A New Explosive in the Diversity Minefield

Did you roll your eyes when you read that title? Well, you just sent a micromessage that you don’t value me. How dare you?

Welcome to the brave new world of the diversity industry, a group tirelessly dedicated to stirring up trouble and income by providing the chronically offended new reasons for outrage. A micromessage is a form “microinequity”. Or as it is better known to normal human beings: our tendency to treat each individual in a slightly different way.

A microinequity was first defined by Eric Hinton in the May 2003 edition of Diversity, Inc. magazine (that’s right, Diversity, Incorporated) as “a subtle message, sometimes subconscious, that devalues, discourages, and ultimately impairs performance in the workplace” including “looks, gestures, and even tones.” In short, everything. According to “experts” – and where would we be without them – you send 40 to 150 micromessages in a ten minute conversation, so if you weren’t self-conscious enough yet, add that to your concerns as you talk to just about anyone going forward.

What constitutes a microinequity? Well, in the 2002 book “It’s the Little Things” by Lena Williams, the author, among other insanities, suggests that white women not flip their hair, because some African-American women take it as an insult. They typically don’t have long, straight hair you see (although Ms. Williams does seem to be stereotyping just a tad). Are we really supposed to organize our lives and behavior to accommodate that level of thinking in others?

I work at a large, multinational corporation in a small department that nevertheless is comprised of a very diverse group of men and women. The races and nationalities represented include African-American, Chinese, Caucasian, Indian, Israeli, Japanese, and mixed-race. To put the whipped cream and cherry atop this diversity sundae, we are led by a woman who is openly lesbian. Recently we all celebrated an employee’s fortieth anniversary with the genuine good cheer and comradeship that is the hallmark of every business day. The very next day, however, we were required to attend a ‘diversity meeting’ at which the subject of microinequities was introduced. We were instructed to keep our eyes open for these insults and report them. As part of this re-education – sorry, I mean training – we were asked if anyone had noticed such microinequities. Only one person spoke up , a middle-aged Caucasian woman , who felt insulted when not individually invited by others in the department to walk with them to the quarterly ‘town hall’. “I know some people like to walk alone,” she said, “but I’m a people person and I like to be part of the group.”

You thought you were happy and getting along with everyone in your workplace? Ho, boy, were you wrong! And we’ll teach you how to perceive racial, ethnic, and gender slights in everyday human behavior. That way you can get good and angry at people not like you for not liking you because you are not like them. Or something like that. Because every eyebrow raise, every glance at your watch, every flip of your hair can be made to offend someone, if only they can be properly coached to recognize your insult.

I find that insulting.