Research Proposals: Definitions of Diversity

  1. What does “diversity” mean to different organizations and institutions?

Anyone on this blog knows that diversity is one of my fundamental principles.  It is something that is constantly on my mind.  In every situation I find myself, I am always assessing the “diversity levels”.  However, I never really thought that there could be multiple different versions to the definition of diversity.  Growing up in the United States, one becomes accustomed to equating the word “diverse” with “racially diverse”.  However, in other cultures, “diverse” simply means “different”.  I first came across this in my first semester at university.  I asked my Italian professor how to say “diverse” in Italian because the word for “different” was “diverso”.  I questioned this meaning because in Spanish, “diverso” means “diverse” and “diferente” means “different”, and I thought it would be more similar in Italian.  My teacher looked at me for a second and could not think of a direct translation.  She then said to me, “Oh, I guess you would just have to say ‘étnicamente diverso’ [which translates to ‘ethnically diverse’] because in Italian we do not have a word for ‘diverse’.”  For the rest of the class I was zoned out trying to figure out why Italians did not have a specific word for “diverse” in Italian.

 I then realized that maybe it was not the Italians that had it weird…

…maybe in the United States, certain things just happen to be associated with each other due to specific culture of prejudice developed from the specific historic agenda that led to the formation of the country.

A potential framework of research for this specific question could be someone who has worked and done research on social constructs.  Clearly, the term “diversity” has to be a social construct considering it has different associations in different cultures.  A potential object of study could be the Latin American Youth Center because as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I have wondered how they define “diversity”.

I could probably reframe this question into, “In what ways is the term ‘diversity’ a social construct? How do different organizations in the local DC area define this term – in accordance to the social construct or not?”


2. How is “diversity” acknowledged and constructed among schools across the United               States?

I am deeply interested in education development, and after reading H. Richard Milner IV’s article, “Rethinking Achievement Talks in Urban Education”, I started to question even more whether diversity could be considered a social construct.  Being that he elaborated on changing the rhetoric of the achievement gap,

this made me think whether the education system in the United States manipulates the definition of “diversity”.

(Obviously, I had a preconceived notion that it does, but a true scholar must always questions himself or herself to evaluate the validity of his or her argument – see “The Doubting Game” in one of my previous blogs.)

I could use Milner’s article for a framework, but better yet, I could rely on his source.  He got the idea of the social construct of the achievement gap from someone else, so I could use that source as a framework.  Looking to Milner’s source as a source could lead me to finding other sources for frameworks.  For a potential object of study, I should probably narrow it down to a more specific area in the national school system.

I could probably reframe this question into, “How is ‘diversity’ acknowledged and constructed among schools in the local DC area? How does colorblindness combined with different teachings of diversity play into the varying constructions of the word ‘diversity’?”


3.  Has the passage of time changed the definition of “diversity”?

Being in the Writing for Social Change class, I have been studying the rhetoric of community organizations in reaction to the pressures at the moment.  Sixty or seventy years ago, during the Civil Rights Movement, the word “diversity” probably intensified in association with “racial diversity”.  (I do not know this for sure, but this is the purpose of initiating further research.)  However, realizing that in today’s society, we are faced with the rhetoric of the New Jim Crow and its consequences, maybe “diversity” means something different.  Actually, I do not think it means something different – it is still very much associated with “racial diversity”; I think because of the shift in the way racism is carried out – nowadays being more institutionalized through colorblindness – the way the word “diversity” is taught has changed.

 I believe that some organizations and institutions have misconstrued the way “diversity” is defined in order to not be held accountable to their colorblindness.

Potential frameworks for this could be studies done by key members of the revolutions during the Civil Rights Movement Era and the New Jim Crow Era.  Potential objecta of study could be archives from the Civil Rights Movements, works from the education systems from the Civil Rights Movement Era and the New Jim Crow Era.

I could probably reframe this question into, “Has the definition of ‘diversity’ changed or been misconstrued between the Civil Rights Movement Era and the New Jim Crow Era? What role does colorblindness play into that evolution?”


One thought on “Research Proposals: Definitions of Diversity

  1. I think your investigation into the evolution of the concept of “diversity” is very interesting and well worth pursuing. As you get into the articles, continue to pay attention to how each other defines and builds on the concept. At the same time, be on the look out for examples of the kinds of objects you might seek out as a way to ground the research and add to the conversation. The question now is, “once I get a sense for how the idea of diversity has evolved, what new insight will this allow me to offer about XX.” One idea you’ve mentioned is LAYC: which definition do they provide, and how does this align with their mission? What difference would it make to use a different definition? OR given the international flavor of your question, you could ask whether there might be any misunderstandiings about this definition among volunteers, participants, and staff. You could add another layer, too, thinking about the national and racial backgrounds of potential volunteers: what definitions might they bring. Do you see how this pushes the paper toward analysis?


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