Rhetoric and Reality


Language of Appeasement by Dafina-Lazarus Stewart
Inside Higher Ed, March 30, 2017

In her recent article, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart uses our post-election political climate as a starting point to discuss how marginalized groups are treated and represented on college campuses in the United States. Stewart argues that for historically white institutions (HWI), the politics of appeasement have replaced the work of creating true systemic changes that would lead to equity and social justice.  Using historical context, she outlines how students in the 1960s and 1980s pushed for change that would result in greater diversity on campus. Efforts to recruit underrepresented students and faculty and to build programs to support students from marginalized groups failed to result in the desired changes. Stewart shines light on the fact that the demands of current students are surprisingly (or unsurprisingly to many) the same as in previous generations. She argues that schools use “diversity and inclusion rhetoric” as a diversion from actually creating and implementing “transformative efforts to promote equity and justice.” The implications of this challenge are critically important for independent schools. It is not enough to hire a Dean of Diversity and Inclusion or to recruit more faculty and students of color. Stewart gives the reader many examples of the clear differences between “diversity and inclusion rhetoric” and equity and justice. One question that all school leaders should begin with is this: “Diversity asks, ‘How many more of [pick any minoritized identity] group do we have this year than last?’ Equity responds, ‘What conditions have we created that maintain certain groups as the perpetual majority here?’”

Submitted By: Louisa Polos, Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

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