Walter Benn Michaels

Walter Benn Michaels is the author of Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and PluralismThe Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History, and, most recently, The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. He teaches at University of Illinois at Chicago. 

"In an ideal universe we wouldn’t be celebrating diversity at all — we wouldn’t even be encouraging it — because in an ideal universe the question of who you want to sleep with would be a matter of concern only to you and to your loved (or unloved) ones. As would your skin color; some people might like it, some might not, but it would have no political significance whatsoever. Diversity of skin color is something we should happily take for granted, the way we do diversity of hair color. When you go to school or to work — just like when you go to vote — the question of whether you’re black or white, straight or gay, a man or a woman shouldn’t matter any more than the question of whether you are blond or brunette. An important issue of social justice hangs on not discriminating against people because of their hair color or their skin color or their sexuality. No issue of social justice hangs on appreciating racial or cultural diversity. If you’re worried about the growing economic inequality in American life, if you suspect that there may be something unjust as well as unpleasant in the spectacle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, no cause is less worth supporting, no battle is less worth fighting than the ones we fight for diversity."

– Walter Benn Michaels, The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality


Letters to the Editors