The Wrong Way to Diversify
by Ronald Bronson, Jr.
New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned after the Times discovered he plagiarized nearly half of the articles he penned as a reporter. The underlying facts of the story point to a troubled man and a newspaper full of people adamant about having another victory story to their credit. And herein lies the problem.
Critics of efforts to diversify in the mainstream cite the lack of blacks and the need to increase numbers. So recruiters go in search of the great black hope or a candidate that can make them seem like the bastions of diversity they are. When in reality, they seek someone to place lofty expectations on. People often assume when black people are not present in certain areas – the boardrooms, on television or other critical places that pervade our lives – that they are simply none qualified for the job or perhaps “they’re not interested” is what some will say.
Jayson Blair is not a failure of diversity. He failed himself and was failed by a system so intent on feeling better about the transgressions of the past, that it will do anything – short of discrediting itself – to achieve its goals. Well-meaning and intelligent people will go to great lengths to do what they think is right. But in the end who wins? The same people, who support school busing or diversity in higher education because of its benefit to whites, are the same ones who will continue to seek out the next Jayson Blair. If he were white, the backlash would be less about diversity and its ill effects and more about what it should be a tale of deceit by a young man who got a taste of the big time and a failure by those in charge to notice it.
Diversity needs to be less about filling quotas or sprinkling our lives with a little color for good measure. Diversity is not a tan that you get in the summertime, to keep from being too pale. It’s about people’s lives and about opportunity. Talented individuals come in all shapes, sizes and colors. We all have a responsibility to think outside of the box and to recognize achievement that pushes the envelope and that challenges our conceptions of what excellence is supposed to look like.
However, such vigilance does not give us the right to apply standards unfairly on those who we root for, like we cheer on our favorite athletes. By applying the same rigorous standards and seeing them succeed – that rising to the occasion that personifies excellence in its highest measure – is the sweetest victory of all.
There are plenty of young people who are seeking those chances. Don’t give up on them – or me.
Ron Bronson, Jr., is a writer originally from Plainfield, NJ. He has been published in various online and print publications since 1996. He is the publisher of The SchoolHouse Review. Currently, he is an intern at The Boston Globe and is working on his first book.
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Copyright © 2003 Ronald Bronson, Jr. and The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.