Diversity – merely window-dressing?
The British government is more diverse than ever before. Four ministers in Rishi Sunak's cabinet, including two women, are "people of colour" – people who are not generally perceived as "white" by the majority society: Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Minister of Trade Kemi Badenoch.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak describes himself as a "proud Hindu" and publicly celebrates his faith by visiting Hindu temples or lighting the obligatory oil lamps and candles at the door of 10 Downing Street for the Diwali festival of lights.
Minorities are visibly represented in his cabinet. But this does not mean that his government represents their interests. On the contrary: both the "women of colour" in his cabinet belong to the right wing of the party and have a reputation for agitating. Braverman, who is of Indian Tamil origin, and Badenoch, who was born in Nigeria, are both Brexit hardliners; their favourite enemies are "wokeness" and "migration".
Badenoch is known for her campaign against gender toilets, Braverman for her tirades against diversity training and refugees.
In parliament, she rails against the "Guardian-reading, tofu-eating woketari". Her biggest "dream", Braverman recently confessed, was to headline that asylum-seekers from Britain would be deported by plane to Rwanda. She punctuated her statement with a hand gesture mimicking a plane taking off and a beatific smile.
Superficial understanding of diversity
Celebrating the British government for its diversity is therefore nothing if not premature. Politically, this diversity is contained within limits that are open to the right. Economically, Prime Minister Sunak represents the interests of the upper ten thousand, to which he himself belongs as a multi-millionaire. And culturally, he shares the habitus of many British Tories.
Sunak is also the richest politician ever to hold the office of British prime minister: something that deserves a lot more attention. His self-dramatisation as a Hindu is meant to distract from this and convey down-to-earthness. In this, he succeeds. After all, the popular – superficial – understanding of diversity ignores political, economic and cultural aspects and focuses solely on appearances.
Politicians like Braverman, Badenoch and Sunak are often referred to as "tokens" by leftists critical of racism – as fig leaves for a policy that otherwise relies on exclusion. But this also falls short. Members of minorities can also be racist, sexist and only concerned with their own advantage. In Braverman, Badenoch and Sunak they have found their ideal representatives.
Our societies are becoming more diverse and that is inevitably being reflected in many institutions. In order to reach new target groups, companies are using "diverse" models for advertising – which usually means that they are different because of their skin colour or other physical features. The media put "diverse" models and journalists in the foreground or in front of the camera to give themselves a modern face, and political parties strategically recast their committees accordingly.
This does not change the social structures that exclude certain groups. Today, "diversity" is also too often reduced to gender and ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation. Classical categories such as social origin, education and income are thus lost from view.
Even Germany's populist AfD is committed to diversity
Conservatives in particular were often pioneers in the field of symbolic gestures and are thus often one step ahead of the competition. It was the British Tories who first put a woman at the head of state with Margaret Thatcher, and the Union parties in Germany who provided the first female chancellor.
It was Republican George W. Bush who nominated the first two black foreign ministers in U.S. history. And it was the right-wing populist Boris Johnson whose cabinets were more diverse than any before him and who thus promoted the careers of his successors. Left-wing politicians who strategically appoint their cabinets often face accusations of "identity politics" and favouring certain groups. When Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why his cabinet was half women, he said, "Because it's 2015." This was not a statement, but merely an observation.
Because diversity is mainstream today. Even the AfD is committed to diversity: its party leadership is more carefully balanced according to gender, origin and sexual orientation than that of any other party. It has – unusually for a right-wing party – a dual leadership. There is the heterosexual, East German tradesman Timo Chrupalla, who identifies strongly with his region, and the lesbian, West German academic Alice Weidel, who has travelled the world as a management consultant. In the background, party founder Alexander Gauland, 81, pulls the strings, representing the older generation as honorary chairman. There is something for every voter to identify with. Diversity nevertheless remains a dirty word for the AfD, which firmly rejects "diversity" measures.
Those who are really serious about "diversity" must implement it at all levels to put groups that are still socially disadvantaged, such as women, migrants, queer people, workers and the poor, on an equal footing across the board. This requires targeted efforts, and quotas if necessary. A superficial understanding of "diversity", limited to outward appearances and cosmetic measures, will only ever lead to symbolic window-dressing.
© Qantara.de 2023