13 Chapters
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CHAPTER NINE: The difference that dare not speak its name: the lexicon police

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Training the mind

How is one to reside in the space between the extremes of annihilating the other and annihilating the self? One answer given by equality discourses is, by being very, very careful with the language one uses. And the way this is to be achieved is through training. Training is big business. Organizations spend a lot of money purchasing trainers and trainings of all kinds: health and safety, customer relations, equality, and so on. In part, organizations do this in order to fulfil the legal obligations placed on them by the legislature. To this end, it has become compulsory for employees to go through a “training” in equality and diversity. Mostly, these trainings are computer based (because it is cheaper). On completion, employees are deemed to have mastered the skills of empathy and sensitivity to others. The e-based equal opportunity trainings I have had sight of are, in my view, moronic, patronizing, and tokenistic, with their primary purpose being to demonstrate that the institution has fulfilled its legal obligations. In other words, they are in the service of being seen to do good, rather than actually doing good.

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CHAPTER SIX: Counting discriminations

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Every picture tells a story

While it is true to say that “every picture tells a story”, it is also accurate to say that there are many different stories to be told of the same picture, each of them simultaneously (possibly) true. Here is one picture: Jane was made redundant by Abdul, and Harish was not. Let us eavesdrop on their stories.

Jane’s story is that the redundancy is the result of unfair sexual discrimination. Her boss, Abdul, tells a different story: that he chose to make Jane redundant rather than Harish because she is a bad timekeeper. Jane says that she is late sometimes (lots of times, says the boss) because of needing to get her children to school. The boss says, but Harish, too, takes his children to school, and although he is ten minutes late on occasion, she tends to be forty-five minutes late as a matter of course. She says that she is a single mum, and Harish has a partner who helps. She claims that the boss Abdul decided to keep Harish on because they were both men and also they are the same race. She also claims racial discrimination. The boss says what nonsense; I am a Muslim and he is a Hindu, if anything, the history of the two faiths would mean that I would take every opportunity to get rid of him; it is you who are racist, not even being able to distinguish between our cultures. She says, yes, but you both come from the same area in Delhi and there was some connection between your families, was there not? This is clear favouritism, if not nepotism.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Corrupting the liberal ideal: diversity in organizational life

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Spreadsheet ethics

Increasingly, organizations are putting in place a number of diversity initiatives which aim to make organizational life more open and more accessible to people from backgrounds and groupings different from those in the mainstream. The intention is to make the workforce more diverse through employing different kinds of people. The focus of diversity initiatives is to set up processes that will allow more women, “ethnic” minorities, those with disabilities, gays, lesbians, and so on, into the structures of higher management. The wish is to make the organizational culture more inclusive. To this end, organizations employ diversity experts—consultants—to help the organization “celebrate diversity” instead of fearing and shunning it.

Rather surprisingly, it turns out that the theme of “diversity” has become almost a universal feature in the “strategic plans” of organizations large and small, public and private. Diversity has also become an integral feature of most contemporary “organizational development” initiatives. It is surprising because previously corporations had been very reluctant to engage with the prior emancipatory movements of multi-culturalism and anti-racism. So, why is it that the idea of diversity is being so readily embraced by them?

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CHAPTER TWELVE: Tolerating discrimination: discriminatory tolerance

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Chapter Ten attended to the processes unfair discrimination and marginalization that have been institutionalized and so are invisible as well as unconscious. I now want to turn to the more conscious realm in order to think about the notion of tolerance. I will do this through the problem that is called “cultural difference”, which is said to occur when one is faced with a way of life or a belief system that is at odds with one’s own. The diversity promulgator’s solution to this problem is celebration; they reframe the difference from problem to asset. In their view, there is no necessity to give an account or explanation for the differences, they just “are”: this is our way and that is their way and both are valid. Neither is there any necessity for the celebrator to engage their mental faculties, because if they just celebrate and party hard enough then they will somehow find themselves in equality heaven. As we have seen, there is no place for politics in the diversity movement, and so they are easily led to the presumption that “they” (the exotic others) think with one mind. To the diversity way of thinking, they really are “all the same” and not the problematic, politicized, and conflicted complex multiplicity that they actually are.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Manufacturing kinds of people: processes of inclusion and exclusion

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

The legislature, as well as the equality movements, has proceeded on the basis of a particular (problematic) world view, two elements of which are of specific concern to us. First is a simplistic understanding of the social group (whatever name it goes by, race, culture, ethnicity, etc.); second is a one-dimensional rendition of the human condition. If one buys into both of them, then the problem and its solution appear to be relatively straightforward as evidenced by the heroic pronouncements found in the equality statements of innumerable organizations, public and private. According to these, it is a simple enough matter to practise inclusivity, noninterference, tolerance, and respect towards others; it is just a matter of knowledge and will. It seems to me that to try to live one’s life according to these principles is a decent and worthy way of proceeding. Problems arise when these values are treated as though they are real achievable ends, rather than aspirations. When this happens, then the values of liberalism come to be distorted and turned into instruments of fear and control. It is for this reason that discussions on these subjects so often have a defensive quality, quickly become heated, and end in an impasse.

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