by Nick Mitchell
To speak of diversity today is to enter the traffic clustered around what has come, over the past four decades, to serve as one of our most powerful and pervasive languages of social betterment. Diversity, it would seem, has strayed well afield of its etymological vintage in Old French. In the twelfth century, diversité referred not so much to difference understood as a neutral fact of life but to difference decked out in suspect connotations: “oddness, wickedness, perversity.” In the contemporary United States, “diversity,” in its transits through the hegemonic lexicon—that is, the institutionalized languages by which power both solicits consent and fashions itself as such—no longer carries the sense of a difference that is threatening, dangerous, strange, or fearsome. Quite the contrary, we might say: in the dominant imaginary, diversity has come to enjoy a taken-for-granted equivalence with the concept of the good. To be or to become diverse is to be good, and what is good cannot retain its goodness for too long without putting its embrace of diversity on conspicuous display.