is, to many, disappointing, no one will seriously challenge whoever is selected by the voters as being in violation of any quota system.

        3. Ron Oertel

          One person’s foolish comment about old white males doesn’t change diversity goals into quotas.

          I don’t believe that such sentiments are limited to one person.  Far from it. Similar sentiments are also expressed in regard to gender, for example.

          Again, “diversity goals” negatively impact individuals, and not just “white” individuals (e.g., regarding job opportunities, college enrollments, etc.).

          For example, when preference is given to non-Asian individuals, in regard to college enrollments. Thereby preventing a qualified Asian individual from gaining admittance for a limited number of spots.

          I see no way that this won’t create resentment, and possibly facilitate racism.

           

        4. Alan Miller

          In some ways, the aspirational goals are worse than quotas, because it makes every race for office a divisive free-for-all with everyone having their own ideas of what diversity means, most probably based on what they see as advantageous to them.

        5. Eric Gelber

          In some ways, the aspirational goals are worse than quotas, because it makes every race for office a divisive free-for-all with everyone having their own ideas of what diversity means …

          So, voters having different opinions on diversity goals is worse than, say, placing caps on the number of Jews admitted to an Ivy League university or a medical school, as was a common practice not all that long ago? I’m surprised you would take such a position.

        6. Alan Miller

          So, voters having different opinions on diversity goals is worse than, say, placing caps on the number of Jews admitted to an Ivy League university or a medical school, as was a common practice not all that long ago? I’m surprised you would take such a position.

          That’s a really convoluted run-on sentence and created comparison, one in which you state an opinion I did not take, add something about Jews and college admission — then state that is my position and then say you are surprised I would take it.

          Um . . . no?  (I’m not really sure what I am saying “no” to, but “no”)

          All I’m saying is what a diverse council or board would look like means different things to different people. I have no problem with that fact in and of itself. What I would like is for people to spell out what it means to THEM, rather than dance around this idea of diversity, because everyone just plugs in what they think it is and they go “yeah, diversity!”, while each has a different idea in their head. It’s an old political game that people shouldn’t fall for. But they do, over and over and over again.

        7. Bill Marshall

          To follow Alan’s  comment, I don’t want electeds to focus on ‘me’ or ‘mine’, or ‘them’… I want them to focus on an all-inclusive “us”… but I’m just a silly engineer, and have not the wisdom of poli-sci types…  mea culpa…

        8. Eric Gelber

          I’m trying to understand how valuing and striving to have representative bodies that more closely resemble the community they serve is “worse than quotas.” The fact that there is no universal agreement on diversity criteria does not have to result in divisiveness. Rather, it promotes dialogue. Diversity goals are flexible and are modified based on community input and changing circumstances.

        9. Eric Gelber

           I don’t want electeds to focus on ‘me’ or ‘mine’, or ‘them’… I want them to focus on an all-inclusive “us”

          That’s very kumbaya of you. But focusing exclusively on a supposed all-inclusive us fails to take into account the fact that the community is comprised of groups with varying perspectives and interests, which should be listened to and considered. That’s one reason striving for diversity is an important consideration in selecting members of representative bodies.

    2. Matt Williams

      Well said Tia.

      In recent weeks I have given serious consideration to running for City Council in November because in recent years here in Davis we have seen multiple alarming instances of secretive action, shortsighted planning, and disconnect between community and leadership priorities.

      To address that alarming pattern, a group of Davis residents have put together for public discussion …

      … specific proposals for improving the way the Davis City Staff develops proposals to bring to City Council for consideration and approval.  The proposals also offer criteria for City Council to follow in deciding whether to approve proposals presented to it.

      The objective is to establish and follow city procedures and practices for transparency, information disclosure, public engagement and collaboration — so that the City as a whole can realize the full benefits of its considerable local expertise.

      .
      That grass roots public dialogue is crucially important, but who we choose as our leadership is also crucially important.  So I seriously considered running for office in that leadership.  Along the way, various people weighed in with their thoughts about my choice.  One of those people was very clear in saying, “You shouldn’t run because you are a white male … an old, white male.” 

      1. Ron Oertel

        One of those people was very clear in saying, “You shouldn’t run because you are a white male … an old, white male.” 

        Think about that statement, for a moment.  Because some believe that this is an acceptable thing to think and say.

      2. Alan Miller

        I have given serious consideration to running for City Council in November because . . .

        I too have given serious consideration to running for City Council in November because I want to funk up the system and p@ss off just about everyone. Run Alan Run! . . . as far from the Council Dias as possible.

      3. Alan Miller

        To address that alarming pattern, a group of Davis residents . . .

        What group would that be?  Does it have a cute acronym?  I’m guessing it’s not the same group that’s spearheading the school board election.

      4. Alan Miller

        One of those people was very clear in saying, “You shouldn’t run because you are a white male … an old, white male.”

        That’s so sweet.   Would you ask this person how they would feel about a cranky, olive-skinned Jewish guy running for Council?

      5. Keith Olsen

        One of those people was very clear in saying, “You shouldn’t run because you are a white male … an old, white male.” 

        Thanks Matt for sharing.  That seems to be the thinking of many Davisites theses days.  It’s very sad what it’s coming to.  You’re very qualified to be a council member, probably more qualified than most and would do a great job if elected.  But sorry, you’re the wrong color and gender, it doesn’t matter that you would make a wonderful representative for the city.  That statement that was said to you is so racist..

      6. Matt Williams

        It is not the same group Alan.

        Thus far we have avoided any labels.  We considered “the Instigators” and then “the Catalysts” and then “the Inconvenient Truth” as well as the possibility of using no name at all, but in the end we settled on “Davis Citizens for Transparent Government.”

        The reason we considered “the Catalysts” was/is that the BrightNight decision by staff and City Council has acted as a catalyst for action. it was a Howard Beale moment.

      7. Alan Miller

        > That statement that was said to you is so racist.

        Depends on ‘your truth’, man.  Seriously, the progressive belief mantra is, “There is no such thing as reverse racism”.  The group seen as ‘in power’ cannot possibly be a victim of racism, because ‘they’ are the victimizers.

        The degree of danger in this sort of thinking is apparently lost on those who subscribe to this thinking.  It is seething in anger to pass into action, it ignores individual interplay, and it demonizes (dehumanizes) those of relative means.

        Perhaps one should look at how the Nazis demonized the Jews as a means of mass acceptance of the Nazi attempt to render Jews extinct.  Jews were labeled as those with successful businesses, as the owners of the banks, as taking ‘our’ jobs, as being in control of the money – all in a time of hyperinflation and mass poverty.

        Truth is, many Jews were very ‘successful’ in post WW-I Germany; it is also true many more Jews were in horrific conditions in massive slums.  But all the European Jews got caught up in the societal hate brought on by the Nazi stoking of one of the most vile of human traits:  envy.

        1. Bill Marshall

          True words…

          Also, during the plagues, Jew were suspected of being ‘causitive’ with no concept of Jewish practices that kept vermin and the causitive fleas out of their households… so the Jewish community had a lesser incidence of the plague…

          Have to use an old pun, as it kinda’ brings a part of Alan’s true statements into perspective… “Jesus saves… Moses invests”… sure I will offend a lot by repeating that old ‘saw’…

  5. Matt Williams

    In addition to Louis Gates Jr’s book Stoney is the Road and Ibram X. Kendi’s in Stamped from the Beginning I strongly recommend the recent NY Times Magazine article by Isabel Wilkerson entitled  America’s Enduring Caste System : Our founding ideals promise liberty and equality for all. Our reality is an enduring racial hierarchy that has persisted for centuries.

    Diversity as an end is one of the many steps that can help our society escape what Wilkerson describes in the passage below, as an “invisible scaffolding, a caste system with ancient rules and assumptions that made such a horror possible.”

    She begins the article powerfully.  I provide that beginning of the article here, and strongly suggest reading the whole article.

    We saw a man face down on the pavement, pinned beneath a car, and above him another man, a man in uniform, his skin lighter than the man on the ground, and the lighter man was bearing down on the darker man, his knee boring into the neck of the darker man, the lighter man’s hands at his sides, in his pockets — could it be that his hands were so nonchalantly in his pockets? — such was the ease and casual calm, the confidence of embedded entitlement with which he was able to lord over the darker man.

    We heard the man on the ground pleading with the man above him, saw the terror in his face, heard his gasps for air, heard the anguished cries of an unseen chorus, begging the lighter man to stop. But the lighter man, the dominant man, looked straight at the bystanders, into the camera, and thus at all of us around the world who would later bear witness and, instead of heeding the cries of the chorus, pressed his knee deeper into the darker man’s neck as was the perceived right granted him in the hierarchy. The man on the ground went silent, drained of breath. A clear liquid crept down the pavement. We saw a man die before our very eyes.

    What we did not see, not immediately anyway, was the invisible scaffolding, a caste system with ancient rules and assumptions that made such a horror possible, that held each actor in that scene in its grip. Off camera, two other men in uniform, who looked like the lighter man, were holding down the darker man from the other side of the police car as dusk approached in Minneapolis. Yet another man in uniform, of Asian descent and thus not in the dominant caste, stood near, watching, immobilized, it seemed, at a remove from his own humanity and potential common cause, as the darker man slipped out of consciousness.

  6. Ron Oertel

    What truly surprises me is the total lack of concern regarding a housing proposal which LIMITS who can live there (based upon their “connections”), and the likely discrimination which results from that.

    Honestly, where were these concerns, then? And, what is the relative importance / impact of this, compared to an unpaid school board position, for example?

    Goes to a basic lack of credibility, on the part of those who claim to have such concerns, now.

  7. Ron Oertel

    It has been used to determine who controls ownership of land, access to nutritious food, safe housing, adequate medical care and even who gets to vote on policies regarding all of the above. I want to live in a society where all have the ability to have their perspective considered.

    I thought about this a little more.

    Wouldn’t this imply that whenever one group becomes a majority, then they will necessarily impose their will on the minority – at the expense of the minority?

    Seems like a pretty pessimistic view of humanity.

  8. Ron Glick

    “By combining them together, one is suggesting that humans are biologically “different” from each other.  The very foundation of racism.”

    I think you misunderstand the concept of genetic diversity.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I think you misunderstand the concept of genetic diversity.

      Could be.  Suggest that you explain it, in regard to the quote that I was responding to, from the article above:

      In this piece I want to argue that diversity—whether in biological systems or political representation—is an end we should articulate and then set out to achieve.

       

  9. Hiram Jackson

    I appreciate Robb’s essay, but I have felt like a lesser acknowledged diversity weakness in Davis is that an adult who does not have college education is not likely to be as socially welcomed.  Racial/ethnic diversity, from my perspective, is more readily accepted as long as the person in question has college education.  It’s hard to imagine that any school board candidate, regardless of race/ethnicity, would ever be elected or appointed who didn’t have college education.

    But in our schools, the opportunity/achievement gap is most starkly defined by whether the parents have college education or not.  If the parents have college education, then regardless of race/ethnicity, that DJUSD student will likelier participate in student government, robotics, performing arts, yearbook staff, school newspaper, speech & debate, and athletics.  That student is likelier to graduate from the Davis schools, go to college and get a degree.

    If the parents do not have college education, then it is likelier that the child will be put in various academic interventions to improve standardized test scores.  They are not likely to be as encouraged to participate in the activities mentioned above, in part because it might interfere with the academic intervention programs.  They are likelier to show up in school disciplinary action (suspensions, expulsions), be truant, drop out, and if they do graduate, they’re not as likely to go on to college.  District data tend to bear out this trend.

    The problem with this in Davis is that UC Davis presents itself as being very open and welcoming to first-generation college students.  In the most recent academic year, 42% of UCD undergraduates were first-generation students.  But our own potential future first-generation college students in DJUSD do not appear to get that same kind of welcome in our own public schools.  It is as if the Davis community (many of whom are UCD staff) has one set of values (including supporting social mobility) while on the job, but relaxes those values while off the job and operating within the local community.

    Most of the families in Davis without college education identify as Latino.  But there are also just as many (maybe more) college educated Latino families (there is a lot of social diversity among Latino/Latinex families).  By creating a more socially welcoming community (and school district) for families who don’t have college education, the values of UC Davis would become better aligned with those of our community.  And I think we would have more future first-generation college students coming from Davis schools and would be promoting opportunity for Latino students.

    1. Robb Davis

      While I focused on US-wide historical exclusion Hiram, I see no reason why this should not be discussed locally and acknowledged as just another way that people are excluded. Then we should talk about how to increase these voices. Keep in mind (And I know you know this), as it concerns the school district and the City of Davis, inclusion is not just limited to elections but also to committees and commissions.  Raising issues of exclusion and encouraging inclusion and supporting it (as I noted) is critical for these roles as well.

      1. Matt Williams

        Robb, My reading of Hiram’s comment is that in Davis one of the key drivers of exclusion is not only the level of college education, but further the perceived place on an imaginary/subjective hierarchical scale of the “value/worth” of the educational field of study that the person pursued in their college education.

        Regardless of the “measuring stick” used the realities of exclusion and inclusion are the same.

    2. Matt Williams

      but I have felt like a lesser acknowledged diversity weakness in Davis is that an adult who does not have college education is not likely to be as socially welcomed.

      I agree with Hiram.  Despite David Greenwald’s repeated banging of the “racism” drum with respect to Davis, I have long felt that the bigger problem in Davis is “classism” and Hiram’s description is one of the concept at the core of classism.

        1. David Greenwald

          And yet who is weighing in on this – certainly not people of color who can speak from experience. I know a large number of well educated, affluent people of color who would offer you a very different view. But even the people of color on the Vanguard Board are reluctant to come on to the Vanguard comment section. There is no counterweight to it. It’s unfortunate. I’m left to speak up for those who can or will not subject themselves to the older white buzzsaw on here. And then I get the brush painted at me. Matt – I suggest you talk to people like Rick Gonzales, Cecilia, Mel Lewis, Rahim Reed, Desmond Jolly, Sandy Holman, Jann Murray-Garcia, and many others and see if you reach the same conclusion.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Looking at the names you listed, that I recognized, Hiram’s point on classism remains… a lot of POC folk, with degrees and means, who care little about folk ‘below their class’ irrespective of race/color/what-have-you… particularly in Davis…

        3. Bill Marshall

          Looking at the names you listed, that I recognized, Hiram’s point on classism remains…

          A lot of POC folk (NOT pointing at those listed), with degrees and means, who care little about folk ‘below their class’ irrespective of race/color/what-have-you… particularly in Davis…

        4. Hiram Jackson

          “…who care little about folk ‘below their class’ irrespective of race/color/what-have-you… particularly in Davis…”

          Although there is the qualification, “NOT pointing at those listed,” I know almost all of the folks in the list, I have chatted with several of them about this,  I greatly respect their views, and although I don’t know them all and all that’s on their mind, I definitely would not say, blanket fashion, that “they care little about folk ‘below their class’.”  There are different ways of reaching and connecting with people across class lines.

          Nevertheless, I think there is a systemic problem with public education that I highlight above.  Because Robb’s article appeared to be motivated (in part) by discussions around the local public schools, I made my point.

        5. Keith Olsen

          And then I get the brush painted at me.

          No it’s you that paints with the brush, the very broad brush that everything is rooted in racism.

          will not subject themselves to the older white buzzsaw on here.

          Everyone can comment on here and express their views.  What’s stopping them?  For the most part the conversations are cordial on here.  It’s been my experience that any name calling or pejoratives are usually initiated by those coming from a liberal viewpoint.  What, your friends don’t like inclusion and diverse views in discussion?

          BTW, older white buzzsaw?  Really David?

        6. Keith Olsen

          My same questions still apply.  What’s stopping others from commenting here?

          You can’t say anonymity anymore, that used to be the boogeyman.

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t know – why don’t you ask someone who reads but doesn’t post here, why they don’t post here.

        7. Ron Oertel

          David: I don’t think there’s monolithic views among white people – even (or especially?) on here.  What color is Robb Davis (or you), for example? How about Eric, Tia, Ron G., Dave Hart, etc.?

          Just as there aren’t monolithic views among any group.

          There does seem to be more males on here, though. And, probably more retired/non-working people, as they’re the only ones who have time to waste.

          I suspect that those whom you’re referring to would be welcome on here.  I’d like to hear from them, and their experiences.  I don’t think anyone would “downplay” what they report.

          Regarding the tone on here, I haven’t enjoyed it very much (e.g., regarding growth and development issues).  I don’t think you’ve done much to encourage a more respectful conversation, either. At times, you facilitate that disrespectful tone.

          To some degree, your comment to Keith might be seen in that same light.

          1. David Greenwald

            The point is not that there is a monolithic view, the point is a bunch of older white middle class men talking about the problem being class rather than race is problematic. Who are you guys talking to about this stuff? It’s definitely not people of color.

        8. Ron Oertel

          The point is not that there is a monolithic view, the point is a bunch of older white middle class men talking about the problem being class rather than race is problematic. Who are you guys talking to about this stuff? It’s definitely not people of color.

          Well, I didn’t put forth that particular theory, but I’m not sure that anyone (even a person of color) necessarily knows what the “problem” is caused by.

          In fact, I’ve lost track of the problem in this thread.  Can you remind us (even though you’re apparently a white person)? (A serious question, though.)

          What problem are you referring to?

          Racism? Being excluded from a school board decision? Being effectively excluded from a housing development proposal?

           

        9. Ron Oertel

          Are you kidding, there’s plenty of counterweight to every discussion on here.

          There is.  Apparently coming from the ranks of “white” people, for the most part.

          It is unfortunate that David chooses to belittle, rather than encourage. And then, complains about the “tone”.

          I (for one) would welcome broader participation. I don’t doubt that racism exists, and is manifested in various ways.

          Periodically, I’ve shared my own experiences regarding the impacts of racism – which apparently is rejected on here, by some. Due to the color of my skin. It is actively denied, by those with a particular political point of view.

        10. Alan Miller

          I know a large number of well educated, affluent people of color who would offer you a very different view. But even the people of color on the Vanguard Board are reluctant to come on to the Vanguard comment section.

          Please, “the people of color on the Vanguard Board” speak up.  I, for one, welcome your voice.

          There is no counterweight to it. It’s unfortunate. I’m left to speak up for those who can or will not subject themselves to the older white buzzsaw on here.  And then I get the brush painted at me.

          With all the bold, courageous, and valiant things that I have seen people of color do over the years, not one can speak their mind in the Vanguard comments section?  It’s that intimidating?  How is that even possible?  I have little respect for ‘on behalf of’ politics.  I would rather hear from those who have direct experience.  Maybe we’ll all learn something.  And I doubt the ‘buzzsaw’ you speak up will be as disrespectful as you think.  Not that your words ‘white buzzsaw’ weren’t disrespectful – no no no.

          Matt – I suggest you talk to people like . . .  and many others and see if you reach the same conclusion.

          Believe it or not, not all people of color have the same politics.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Believe it or not, not all people of color have the same politics.”

            It’s not about politics.

            This is your point from yesterday: ” Even the more ‘conservative’ (for lack of a better word) black people I know — those that don’t want the police ‘defunded’ for example — talk of how often they are pulled over, often seemingly without reason. While I don’t buy all the conclusions or reasonings on these stats, this one is so far out-of-proportion both statistically and anecdotally that it cannot be denied.”

          2. Don Shor

            With all the bold, courageous, and valiant things that I have seen people of color do over the years, not one can speak their mind in the Vanguard comments section? It’s that intimidating? How is that even possible?

            They choose not to because of the overall tone in the comments section, and the fact that the conversations are dominated by people who are abrasive, flippant, and dismissive of race issues.

        11. Matt Williams

          Matt – I suggest you talk to people like Rick Gonzales, Cecilia, Mel Lewis, Rahim Reed, Desmond Jolly, Sandy Holman, Jann Murray-Garcia, and many others and see if you reach the same conclusion.

          David, I suggest that you go back and reread both Hiram’s and my comments.  There are 65,000 plus people who live and work in Davis, and my conservative guesstimate is that at least 25% of them experience the inclusion/exclusion issue that Hiram described in his words “an adult who does not have college education is not likely to be as socially welcomed.”

          Further, between one third and one half experience what I described in my response to Hiram as “My reading of Hiram’s comment is that in Davis one of the key drivers of exclusion is not only the level of college education, but further the perceived place on an imaginary/subjective hierarchical scale of the “value/worth” of the educational field of study that the person pursued in their college education.

          Regardless of the “measuring stick” used the realities of exclusion and inclusion are the same.

          With all that said, I stand by the argument that classism has a more wide reaching impact than racism in Davis.

          That doesn’t diminish the importance or impact of racism in Davis.  Classism and racism are not either/or, but rather both/and.

          1. David Greenwald

            I gave examples of people you might know who are affluent and yet who I know have had personal experience with racism. I read both your comment and Hirim’s, the response by Keith to your comment should be unsettling to you. He took it as acknowledgement by you that race was to dismissed as a factor. Hirim has long pointed out that education of a parent is a big factor in the achievement gap, I would point out that racial effects exist over and above that. The broader issue of race – police stops, personal discrimination in my view are less about class, more about race. It’s not that poorer whites aren’t looked down, it’s that the bigger problem is people of color’s treatment by police, people, and businesses. Moreover, my biggest objections – and several people privately messaged about this – a bunch of upper middle class white men weighin in on this was unsettling to several people of color, many of whom do not feel comfortable posting on here because they fear getting the third-degree treatment by what they see as defenders of white supremacy.

        12. Matt Williams

          David, you are again treating this as an either/or proposition … dismissing classism while arguing for racism, as if one exists and the other does not.  They both exist.  They are both damaging.  I’m not sure how/why you can’t see that.

          1. David Greenwald

            You’re making the “all lives matter” argument. The problem with that is by arguing that they both exist, you fail to treat the one at issue right now.

        13. Matt Williams

          Exactly how am I failing to address/support Black Lives Matter?  That is a pretty huge assumption on your part.

          But, with that said, your comments have swung to the personal, and I’m a firm believer that the whole is much more important than an individual part (me in this case), so I will personally continue to fight hard to address both racism and classism here in Davis … and beyond our community boundaries.  As I have said several times, but you don’t seem to hear it … both/and.

          ‘Nuff said.

    3. Alan Miller

      I totally agree with HJ’s premise.  Similarly, in my town of origin, Palo White-O, even decades ago there were black families who were well educated and part of the community with little prejudice towards them that I ever saw.  But this was Stanford town.  And everyone was expected to go to college.  Those without a college education, or who came from what might be called ‘white trash’ families, were seriously looked down upon and discriminated against.  I found this rather disgusting, even more so looking back on it.

  10. Edgar Wai

    I don’t quite follow the reason that diversity is an end. My logic is this:

    Given that the population is diverse AND the future is unknown, diversity in representation and in creating solution are means to ensure that individual or collective decisions do not cause more harm and help humanity remain resilient to threats.

    This means diversity is a means to deal with diversity and unknown. Diversity is the circumstance, not an end goal.

    In my logic, the end goal is survival and happiness of humanity. Diversity is a perpetual mean because we might never know everything.

    It is not hard to add diversity as an end. One could simple say: “I prefer an interesting world with creative and happy surprises, I want people to think and do things humanity has not imagined.”

    That description of surprises and unforeseen imagination is probably inseparable from what cultural diversity is. As such, cultural and thoughts diversity becomes an end. It is part of what makes a world interesting and lives enjoyable.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      I don’t quite follow the reason that diversity is an end.

      Edgar’s statement is important.  And my personal belief is that “Inclusion is important as an end.”

      However, different people can look at “inclusion” differently. A case in point is the public debate about the Nishi Student Housing proposal in 2018. My position was, and still is, that the Nishi site should “include” 5,000 to 7,000 student beds. Robb’s publicly stated opinion was that “including” 2,200 beds was enough. That difference in opinion created public fireworks at the Civenergy forum on Nishi, and the end result that Robb has been unwilling to talk to me since that date … which I believe is a loss for us both.

      Bottom-line, the politics that comes with human nature complicates any “end” that we may aspire to.

      1. Ron Oertel

         “Inclusion is important as an end.”

        I think that’s a good way to put it.  (With a goal of ensuring that no artificial barriers are in the way.)

        Better than the “scorecard” approach – though that should also be looked at periodically, to determine if there’s possible evidence of unseen barriers.

        Ultimately, some of those barriers may not be within the scope of local control. Unless one wants to use quotas, etc. (Essentially, taking a sledgehammer to the system, with corresponding damage.)

    2. Hiram Jackson

      The reason that diversity and inclusion are important is because we really don’t have anything like a democracy if not everyone can participate as fully.  Democratic participation (& ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’) is the end.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Diversity (result/scorecard) is not necessarily the same as inclusion (opportunity).  At least, that’s what I gathered from Matt’s statement.

        For example, every adult has a right to vote, but participation may differ across various groups.  And if there’s barriers to that, those should be addressed.

        But if those barriers are addressed (and participation does not “even out”), who bears responsibility for that (in terms of any particular group, in general)?

      2. Ron Glick

        ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’

        That was Jefferson who didn’t want to go as far as Locke who coined the term “Life, liberty and property.” Of course Jefferson was living in a system where people were considered property and including property would have therefore been problematic. Another argument for reparations.

  11. Alan Miller

    RD . . . I do agree with the Covid-19 part in your article.

    I’m more of an ‘individually centered’ person on most issues than most (in Davis) in a political sense.  However, when it comes to Covid-19, your statement, “An interesting example in this time of COVID-19 concerns whether a highly individualistic way of viewing my place in society is well adapted to the kinds of collective responses (wearing masks, testing/tracing/isolation/quarantining) that are necessary to stem the virus’ spread,”  rings true for me.

    I don’t understand why more of the ‘conservative’ sorts of folks can’t adapt when it comes to a species-crisis societal existential issue such as this.  I started out with the more conservative view, but when it comes to this pandemic, the more I read the more I became a rabid mandated masker.  The sadistic stubbornness of many not to change their ways for this one critical issue — where ones lack of action can literally kill an infectious chain of unknown others — baffles me.

  12. Ron Glick

    Racism or classism? Yes both are problems. Remember, Davis has a much higher percentage of college grads than the average community, so it should not be surprising that there is a high percentage of minority citizens that have post secondary educations.

    I appreciate that Hiram has led by example with Mariachi Puente trying to provide opportunities to students in an effort to bridge the achievement gap. It has long been known that students who are involved in music programs perform better on average than students who don’t.

    I would have been happy if the trustees would have picked Hiram. He has always been thoughtful about issues of race and class. He has plenty of experience as both a parent and a teacher. He has led by example in trying to do something about the achievement gap.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I would have been happy if the trustees would have picked Hiram. He has always been thoughtful about issues of race and class.

      Never mind that.  Let’s get to what’s “important”.

      What color is he?  (We already know that he’s the wrong gender.)

      But since you brought it up, is he “better” than the selectee regarding the criteria you’ve laid out? And if not, then why is Hiram o.k. with you, but not the selectee (who has a preferable gender)?

      Asked half in-jest.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Well, it was also asked half-seriously, given the discussion regarding “diversity”, the school board decision, etc.

          But if you honestly think he’s better in regard to the criteria you’ve laid out (to your knowledge at least), then I would assume that’s the answer.

  13. Robb Davis

    I don’t think I will have time to respond any more today so let me just re-post one paragraph:

    A final note on diversity as telos: when I say it should be an “end” I mean that we should explicitly talk about the need for diverse perspectives when we make decisions about whom to elect as leaders and whom to put forward to serve as appointees to various advisory structures.  We should encourage electors to consider diversity as a factor in their decision making, and we should encourage people with diverse perspectives given ethnicity, race, or heritage to run for office and support them to succeed.

    There are no quotas here.  There is nothing divisive.  There is merely a call to consider the importance of diversity and work at it from the grass roots—by encouraging people with diverse (and traditionally excluded) perspectives to run for office and to apply for commissions, and then to support them so they can bring their perspectives to the table.

    There is no coercion, no overbearing state intervening to create some kind of balance. There is merely a community striving to achiever greater resilience and openness to difference.  I honestly do not see what is controversial about that.

    1. Ron Oertel

      There are no quotas here.  There is nothing divisive. 

      ” . . . when we make decisions about whom to elect as leaders and whom to put forward to serve as appointees to various advisory structures.”

      There is no way to do so without engaging in discrimination based upon the factors one seeks (e.g., in regard to skin color, gender, etc.).  In effect, “quotas”.

      Coming on the heels of  what is essentially a recall effort of a school board member, based upon nothing more than skin color.

      I’d call that “divisive”.

  14. Bill Marshall

    why don’t you ask someone who reads but doesn’t post here, why they don’t post here.

    How?  Readers who do not post are by definition, anonymous…  that was a ‘unhelpful’ question…

        1. Bill Marshall

          OK… consider the question now asked…

          “Why do readers, of this thread, read but do not post?”

          Question fairly asked… ball back in ‘the other court’ … fair question, as I was good in tennis, and pretty fair in poker… knowing when to call a bluff…

          Hoping the question generates honest answers…

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