I don't agree with Scott's provocative idea because I prefer choice over chance. If we stop trusting people to make real decisions, we give up on their ability to make good choices and grapple with complexity.
Also, I detect in the larger diversity discussion a lack of specificity. Gender diversity and racial diversity and class diversity are different issues and have to be addressed entirely differently. Just because a group shares "under-represented" status doesn't mean they are under-represented in exactly the same way or for exactly the same historical/economic/cultural reasons. Isaac seems focused on racial diversity; Scott on cultural or geographic diversity, for example.
I am a supporter of affirmative action. I believe that you cannot confront a cultural history of racism without a systemic approach.
But, I also am deeply ambivalent about how race and ethnicity, even for those with good intentions, can be oversimplified and quantified superficially. Example: my sister is adopted. She is Korean. She was adopted before I was born, when she was only a few months old. She has no memory of Korea, never knew her Korean mother, and does not speak Korean. She has been a member of my family longer than I have, even if we don't share the same DNA. Culturally... is she Korean? No. Does she self-identify as Korean-American? Not in the way some people do, certainly.
So where does she fit in these calls for diversity? Does she represent a racial group? Is her group Adopted Children? Or women? Or women who grew up in Pennsylvania? Her life is simply not reducible that way. She's my sister, my older sister, and she comes from the same background that I do. Are we supposed to be grouped differently? Separately? I would certainly find that troubling. I'd protest anyone who would group her according to their own assessments of how she looked - even if they felt it was to her benefit.
Affirmative action is not about numbers: it's about acknowledging that racism was/is a part of our system, and that only a systematic approach can correct that on a large scale. Let's just remember that all discussions of "diversity" are about individuals and not about counting colors.
In short, before we talk about promoting diversity, I think we should know what we mean by that extremely loaded word. Do we want to see more representation from non-MFA playwrights Off-Off Broadway? Do we want to reduce the impact that affluence has on artistic merit? Do we want to see more Asian-Americans employed in literary departments? If so, why?
Once we identify something specific, a lack we can show, we can actually propose counter-methods. Otherwise, it's just so much posturing.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.