McWilliams: ‘Diversity of thought’ means nothing without actual diversity

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

During the Associated Students of Colorado State University debate April 3, ASCSU Speaker of the Senate candidate Kevin Lorusso kept using the phrase “diversity of thought.” The term, for better or worse, piqued my interest and I spiraled down an extremely distasteful rabbit hole of internet searches and backward thinking that brought me to the conclusion that “diversity of thought” is absolutely meaningless.

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The phrase “diversity of thought” has been gaining much attention among company employers, businesses and, quite frankly, white people who are grasping at anything to feel like they can be included in any way under the term “diverse.” Patrons of this term believe that a person’s personality, opinions, ways of expressing said opinions and their political affiliation are more important than a person’s identity: their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, background, etc.

Now, at first, I kind of agreed with this. I could say that my personality and opinions are much more integral to who I am than the fact that I’m a straight, white female.

But, what brings us to our personalities and our opinions — the ways we see the world? Our personalities and opinions are shaped and rooted in our identities. Our thoughts are molded by the way the world responds to our race, gender, and those of the people we care about.

Everyone’s way of thinking is different from the next person’s. Having a diverse mind just means you’re human; it isn’t diverse at all.”

Diversity of thought is a way for employers to backtrack on making their companies more fundamentally diverse and a way to avoid hiring people of color, people in the LGBTQ community or people who are religiously diverse. Counting diversity of thought as diversity is giving a pass to hiring yet another John Smith whose only experience with diversity is listening to Kanye West after learning he supports President Donald Trump.

Everyone’s mind is unique. Everyone’s way of thinking is different from the next person’s. Having a diverse mind just means you’re human; it isn’t diverse at all. “Diversity of thought” is just another way to promote white supremacy.

The phrase is detrimental to promote on a college campus, especially one like CSU where almost 73% of the students are white. While there’s nothing wrong with being white or being proud of your background, there’s something wrong with being so comfortable with your privilege that you perpetuate a narrative such as the importance of “diversity of thought” over actual diversity. 

To use the phrase in relation to ASCSU is even worse, considering its body is primarily made up of white students and most of its leadership positions are held by white students. ASCSU needs to push for actual diversity and not hide behind empty phrases. 

I strongly encourage thinking about the phrase “diversity of thought” before using it to boost yourself among your peers. Ask yourself: How does one achieve diversity of thought?

Diversity of thought is achieved by expanding your perspective, listening to other points of view and ensuring diversity in identities is present. Without actual diversity present and challenging the cis-white status quo, “diversity of thought” is meaningless.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian.com and Twitter at @LetaMcWilliams.

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