18.1.07

Terminology Rant

Language Log has a nice rant about the phrase "Person of Color". It reminded me of MOPOW and our decennial evaluation.

Independent schools in New York are evaluated every ten years by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). We're asked to do a rather searching self-evaluation of who we are, what we do and how we do it. Then a committee of outsiders comes in and evaluates whether we actually do those things. There are many areas to deal with, from Trustees and Finances to the library and after school programs to academic departments to the student body. There's also a section entitled "Diversity."

NYSAIS is careful to enumerate the ways in which schools may (or may not) be diverse: gender, learning styles, economic status, ethnic background, ages, talents, languages, academics, athletics and sexual orientation are all included (in other words, an all-girls Catholic boarding school for soccer players could still have students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, academic styles). So there's a lot to play with, a lot to consider.

Except...

The sub-committee appointed to discuss and report on Diversity decided it was really only about minority enrollment: there were few black students and teachers. Ditto Latino/Latina. You have to understand,this school was so very diverse in so many other ways, narrowing down the definition didn't make sense to the rest of us. We could improve in those areas, yes. But let's also celebrate the diversity that exists, let's applaud our 1/3 foreign national population, and the range of talents, and the different learning styles that are acommodated, just to name a few areas.

For me, "diversity" isn't just about the color of one's skin. And "people of color" should include my Indian cousin-in-law and my Boston-born mother - none of us are transparent and without color. Except (according to Thing One) possibly me.

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