Diversity: empowering some, silencing others?

Monday 10 October, 20.30 - 22.00 , De Balie Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 10, 1017 RR, Amsterdam Battle of Ideas Europe


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More and more often, members of minority groups insist on greater representation in the media, politics and the corporate boardroom. This rising self-confidence is something to celebrate. But might the call for diversity leave us more divided in the end?

The advocates of diversity challenge the privileges of white, middle-class men, giving a voice to groups that have long been silenced. Unwittingly, this has turned public debate into a minefield. When speaking about sensitive topics, an insult may be more quickly felt than actually meant.

This, in turn, has led to a backlash, with some behaving in a deliberately politically incorrect way, inflaming tensions. These critics are annoyed by what they believe to be a false claim of victimhood. They do not see the demand for respect as a way to empower oppressed groups but as a plea to feel pity and shut up others. Are they right? Is there really a ‘victim culture’?

Once, the disadvantaged argued that whether you were gay, a woman or black should not be a barrier when it comes to participating in society and politics. Today, it is argued that precisely because of these differences, people should be able to participate. Do they claim an equal say or a special status? Do we run the risk of setting up dividing lines between ourselves, making it harder for us to transcend our differences? What does all this mean for the way we think about politics and citizenship?

(See the DeBalie website for the Dutch version of this introduction.)

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