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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Vanessa Lopez-Littleton
August 26, 2016
“We are either going to come together as a country, or we are going to come a part.”
Van Jones, American political activist
As students return for the fall semester, diversity and inclusiveness will once again be front and center. The social unrest and protests seen on campuses served as a call to action. Campuses are responding to create more inclusive climates, recruit diverse faculty and develop socially responsive curricula and institutions. If last spring is any indication of what’s to come, greater strides are needed to ensure diversity and inclusiveness are more than ubiquitous buzzwords but serve as basic values embraced and demonstrated at all levels of the institution.
But the level of vitriol shown in this year’s presidential campaign may thwart efforts to bring diverse groups together. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton’s 1996 controversial reference to gangs of children as super-predators has resurfaced along with the criticism of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, argued to have contributed to the mass incarceration of black males. Yet, the resurgence of these events contribute to the negative stereotypes of blacks in the U.S.
On the other hand, if Donald Trump were to win, he would become the first president without political or military experience. Donald Trump’s lack of political experience and rejection of the political correctness has appealed to some voters. However, these very factors have insulted and offended American citizens.
In a time when diversity and inclusiveness efforts have increased in the public and private sector, Donald Trump is sending a message that promoting diversity and inclusiveness is not synonymous with putting America or Americans first. In what he terms a rejection of political correctness, Donald Trump’s words and actions run counter to efforts to improve diversity and promote inclusiveness. Mr. Trump has called for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, extreme vetting of visa applicants and consideration of deportation squads to round up the nearly 11 million undocumented persons. Each of these policies would have broad implications for public sector personnel and would run counter to efforts to improve diversity and inclusiveness. Public administration faculty should strongly consider discussing how each of these administrative actions would impact public sector personnel and how these actions bode with their personal beliefs about American democracy.
Despite what policy proposals or rhetoric Donald Trump puts forth, campuses should work to ensure diversity and inclusiveness are evident in every aspect of the collegiate experience. In this critical election season, administrators and faculty should become adamant supporters of diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, campuses would be wise to use Donald Trump’s campaign to assist in the identification of pitfalls to be avoided.
In order for diversity to be successful, those in positions of power and influence must deliberately think about diversity. When Donald Trump assembled his economic advising team, he chose billionaire bankers, investment managers, hedge fund managers, many of which he had done business with before. His initial selection of all white men exemplifies one of the greatest challenges of promoting diversity, denial of equality of opportunity. For diversity to truly take hold, those in positions of power and influence will have to acknowledge their implicit biases and make a commitment to ensuring equality of opportunity.
The very premise of inclusiveness is making people feel valued. Donald Trump’s language has been offensive on many fronts. Donald Trump uses language that is divisive. His reference to a Black man as “my African-American… sitting there behaving,” demonstrates a lack of awareness in how to appropriately identify group affiliation without making people feel ostracized.
Donald Trump’s lack of sensitivity is more about the disregard of Black history and the Black experience than the false narrative around rejecting political correctness. If he respected Black people, Mr. Trump would reject the monolithic characterization of Black people as all living in poverty ridden communities, without jobs, with rampant unemployment and failing schools. Asking black Americans to vote for him because they have no hope, no future and nothing to lose demonstrates a level of disrespect and divisiveness every American should denounce.
Diversity and Inclusiveness Matter
As American citizens we should accept our role in promoting diversity and creating inclusive environments. We should reject the notion that political correctness is something to be eschewed. There is nothing wrong with creating an environment where people who are different from you feel respected. Diversity and inclusiveness are important matters. The more we do to bring this country together, the better off we will be as a society.
Author: Vanessa Lopez-Littleton, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Services and Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay. Her research focuses on social equity, cultural competence and racial and ethnic health disparities.