While reading the Goshen Bulletin (a magazine published by Goshen College, Goshen, IN), I found this page a bit on the ironic side. The headline reads “GC is committed to increased diversity.” Most excellent. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of that claim. It’s just that they choose to put a very large picture of their very white director to the left of the headline. To the right of the headline they put a picture of the Alumni board. While we don’t know the ethnicity of the three members not present, those present look (and again, looks could be deceiving) very white.
What is the piece of information that will pull this graphical disaster out of the muck and mire of institutional racism? This year they are going to have a Multi-cultural Alumni Luncheon on Homecoming! That’s the lead? The article goes on to talk about strategic plans, approved vision statements, statistics that say GC is better than others, and plans to gather minority alumni to gather input.
We communicate in many ways. I find the words, sentiment and the intentions are spot on (i.e. I do not doubt Goshen’s commitment to increased diversity). Yet the overall message is one of white institutional power and token solutions. I would have to give Goshen College a C- on this particular attempt. If anyone from Goshen is reading this, the next time around pair stories about diversity with pictures of that diversity in action. Otherwise the whole story becomes an ironic gesture that makes your commitment to diversity seem more like a language game.
On the heals of the PR disaster which was Goshen’s handling of the Star Bangled Banner issue, this is minor. Yet, it did hit me smack between the eyes and I wonder how many others had the same impression.