Go ahead, laugh at me if you want to. Because this summer I watched almost every episode of The Gl** Project. Even though I have opined at length about the show’s craptastic craptasticness. Even though I said from day one that the winner was going to be one of the two white guys. Not that country-singing one, but the one who actually won and that other one with the brown curly hair.
But it was presented like a Diversity Meritocracy. Gather ’em all up. Get a blind black guy, a woman in a wheelchair, a transgender male, a Muslim woman, a Korean American guy, a hapa ? Asian/white ? woman, a plus-size woman, etc. Round it out with a couple of straight- and cis-appearing conventionally attractive white people. Then tell everybody that it’s ultimately up to them. May the best man win. (And as a side rant, thrown in for free, I wonder how that particular gendered terminology subtly works on the psyche of women.)
Except that a lot of times it isn’t really up to them. (Shit, why do I even bother to qualify with “a lot of times”?)
I’ve gone on interviews that looked like the diversity project, and I know other readers of color probably have too. We noticed that we were the onlies, and we tried to suppress that little voice that kept telling us that we were just somebody’s idea of show and tell and good intentions. Because it is impossible to function in a racist society without engaging in active denial sometimes.
One interviewer, trying to “reassure” me: Last year we had so many others in here, it looked like the third world!
Another interviewer, another location: We really value diversity here.
Me (looking at all-white environment): Where?
Once I went to one of those dreaded group interview things and to my great surprise I ran into The Other Asian. You know how sometimes you run into TOA in an all-white setting and TOA pretends not to see you? That’s what went down. She was busy proving how well she could integrate with the majority. I was busy sending fuck you death rays her way. No, not really. And since most of the majority was busy ignoring us, she was really working it. Which meant very studiously avoiding me at all costs.
In most of those circumstances, you know it’s pretty much already a foregone conclusion that you’re not going to be favored. But the absolutely most depressing thing is when somebody who is as dumb as a rock is selected instead of you. Because even that meritocracy stuff doesn’t necessarily matter. Or there’s that certain je ne sais quoi. But we do actually know what, don’t we?
Anyway, back to my original rant.
So I had a pretty good idea that the woman in a wheelchair wasn’t going to win. After all, they already have a guy in a wheelchair. Not an actual person with a disability, mind you. Because that would be all inconvenient and what. But an able-bodied guy playing at disability.
Generally, the rules of the diversity project state quite clearly that you must only have One of Each. They got rid of that black guy, even though he never did say or do anything anyway. Yeah, I do know they have two Asians. But you need a couple of Asians sometimes so you can prove diversity because we (well, not me) are such good model minorities and good sports. We (again, not me) tend not to make white people squirm around as much.
People of the Muslim faith, on the other hand, do make white non-Muslim people squirm around a lot. The squirming agency proves it.
But for the most part, just have one of any Other. Like having a black friend. Don’t have multiple black friends, and don’t live in a black neighborhood or anything. One is good enough for credibility.
But wouldn’t it be totally radical if (getting back to employment for a second now) a company that talks about trying to increase diversity hired multiple Others?
Not going to happen on this show, though. Although nobody ever bets me. Mostly because none of my friends are as dumb as rocks.
I was actually shocked that two Others made it to the finale. Although this is sometimes a good strategy to show your open-mindedness. Similarly, don’t ever eliminate the black guy right away. It looks bad, even if he is a terrible candidate.
Also, if you’re going to pick a white guy, make sure everybody knows he knows what it’s like for us people of color, too! Because he’s the “whitest half-Cuban ever.” Yeah.
But I kept watching. Because for some reason I still keep hoping beyond hope. Even though I curse myself and tell myself how stupid I am afterwards and then have to go take a long hot bath and use lots of soap. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to soap up the crevices in the grey matter enough.
Finally the boss man says that there is only one person who could fill the slot. And you know who that person is. But it makes you wonder why it took so long.
In the end, the diversity project is simply a show. We watch it and it looks good sometimes and we root for our people and we thank well-meaning white people because we know they tried, they really tried. But we just weren’t good enough.