#UnlearningWithCoFED — Diversity

Can co-ops commit to diversity without tokenization?

This #UnlearningWithCoFED post focuses on diversity.

As a reminder, here’s how we define unlearning: a continuous process of questioning what and how we’ve been taught so that we can learn other ways of knowing, doing, and being that serve our collective liberation and help us dismantle all forms of oppression. Through our monthly #UnlearningWithCoFED posts, we’ll be questioning and learning together how co-ops fit into the larger visions of food, racial, economic, gender and climate justice.

To start, let’s review a couple definitions of diversity.

Diversity, as defined by Merriam-Webster: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.

Wikipedia provides slightly more nuance with the following: In sociology and political studies, the term diversity (or diverse) is used to describe political entities (neighborhoods, student bodies, etc.) with members who have identifiable differences in their cultural backgrounds or lifestyles. The term describes differences in racial or ethnic classifications, age, gender, religion, philosophy, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, physical health, genetic attributes, behavior, attractiveness, or other identifying features.

So…diversity is a good thing. Right?

The overwhelming majority of us in our community would probably agree that, yes, diversity is good. We want diversity, or at least have been taught to believe that diversity is something we should want. And yet, a truly diverse society seems to elude us. Despite a wealth of good intentions, more often than not, diversity ends up feeling like — and being — a dirty word, resulting in cringe-worthy tokenization and forced assimilation, among other forms of dehumanization.

So…diversity is a bad thing now?

Not exactly. Whether you believe diversity is a moral and business imperative, something insidious akin to greenwashing, or both, perhaps we can all agree that co-ops have much to learn and unlearn about diversity.

Diversity in action — take a few minutes to read this article about how Seward Community Co-op, which started as a co-op staffed by mostly white people, addressed diversity when they expanded to a second location where sixty-six percent of residents are people of color.

Here are some questions for reflection:

  1. It’s no secret that food co-ops are a predominantly white space. How have you experienced ‘diversity’ (or not) in cooperative spaces?
  2. What can you learn from Seward Coop’s example of ‘diversity’?
  3. True diversity is an ongoing process that takes work. How are you or your co-op committed to this work or what steps could you take to start? What has worked well? What hasn’t?

You’re definitely not alone if after reading and reflecting you have a ton more questions about diversity. Please feel free to share your thoughts online with #UnlearningWithCoFED!

We look forward to unpacking with you what ‘diversity’ means and whether it serves our collective liberation.

P.S. — down for some extra unlearning? See LaDonna Redmond’s case for diversity as a business imperative and this alternative perspective that questions the assumption that ‘diversity’ is inherently ‘good.’


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(Editors note: For the purposes of reaching a wider audience, CoFED is transferring this monthly email series to Medium. This content is from an email blast that originally went out at the end of February 2017).

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