Repressive Tolerance and the “Management” of Diversity

Repressive Tolerance and the “Management” of Diversity

Stephen D. Brookfield (University of St. Thomas, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6086-9.ch001
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This chapter uses Herbert Marcuse's notion of repressive tolerance to examine the ways that higher education institutions manage diversity so as to ensure that the ideology of white supremacy stays in place. Instead of condemning challenge and trying to repress it head on, organizations in a society supposedly devoted to the project of becoming more open and tolerant appear to be engaged in substantive change whilst still maintaining the status quo. Repressive tolerance holds that all these measures can be taken without any fundamental change to the structures of power within the organization. Whites will still be overwhelmingly in positions of institutional power and authority and, ensnared by the ideology of white supremacy, will continue to act in racist ways. Institutions that create a diversity requirement for students often approve new courses on race and diversity and hire faculty of color to teach these. The problem is that very little changes at a deeper, structural level.
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Inclusion and diversity are some of the biggest buzz words across American education, indeed American society, today (Vavrus, 2014). Pretty much any contemporary organization will make a public commitment to creating an inclusive workplace environment, and to celebrating the diversity of its employees. Diversity is often stated to be the organizational factor that releases the entrepreneurial spirit and the intersection of the different racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds of organizational members are assumed to spark some creative synergy (Mendez, 2017). Most educational organizations are proud to document how they are striving to have more diversity of representation at every level. There are student scholarships created for minority applicants, attempts to recruit faculty of color, the creation of multicultural services offices and high profile leadership appointments. The assumption is that having a more racially diverse community on campus will lead automatically to a more anti-racist institution. This effort to increase minority representation is often paralleled in curricular terms where instructors across the disciplines do their best to incorporate resources from scholars of color, integrate an analysis of race into their curriculum whenever possible, and be alert to the presence of racist behaviors and micro-aggressions in class (Wing Sue, 2010).

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