Diversity in Croydon’s politics: Just an exercise in point-scoring

By - Wednesday 19th March, 2014

Croydon Tech City founder, Jonny Rose, argues that grandstanding by local political parties about how diverse they are objectifies BMEs and reduces them to decorative assets to be shown but never heard

A couple of weeks ago, Croydon Labour group’s AddiscombeFirst tweeted a picture of Conservative MPs and local group members out on the [electoral] pull in Addiscombe: 

The unspoken barb being: look at how racially diverse we are by contrast.

Diversity makes me feel warm and tingly inside.

To be sure, ‘diversity’ is lovely. Like an artisanal cupcake or a rehoused kitten.

Nothing pleases me more than scrolling through my mobile phone contacts and seeing a bevy of friends and extended family with names I can’t pronounce and VISAs that need to be renewed every four years.

We know that in today’s economy diversity is a win: global and local marketplaces are a dynamic mix of different cultures, ages, races, lifestyles, genders and more, and diverse corporations certainly have the advantage over those that have no idea how to negotiate alien cultures.

Furthermore, monocultures ultimately foster a ‘hive mind’ mentality where everyone thinks the same way thereby stifling innovation. By contrast, a diverse community increases the pool of options – whether it be for intellectual or material resource – and opinions.

History, which – to quote Marx perfectly – “is just a series of racial struggles”, has shown that if power is concentrated amongst a particular group (white – it’s always white), it breeds resentment, discord and, eventually, uprising. A commitment to diversity through methods such as with ‘positive discrimination’, hopefully are a just and effective response to structural and institutional biases which have historically disenfranchised or disempower racial minorities.

Yet – as local politics shows – the pursuit for diversity is not without its dark side.

Judging candidates by character and competency not by skin colour

Martin Luther King said it best in his famous 1963 speech when he spoke of a future where his children and their contemporaries would be judged by their character not the colour of their skin.

Perversely, then, by focusing on skin-colour over character and competency, ‘right on’ diversity enthusiasts do exactly that which they purport to be against: making race the reigning signifier of a person’s worth.

It’s hard to escape from the glaring fact that such behaviour is fundamentally racist.

Furthermore, the effect is to foster a weird sort of ‘reverse racism’; whereby all that is non-white is “good” and all that is white is #outoftouch.

In the minds of the diversity brigade (I’m honestly not sure what the collective noun for diversity-philes but the Daily Mail – which is always right – tends to use ‘brigade’) I imagine there is some sort of subconscious taxonomy of racial superiority: “the darker the better” that is used to weigh up the value of BMEs.

Far from being an aspect of communal celebration, diversity becomes – in the hands of the ideologue – a perverse weapon with which to beat others who are “out of touch”

Stop making political pawns of racial minorities

Politics, if nothing else, is all about the art of the spectacle and as we get closer and closer to voting day I have every confidence that parties – of every ideological colour – will be wheeling out their BME membership and using them like the decorative assets that they have always been.

In the run up to May, we will see more privileged white voices crowing about how “diverse” they are; we will see more BME voices emerge out of nowhere – invariably egged on by increasingly self-conscious white leadership – to seem ‘representative’; and a lot more posturing about “diversity” in lieu of any policies.

Diversity is great. Diversity is laudible. Diversity is cool.

But it should be a means to an end which is far nobler than the diversity brigade’s own hypocritical self-satisfaction and smugness.

The next Croydon Tech City event takes place on March 20th with the theme ‘Politics and Tech’, from 7:30PM at Matthew’s Yard. To attend, please sign up as ‘attending’ here or  to confirm your attendance.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    The word “diversity” is always used for “colour” or “race”, but it covers many other things. A group of people with different interests, for example, different ways of dressing, different tastes in music. I am a diverse person. I am involved in music, politics, and many other things. I an Anglo-Argentine, with two cultures. The colour of my skin is irrelevant.

  • gbsblogs

    Really good article. Excellent point, and beautifully put.