Letter to the Editor: Don’t conflate diversity training with diversity

To the editor:

Alexander Riley conflates diversity training, which I don’t agree with, with diversity. He seems to think that the only people who have anything to contribute to higher education are whites and that minorities only contribution is their skin color. It seems anathema to him that minorities can contribute and have contributed more to academia and their respective disciplines than their race.

I don’t believe diversity training. I don’t believe institutions can or should mandate what goes in a classroom. But the assumption that you shouldn’t broaden your curriculum to at least consider the very real contributions of non-white groups to society opens the door to the current extremism on the left.

I teach at an HBCU, and I’m black. I teach mostly 19th century French modernism. I love the canon–even as a black woman–because I know that blacks have contributed to the canon as much as whites. So I don’t tell my students they can’t learn to read and write. I emphasize what most whites would rather not discuss their own long history of oppression and impoverishment.

Whether you’re on the left or the right, the assumption is always the same that whites have something to offer minorities, especially blacks, and other than skin color they have nothing to contribute to higher education.

Lori Johnson