Carlos E. Cortés is a retired history professor who has been a diversity speaker, educator, trainer, and consultant for forty-five years. His books include: The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach about Diversity (2000); his memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time (2012); and a book of poetry, Fourth Quarter: Reflections of a Cranky Old Man (2016), which received honorable mention for the best book of poetry in the 2017 International Latino Book Awards. He also edited the four-volume Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia (2013).
The May, 2020, Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd launched thousands of anti-racism proclamations.Millions took part in that performative aftermath.Include me among those millions.
Like many people, I wear multiple hats.One is chairing the Mayor’s Multicultural Forum in Riverside, California.My half-century hometown is a sizable (330,000-person) city, whose steady but not explosive growth has enabled it to maintain a community feeling.My wife and I continually encounter people we know when we go to a restaurant or take our daily two-mile walks around a nearby lake loaded with noisy ducks, geese, and egrets.
It has become a truism that COVID-19 has widened the gap between America’s haves and have nots.As the wealthy add to their corpus, the poor struggle to survive.But beneath this master plot lie millions of disparity narratives, stories that repeat themselves over and over.
So it is with the narrative of English Language Learners (ELLs), educationese for kindergarten-twelfth-grade students who live in homes where English is not the primary language.Their parents may speak little or no English.Add the fact that many of these students — maybe most of them – come from working class families and are students of color.The absence of privilege triple whammy.
Education, particularly higher education, has become ground zero for the clash of inclusive diversity and robust speech.Many administrators and professors proclaim their support of both.So do I.Yes, they can co-exist.But there will be clashes, inevitably.Which means decisions, tough decisions, will have to be made.
In the wake of the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd, those decisions became more complex and more contentious.College leaders throughout the country proclaimed their horror about that Minneapolis event and vowed that their campuses would not only continue to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, but would also assert leadership in anti-racism.
Such anti-racist proclamations are needed.But what does that mean when it comes to action?What should college leaders do if members of their campus communities use their robust speech to express anti-equity ideas, particularly ones that are deemed to be racist?
For the past two years I have been writing a series of columns about the complicated intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Although my last column appeared just two months ago, in some respects it seems like ancient history.Maybe it is.
Because on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis Police Officer named Derek Chauvin jammed his knee against the neck of George Floyd, an African American man, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until Floyd was dead.Those 526 excruciating seconds, recorded and widely disseminated, may have changed the course of U.S. history.That incident has certainly changed the way that we are currently talking about race in particular and about diversity in general.
This is my final (for now) of three columns offering fifty-year projections concerning the following question: as a nation, where will we stand in 2070 when it comes to the contested interplay of diversity and speech?These three columns are based on a December, 2019, public presentation on diversity and speech that I gave at the Speculative Futures in Education Conference at the University of California, Riverside.In my previous two columns I argued that, during the next fifty years, there are likely to be significant changes in the legal framework for dealing with Hate speech and Harmful speech.
First, Hate.In the past decade the internet has dramatically altered the hate speech conversation.As an easily-accessible mechanism for spreading hate and precipitating action, the internet has developed into a true weapon of terror.First Amendment absolutists repeatedly proclaim that the best way to fight hate is simply through “more speech.” However, “more speech” has proven to be decidedly ineffective in combating the internet hate speech avalanche, including troll storms and doxing.For that reason, I predict that the necessity of curbing hate-speech-fueled violence, particularly against marginalized people, will ultimately drive government to restricting at least some forms of hate speech by 2070.
This is the second of three columns in which I make fifty-year projections concerning the following question: as a nation, where will we stand in 2070 when it comes to the contested interplay of diversity and speech?These three columns are based on a public presentation on diversity and speech that I gave at the December, 2019, Speculative Futures in Education Conference at the University of California, Riverside.
In my previous column I argued that the internet has dramatically altered the diversity-speech discussion, particularly when it comes to hate speech.As an easily-accessible mechanism for spreading hate, including through troll storms and doxing, the internet has developed into a true weapon of terror.
During my tenure as a fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, I examined how the diversity movement of the past half century has influenced our nation’s conversation concerning speech. Then, in October, I ran across a call for proposals to present at a December 2019, symposium on Speculative Futures of Education.
This seemed right down my alley.For the past forty years I have been dabbling in futurism, including giving a popular public lecture, The Future Basics in Education. Why not apply this projective thinking to diversity and speech?So I submitted a proposal, which was accepted.
This is the eighth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In these columns I have discussed what I call the diversity movement — the composite of individual, group, and organizational efforts to reduce societal inequities that penalize people because of their actual or perceived membership in certain social groups. In particular I have focused on the intersection of diversity and speech.
After analyzing the past half century of the diversity movement, I concluded that the movement actually consists of four separate but intersecting diversity strands: intercultural; equity and inclusion; critical theory; and managing diversity.My past columns have sketched the parameters of the first three strands.In this column I will focus on the fourth strand, managing diversity.
This is the seventh in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In these columns I have discussed what I call the diversity movement — the composite of the myriad individual, group, and organizational efforts to reduce societal inequities that penalize people because of their actual or perceived membership in certain social groups. In particular I have focused on the various issues raisedconcerning language and the exercise of speech.
In the past two columns I compared two threads of that diversity movement: intercultural diversity and equity-and-inclusion diversity. For the most part interculturalists emphasize voluntary speech restraint through the development of intergroup understanding.In contrast, while they often draw upon interculturalist principles, some inclusionists are more willing to pursue direct speech restraints, such as through regulations.When it comes to the third strand of the diversity movement, critical theory, its advocates tend to take an even stronger position in support ofthe direct restraint of speech, including through laws and codes.
This is the sixth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that our nation’s system of expression is far too complex to be encompassed by the simple, misleading couplet, “free speech.” In fact, over more than two centuries, our nation has developed a complex constitutionally-based system that combines robust legally-protected speech with selective legal limitations on speech.
Therefore, diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech.They don’t need to, because it does not actually exist. Instead they should defend the basic societal value ofrobust speech, while also reframing the discussion by clarifying the tensions that inevitably arise when the valuable imperatives of diversity and speech intersect. Simultaneously they should function within the American historical tradition by proposing carefully focused additions to the current list of legal limitations.