Jerry Seinfeld and LZ Granderson on Diversity

Jerry Seinfeld recently took a stand against political correctness and diversity quotas:

Jerry Seinfeld on Diversity in Comedy: “Who Cares?”

Discussing the belief that pop culture should accurately reflect society, he stated, “People think it’s the census or something. This has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares? Funny is the world that I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that.”

Whoa! Back it up, Mr. funny man. According to liberal doctrine, shouldn’t that have been, “Humor is just one aspect of comedy and I will make sure we have 6.3 Caucasians, 1.6 Hispanics and 1.2 African Americans to reflect the American melting pot”?

Seinfeld continued that viewing comedy through a lens of gender, race or sexuality is “more about PC nonsense” than making people laugh.

Later in the week, LZ Granderson responded.  I generally like Granderson’s writing.  While I don’t often agree with his conclusions, he is one of the few regulars on CNN who makes arguments rather than resorting to name-calling, and I respect him for that.  He makes a good point in his rebuttal:

What Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t get about diversity

“I don’t want a Black History Month.”

Morgan Freeman said that to Mike Wallace during a “60 Minutes” interview in 2005. As you can imagine, Freeman — an actor so respected that he was even cast to play God — sparked quite the controversy with his provocative exchange with Wallace.

“How are we going to get rid of racism?” the anchor asked.

“Stop talking about it,” the actor said.

Three years later Freeman donated $17,000 to his old high school in Mississippi to pay for its first desegregated prom. Apparently even “God” knows that to solve a problem sometimes you have to do more than “stop talking about it.”

I don’t want a Black History Month either.

But after watching the backlash to Macklemore sweeping the rap categories at the Grammys, seeing the racist posts on Coca-Cola’s Facebook page after its Super Bowl commercial featured a multilingual rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and witnessing a Sikh model in a Gap ad become a controversial figure, I don’t see how any rational person can believe we are in a post-discrimination utopia.

One that doesn’t need laws to foster equality or regulate inclusion because it comes so naturally.

So far, so good: consciously highlighting differences undermines the goal of unity, yet there are quite a few loud racist idiots around.  Concur on both points.

When the Texas Board of Education tries to downplay slavery as a cause of the Civil War or to scrub away Latino leaders such as Oscar Romero from its textbooks, you must know “stop talking about it” is probably not the best approach.

I disagree here.  While the above-mentioned racists certainly try to influence public policy like everyone else, Granderson’s history (at least with respect to the Civil War) reflects our culture’s predominant narrative of Progressives as crusaders for good, rather than for power, and casts their opponents as evil defenders of slavery.  The Civil War was not a crusade to end slavery, and while we’re at it, the Allies weren’t crusading to end the Holocaust either; they tried to ignore it and cover it up.  Referring back to my Frame-Shift Part 2 post, just because one’s ideological opponents happen to like something doesn’t necessarily mean that it is wrong, and Granderson is just “rallying the troops” in a 2-minute hate here.  (As an aside, the neoreactionary view of history reminds me of the first scene of the Boondocks series🙂

“Excuse me, everyone, I have a brief announcement to make.  Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9/11.  Thank you for your time, and good night.”  Mass hysteria ensues.  

Continuing on…

So while I don’t want Black History Month — or Women’s History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month, etc.– the reality is the sociological dynamics that necessitated these commemorative constructs in the first place are still very much at play. And this is true whether we talk about it or not.

It isn’t clear what sociological dynamics he’s referring to, nor does he circle back and re-address his earlier point that these events are counter-productive.  Can’t have it both ways.

The last paragraph, though, is where Granderson clearly veers into left field, and why I decided to comment on this at all:

The pursuit of diversity is not an opportunity to point an angry finger or languish in guilt. It’s an invitation to appreciate the woven contribution of the collective. We all play some role in the joys and ills of our society; let’s stop pretending we don’t.

The problem here is that Granderson is 100% wrong; he is using the common Progressive tactic of saying something that sounds nice and he wants to believe, even when it bears no resemblance to reality.  Diversity, in practical application, is nothing but an opportunity to point an angry finger and languish in guilt.  Compulsory diversity training further reinforces barriers and stereotypes; just like “commemorative events,” they serve only to divide.  Even organizations promoting diversity training are realizing this:

“You cannot over-estimate the damage to race relations that “diversity awareness” training is causing in this country. It’s having the opposite effect to that intended, causing divisions, resentment, and an increase in judgements based on race, where previously such things were actually quite rare. How do I know this? I was involved in putting together a diversity “toolkit” for a government department, and saw first-hand the effect it had as it was rammed down the throats of the staff.”

It’s difficult for example to see the statement by diversity consultant Glenn Singleton that: “white talk is impersonal, intellectual and task oriented, while colour commentary is non-verbal, personal, emotional and process oriented” as anything other than a racist stereotype. When differences are identified, participants became more wary and sensitive to the thoughts and comments that might create offence. And
the free flow of information and ideas is blocked.

So, yes, everyone has been made overly sensitive about it, and the cultural leaders who see oppression around every corner and sound the alarm at everything that could conceivably be an injustice cast a shadow over the whole topic.

Granderson never explained how the racism following the Coca-Cola ad led him to change his stance against Black History Month.  Did he previously think that we were in a post-discrimination utopia, and have to reconsider after the Super Bowl?  Does he think that, having acknowledged there are still racists out there, that temporarily engaging in activities that worsen the problem is somehow going to fix the problem?

Like I said, I generally appreciate Granderson’s commentary, but I think he’s off on this one.  Policy based on pretty fantasy sounds nice and is easily digested by the BuzzFeed and UpWorthy-reading crowd, but only exacerbates problems until some correcting function comes along to pop the fantasy.  It’s best to address the problems now, according to what people actually do, so that we can actually move on.

Further Reading: Baby Steps Towards Race Realism – Takimag

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