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jrlewis's picture

Art and Race

In her article "Why Diversity for Diversity's Sake Won't Work," Jennifer Delton argues that the concept of "diversity hiring" is extremely problematic. The methodologies used to obtain a diverse workforce are arbitrary and racist. She states "as is the case with art and obscenity, they know race when they see it." The art of life. This metaphor treats art and race as objects of interpretation with respect to their appearance.

The appearance of a person does not entail one specific race or interpretation of their racial identity. For example, a young Chinese woman may have been adopted by an American family and raised with their cultural values. Her contribution to community or institutional diversity would differ significantly from a Chinese woman who was raised by Chinese parents who strove to preserve their culture rather than assimilating.

This metaphor is also applicable to class, gender, and sexual orientation amongst others. In this sense physical appearance may provide observations to be subsumed in an interpretation of personal identity. For example, someone may present as a man, but may have more complicated gender politics.

It is interesting to consider the role of the person interpreting race. The interpreter's conceptions of race may conflict with the object of interpretation. The two interpretations may be incommensurable or opposite in nature. Which interpretation should be accepted?


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