June 21, 2007

Diversity-speak as "happy talk"

A U. of Minnesota press release:


U of M study finds that Americans couch feelings about race in the 'happy talk' of diversity-speak

According to a new study by researchers in the University of Minnesota's sociology department, Americans are generally positive -- even optimistic -- about the word 'diversity,' but when asked, even those working in the field of race relations have trouble describing diversity's value and stumble when giving real life examples.

The desire to appear color-blind leads most Americans to prefer the standardized language of diversity-speak when addressing issues of race, rather than the other way around. The researchers conclude that American diversity-speak is a sort of 'happy talk,' an upbeat language in which everyone has a place, everyone is welcome and even celebrated.

The study takes its conclusions from a telephone survey of more than 2,000 households across the country and nearly 150 hour-long interviews with adults from a wide range of backgrounds living in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The study found a majority of Americans -- cutting across race, class and gender lines -- value diversity, but their upbeat responses to the term contradict tensions between individual values and fears that cultural disunity could threaten the stability of American society. Also regardless of race, Americans' definition of diversity places white people at the neutral center and all other groups of people as outside contributors.

"The public debates and talk-show lamentations about immigration and political correctness leave many Americans to assume there's a big divide in the country between those who value diversity and those who reject it," said Doug Hartmann, associate sociology professor, who coauthored the study with graduate student Joyce Bell. "The fact is, most Americans value diversity - but they see it as a benefit with the potential cost of cultural disunity and social instability."

The study also found that most Americans use platitudes when describing diversity. "The topic of race lies outside the realm of polite conversation," said Bell. "Everyone in the study -- regardless of race, political affiliation and even level of rhetorical ability -- had real trouble talking about the inequities and injustices that typically accompany diversity in the United States."

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of American Sociological Review and is part of the sociology department's American Mosaic Project, an ongoing project funded by the Minneapolis-based David Edelstein Family Foundation that looks at race, religion and cultural diversity in the contemporary United States.


Judging from how audiences laugh like mad at stand-up comedians who eschew diversity happy talk, everybody knows this is just hypocritical cant. Now, hypocrisy can be a useful social lubricant. When somebody asks you "How are you?" they want to hear you say "Fine, and you?" not "I don't know what's acting up more, my prostate or my hemorrhoids."

In the past, typically, happy talk was the style of the insecure middle of the social scale. Those who wished to be seen as above status concerns espoused frankness. In the 1920s, for example, H.L. Mencken made himself hugely popular with the cultural elite by waging erudite war on middle America's addiction to hypocritical happy talk. Sir Richard Burton was knighted by Queen Victoria three years after he translated the Kama Sutra.

A really odd thing about American culture today, however, is that as you go up the educational and social ladder, the more sanctimoniously hypocritical they tend to be about enforcing the code of diversity happy talk. It's quite curious.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve,
When I listen to my Ma talk about her parents and grandparents and personalities of the old Kaiserreich, I can only agree with you. Public discourse has become so superficial that its almost worthless. I reckon much of this comes from the corporations and companies where many employers are conditioned into PC-talk in order not to cause wrinkles in daily business practice.

That's because aggrieved minorities (or majorities depending on whether you live in the US or South Africa) like to target businesses for payoffs and because businesses so easily shirk from any conservative position, being married to their bottom lines.

Peewee said...

Just to answer the question "is he Jewish?" for anyone who doesn't already know: yes. http://rockcritics.com/interview/davidedelstein1.html
His organization's website doesn't seem to be nearly as full of anti-white propaganda as I expected it to be, however:
http://www.soc.umn.edu/research/amp/index.html

LK said...

I don't know if those responses are hypocrisy so much as just straight lying on the part of respondents who don't want to honestly answer leftist researchers. Same with the polite responses of "I'm fine". It's a lie so one doesn't have to bore the person who asked the question "how are you". I'd rather people be honest in surveys, of course.

Hypocrisy is when in private life they decry segregation and proclaim their love for diversity, etc., but they themselves manage to not act on that *love* and situate themselves as far away from it as possible.

Hal K said...

I went to a meeting for our district recently where the problems of overcrowding in homes was discussed. One of the local leaders exclaimed how "great" it was that his neighborhood was becoming more diverse, and he said "great" with such emphasis that his voice broke a little.

fwood1 said...

To go along with Steve's last paragraph, I'm trying to find a piece by one of the Genexpression writers concerning how quickly elite opinion can change. Does anyone here know what I'm referring to?

Anonymous said...

...have trouble describing diversity's value and stumble when giving real life examples.

In some cities it makes it easier to decide where to live -- some areas you can eliminate right off.

Edison said...

as you go up the educational and social ladder, the more sanctimoniously hypocritical they tend to be about enforcing the code of diversity happy talk.

It's not curious at all. This appears to be common in most societies. It is particularly pronounced in Japan where educated middle class people seem to have almost no personality of their own at all - conversations with people you don't know well tend to be a collection of completely predictable pre-programmed cliched responses. But lower class Japanese tend to be far more honest about their feelings and unconventional. It is a truism that education is always to some extent indoctrination, and the better educated a person is, the more likely it is he will produce the correct society approved public response for any situation. If Americans were less politically correct and doctrinaire 50 years ago, it is probably because far fewer people, including succesful people, spent significant time in school, and the scholastic education they did receive was less systematic. We have now created a mandarin-style system for success where advancement is too often simply a matter of succesfully learning the prevailing rules and regurgitating them - hence the predominance today of lawyers and finance types whose skills are primarily abstract and geared towards gaming the system rather than producing things. It is no accident that in such a society orthodoxy of thought is increasingly the rule.

Anonymous said...

Don't expect this happy talk from Prime Minister Howard of Australia, where he just suspended porn and alcohol privileges for Aborigines in response to an epidemic of child sexual abuse in the aborigine community.

chrysoperil said...

Sir Richard Burton was knighted by Queen Victoria three years after he translated the Kama Sutra.

Under a pseudonym for private subscribers. Sex was risky for writers and publishers then and for a long time after. Christianity explains that. Nowadays it's race writers and publishers have to beware of. Holocaustianity explains that.

tommy said...

but when asked, even those working in the field of race relations have trouble describing diversity's value and stumble when giving real life examples.

Frequently, I ask liberals to provide me with examples of the concrete benefits of diversity. By concrete, I mean something beyond purely subjective things like music and cuisine. (You'll find that liberals try hard to convince you that mariachi music and enchiladas are the end-alls and be-alls of life.) If they can come up with anything at all, they usually cite instances of cultural diffusion involving the transmission of knowledge or technology from one ethnically homogeneous society to another. They don't seem able to point out many purely objective benefits of ethnic heterogeneity.

It is funny that all this focus on diversity comes in an era where mass communication makes ethnic diversity, regardless of the drawbacks, less defensible than ever.

There ought to be a term for the phenomenon where people become fixated on slogans without thinking about the realities behind them.

l. ron hoover said...

"Holocaustianity explains that."

Good to see that Steve has Holocaust deniers on his board.

This site is becoming increasingly white nationalist and anti-Jewish. For a Jewish race realist who has long admired Sailer, that's pretty hard to take.

Anonymous said...

Steve -- I am shocked you didn't see immediately why elite opinion is so rigid and politically correct.

Back in Mencken's day it was obvious by speech, clothing, manners, physique, haircut, teeth, hands, and nearly everything else who was elite and who was not. You could just look at a man or woman walking through a hotel lobby and within two seconds accurately gauge their status and income and everything else.

NOW, if you were to look at two men, listen to them casually discuss sports and traffic, you could not tell who was the big-shot Hollywood writer and who was the key grip. Since they dress alike, act alike, talk alike, have the same style haircuts, etc. etc.

THUS it's extremely important for elites to have markers about who is elite. The loss of expensive suits as a dress code, and the rising incomes of the working and middle class (decent dentistry, food, etc.) makes this a critical marker for elites.

chrysoperil said...

"Holocaustianity explains that."

Good to see that Steve has Holocaust deniers on his board.


I'm not a Holocaust denier, but I do think the Holocaust has become an irrational cult in the west. It's waved as a shroud to shut down debate about racial differences (inter alia), while the mass murder committed in the name of racial "equality" by communism is very largely ignored. As I believe Steven Pinker pointed out in The Blank Slate.

Anonymous said...

Guns, Germs, and Steel. No one group can invent everything or can be born resistant to everything. The more you share with others, the stronger your chances of survival are when you come into contact with others.

Anonymous said...

Leftists and rightists draw the wrong lessons from the Holocaust and unfortunately Steve tends to bring out both of them.

The Left looks at the Holocaust and views Western Civilization as being responsible, particularly middle-class society etc. Call this the Hannah Arendt argument though it is mostly made by those who first backed the Nazis during the Occupation and then joined the Left (Paul de Man, and folks like Derrida, Foucalt) or their intellectual successors.

Avoiding both the generous heaping of fault/guilt that pacifism, appeasement, and refusal to back English and French nationalism against the hideous mutation of German nationalism that the Left had inflicted in the Twenties and Thirties. Made worse of course by the active collaboration by folks like de Man himself (who wrote for the Nazis in Belgium).

This "guilt" assigned to Western Civilization as a whole avoids the specific blame of feel-good pacifism, rejection of nationalism, and selfish elitism (instead of national self-sacrifice seen in WWI). It also avoids the recognition of places like Rwanda where nearly 1 million people were killed not with modern industrial means of death but with stones and machetes, by hand, in a space of three months. Egged on by the French and hate-radio for "progressive" i.e. anti-Anglophone reasons. Or perhaps Pol Pot's killing fields by Francophone radicals seeking to remake society from "Ground Zero" a favorite European intellectual activity since Plato.

The right for it's part minimizes the Holocaust and tries to deny it because of the implications: evil exists, it is the duty of those with power to fight/stop it, if that power is not exercised wisely evil will flourish.

This flies in the face of the profoundly selfish, often racist-hate-filled, and generally cowardly rantings of those like Father Coughlin (Hitler's big radio booster in the 1930's) and "respectable" faces like Lindbergh, and the successors such as Vidal (an aristo who wants a Jeffersonian slave-master society, isolated from the world) or Buchanon (your prototypical Catholic bigot).

Ike understood the lesson of the Holocaust: you could only stop that sort of thing by being very strong and being seen to be willing to use that strength. And if you didn't stop that sort of thing it would only encompass the globe given modern technology. Of course that threatens the aristo monopoly on power and wealth. Imagine a guy like Ike over say the aristo Vidal running things! Ike wasn't well-born and lacked the blue blood.

To sum up, the Left shies away from the personal and political responsibility of anti-Nationalism and pacifism (like Chaplin in the Great Dictator) and the Right for the sacrifices of their wealth and influence in fighting evil.

Svigor said...

Good to see that Steve has Holocaust deniers on his board.

Good to see the five readers of Inverted World have time to police iSteve.

Please explain how a belief in Holocaustianity (which is plainly a real phenomenon, btw) has anything whatsoever to do with any given position on "the" holocaust. If you cannot, please explain how your implication doesn't amount to trolling.

tommy said...

chrysoperil, l. ron hooever, svigor

In the words of a..ummm...great man,

Can't we all just get along?

Seriously, I can see how that comment about "Holocaustianity" could have been taken both ways. Can't we bury this hatchet (even if we have to dig it up another day)?

Fred said...

L. Ron Hoover:

"Good to see that Steve has Holocaust deniers on his board."

"This site is becoming increasingly white nationalist and anti-Jewish. For a Jewish race realist who has long admired Sailer, that's pretty hard to take."

I'm not sure why you're surprised: there's always been anti-Jewish sentiment on the paleo right. Plus, Sailer's site attracts people with a varying levels of hate, bitterness, resentment, envy, or some combination thereof. I'm one of those people, and you probably are too. I resent that I will have to save more money to live in a town where I can send my kids to a white and Asian school, rather than a black and Hispanic one; I'm bitter that I scored in the 96th percentile on the GMAT and didn't get into any of the top schools to which I applied, while I'm sure less qualified blacks did.

Who am I to deny the paleos the pleasure of ranting about Jews, when I get enjoyment from reading Steve's posts about blacks? Glass houses and all that.

I am starting to realize though, that this talk about 'race realism', 'human biodiversity' etc. is a waste of time personally, and counter-productive politically. Personally, it does nothing to advance my station in life, and it doesn't justify my failures. Had I put in the effort to get top grades as an undergrad, I would have gotten into a top grad school -- my laziness and lack of foresight back then hurt me worse than affirmative action did.

Politically, the racial stuff is pointless and counterproductive. It's pointless because it's a distraction: consider Steve's recent flame war with David Frum -- a guy who agrees with Sailer's views on immigration. Emphasis on gentile versus Jew, black versus white, etc. balkanizes opposition to open borders at a time when unity of effort would be more helpful. Also, the HBD stuff makes it easier for open-borders advocates to paint immigration rationalists as nativists or racists (yeah, I know most of you don't care about those accusations per se but you should care to the extent that they weaken your political position).

Finally, for political goals most of us probably agree on, like ending affirmative action, racial realism/HBD can be counterproductive. How can you argue for a level playing field at the same time you are effectively saying that blacks and Hispanics can't compete on one? Better to agree with polite society that we are all equal and work with Ward Connelly to end affirmative action state by state.

tggp said...

Looks like Anonymous, at 6/21/2007 4:20 PM is proudly displaying the wrong message the right (or at least much of it) took from the Holocaust: every day is 1938, Hitler (in the form of the autocrat of some crappy country) is about to plunge the world into darkness, everyone around except you (the brave Winston Churchill) is a Neville Chamberlain appeaser and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. That's what got us into Iraq and is trying to push us into Iran (I don't think they'll be successful). When they're out of the way there's always North Korea, Syria, Darfur, China, Belorussia, Russia and so on.

Regarding "Holocaustianity", Peter Brimelow made the same point without denying that it actually happened when he coined the term "Hitler's revenge"

Anonymous said...

Hey fred, I resemble that remark!

Martin said...

It's not curious at all........

By Edison, at 6/21/2007 10:20 AM"

Edison,

Very good points, and an inciteful observation. A Mandarinate. Yes, that is indeed what our elite culture is becoming. And, adopting this model from late imperial China, I'm sure that we can expect all the success they enjoyed with it.

David Davenport said...

How can you argue for a level playing field at the same time you are effectively saying that blacks and Hispanics can't compete on one?

If racial differences are the truth, why not speak the truth? Maybe the human playing fields aren't equal.

mepo said...

IMO, there are benefits as well as costs to diversity. But it's hard to recognize and exploit the benefits if you aren't allowed to think about the costs.

The costs are mainly about different expectations in social interactions. My old Spanish teacher (a very pretty woman) used to complain that men would often misinterpret her gestures as flirting, when they were just the way *everyone* in the Dominican Republic acted. (Southern women in the US seem to have the same thing happen.) It's a commonplace that Latin Americans and Spaniards think that a 10:00 meeting means "sometime before noon." American blacks tend to be much louder then most whites (at least middle class whites), which can create the impression that a rather calm family BBQ is a raucous party. All those are just costs of differing assumptions. They can all be overcome, but it takes work.

The work pays off in some circumstances, especially when you're in a structured environment where people mostly agree to the rules. Even there, it mostly pays off in ways that don't track with the ethnic lobby version of diversity--you value the Chinese mathematician and the black physicist you work with because they're smart people with interesting takes on the world, not because their ancestors and yours diverged a long time ago. And this implies that you will only value them if they add something, not if they're hired to keep the EEOC off your boss' back.

Fred said...

"If racial differences are the truth, why not speak the truth? Maybe the human playing fields aren't equal."

Of course they're not. My point is what good does it do when you say that? From what I have seen, nothing. Better to work toward the same goals from a non-racialist perspective.

David Daveport said...

My point is what good does it do when you say that?

Silence on this subject is a vote for Affirmative Action racial quotas.

Fred said...

"Silence on this subject is a vote for Affirmative Action racial quotas."

How you are still missing the point here I don't know. State-level affirmative action has been banned in California, and most recently, in Michigan, by ballot measures driven by a black man, Ward Connelly. His premise was that Americans of different races should be treated equally -- implicitly, because they are equal (according to mainstream dogma). So, "silence on this subject" helped get bans on affirmative action passed in California and Michigan.

How many state bans on affirmative action got passed by people preaching racial realism?

David Davenport said...

Fred,

Is your point that we should be Machiavells when Machiavellian means get the job done?