The discussion around the Hollywood Oscars is a sign: In the name of “diversity,” we are reducing individuals to groups of resentment and making these groups incompatible with each other.
We are in Hollywood and pop culture awards season: the Grammys, the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, etc. Lists of nominations are revealed, presences and absences are noted, bets are made, and final choices are criticized. And if there is anything remarkable this year, it is the relegation to second place of the simple, yet questionable, criterion of quality. Few people seem interested in knowing who is the best. The judgments on nominees and winners are focused on something else: the representativeness of the nominees. The question is no longer knowing which is the best film or the best actor, but the gender of the director or the actor’s ethnicity. This is called “diversity,” and that’s what matters to those who deliver the awards.
In this game, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (or Hollywood as a whole) seems to have hit the nail on the head. However, the house of diversity has many trapdoors. When the Academy was quietly enjoying the reactions to its nominations, another group stood up claiming they were being discriminated against, or, as it is now called, made invisible: the Latinos. The Academy was looking for African-Americans and women. And the Latinos, that is, the Americans from South America who speak Spanish? They are protesting, convinced that nominations and prizes are not achieved with talent and work, but by political organization. The war of diversity is just beginning.
There is no doubt that for years, white men have prevailed in many arenas. But should we, therefore, reduce contests to mere recognition of an identity group’s complaints? Or devalue the personality and work of so many individuals in order to respond to the claims of an identity group? It seems like the revenge of old discrimination: Before, these people did not have opportunities; now that they have them, they are denied the right to prove their own worth.
However, we have not yet seen the end of this story. If an identity group is defined by a specific story, it is important to prevent members of other groups from taking advantage of that story. This is what is called “cultural appropriation,” which Kathryn Bigelow was accused of when she made the film “Detroit.” Can the story of African-Americans only be filmed by African-Americans? The question about whether the story can only be seen by African-Americans remains.
In April, 50 years will have passed since the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. King dreamed about a society of equal citizens against the system of segregated races. Perversely, a new segregationism now threatens to emerge from the supposed struggle against the exclusions of the past, trying to impose a new order in which identity is more valuable than civil rights. One of the results, for example, is the culture of silence regarding the abuse of African-American women by African-American men. Being a member of the group prevails over these women’s right to resist sexual harassment and domestic violence.
It’s an American story, people will tell me. For now. But the diversification of European societies through migration turns this question into more than a U.S. curiosity. We can, as King proposed, try to be, with many imperfections, societies of equal citizens despite differences in gender, sexuality, skin color and social origin. Or we can, instead, reduce ourselves to mere groups of segregated communities with nothing in common but reciprocal resentment and mistrust. The second choice is the easiest way to get to discrimination and to the most revolting authoritarianism.