Grr. I have to write a "diversity statement." I'm insulted.

This really great job opportunity has dropped into my lap. I’m excited about it. It’s a library job (in a shrinking job market) that is at a local academic institution, the hours and pay are great. I was laid off last year, have been worried about my future job prospects, and don’t really want to change fields, so this is huge for me.

The application process to work at the academic institution in question includes a requirement to write a “diversity statement” detailing how my life, education, etc. has prepared me to serve the needs of a diverse student population. (Actually, this particular place is probably one of the least diverse in the state, but whatever.) I’ve looked up some statements online, and they seem to mostly be little personal essays about “how I was oppressed as a child and am proud of who I am today.” Since I am not in the least oppressed and would not want to write a butt-kissing pseudo-soul-baring essay about it if I were, I suppose I’ll have to write something about my professional experience.

Quite frankly I think the whole thing is ridiculous and insulting. I’m a librarian. The professional standards of behavior are that we treat you respectfully without regard to race, creed, orientation, mental stability or personal smell. That is what I’ve always done and wouldn’t dream of doing otherwise, and to write some sort of essay where I have to ‘prove’ that to be the case is just stupid and laughable. If you think I can’t do the job, don’t hire me.

However, all this is not the fault of the lovely person who plans to hire me, and so I just have to grit my teeth and write something. Barf.

I would write exactly what you put in that first paragraph. Honesty is always the best policy.

Hm, maybe the question isn’t directed at whether or not you’re biased, but more as to your ability to point people toward sources that come from things outside the mainstream, written by people of color, for example. So if someone needs primary sources of race-related topics from the 50s, you could say that through this one search engine you find journals X Y and Z written by whitey, but this other search engine is better at finding articles from what was then outside of what was acceptable at the time.

Of course, I don’t know the details, so maybe there’s one search engine that finds everything. In which case, it’s a stupid question.

I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends and… uh… my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi. … Steve Martin, “The Jerk”

I had to write a diversity statement for a community college job years ago, and I haven’t exactly been oppressed either.

I wrote about how my life and work experiences have exposed me to people from a lot of different places and cultures and how that exposure has helped me learn how to interact with people who are very different from me in a respectful and interested manner.

I think this is really what they’re looking for anyway, how will you handle interacting with people from a lot of different backgrounds?

Yes, and that’s pretty much my plan. It’s not a library-specific requirement, just a blanket requirement for anyone applying to work there.

The fact that you can recognize that you grew up with advantages (“I am not in the least oppressed”) that some others did not have should be your lead statement. It shows that you see the importance of diversity and the effects on others.

Then go on to your statement on professional standards and their requirement of equal treatment of all patrons.

Finally (for extra credit), throw in a bit about dealing with other employees who may have a more insular mindset, and quietly helping them to develop a more open & professional viewpoint.

That should cover it pretty well.

I always figured these things were a means of fishing for applicants to volunteer what race they are, which (AFAIK) would be illegal to ask outright.

I would go in this direction. Diversity is not only about your customers (or clients or whatever), it’s about your inventory and your resources.

In fact, if you believe this library has a particularly non-diverse clientele, you should point that out, and talk about making the library a major source of diversity to that community.

I think the point is to show that you have some experience working with a diverse clientèle and are comfortable with that. Just point out times you have worked with different kinds of people and reaffirm your dedication to equal access to information. Talk about anything your previous job experience did to work with diversity- did you have a foreign language section? Did you have accommodations for disabled people? How did you serve children and the elderly? I’m sure you can pull up at least one touching anecdote about some grandchild checking out books on tape for her blind grandmother or something.

It may seem pointless and insulting to you, but you’d be surprised how many people write “In my last library we had a large Middle Eastern population, so we made sure to keep any books about terrorism or bomb making behind the counter. I support diversity but we should really make sure these kinds of people do not come to our country.” There are lots of people who can’t even pass basic tests of human decency and common sense.

Not doubting you, but – really? You reviewed applications that said things like this?

Academia seems to revel in collecting hoops to make people jump through. Do what I do - roll your eyes, grit your teeth, and jump.

Write about your experiences of oppression at the hands of academic bureaucracy.

I am not going to imply that I think that my co-workers, who will be fellow librarians, will be a bunch of ignorant rednecks. Nor am I going to say anything very personal. My personal life is not actually any of their business; my professional behavior is.

I know pretty much what I’m going to say. I’m just really angry that this sort of idiocy is required. It proves nothing, it does nothing to contribute to actual diversity. It’s just a BS hoop to jump through to make the administration feel like they’re morally righteous without actually having to do much of anything.

Most of my professional time has been spent serving a more diverse population than this place has–that’s just the nature of public vs. academic. I’ve always done public work, and as all the other librarians here can tell you, in public libraries anyone can come in, and anyone does.

My diversity statement…

This company accepts and desires all people from all different backgrounds to work together in harmony and diversity.

We invite all crackers, niggers, chinks, spics, hebes, dotheads, slopes, greaseballs, guineas, micks, zebras, camel jockies and spear chuckers an equal opportunity to join hands together to make this the best company in the World. Diversity is our Strength!

You may copy this if you wish.

Be sure to mention that you speak Jive.

So, prejudiced against Canadians, eh? Figgers.

You realize you’ll never be able to run for president now.

That’s a really racist thing to post here.

You totally left out krauts, frogs, gooks, nips, smufties, dagos, gin monkeys, polacks and zips.

I used to roll my eyes when interviewers asked “gimme” questions. Then I started interviewing people. Holy cow the general public is DUMB.

For instance, it’s probably not a smart idea to tell me you were let go from your last position because you fell asleep at your desk every day and that it was really unfortunate that your boss just didn’t understand what you needed to do the job. I mean, I appreciate it because I’m really happy to not pay you to nap on my time but seriously???