Sunday Editorial – Now is the Time to Focus on Diversity & Inclusion

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Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Identity. What core values do we share? Who are we? Who do we want to be? Who’s in, who’s out?

The national events of the past year—most notably the numerous police shootings of unarmed people of color, multiple mass shootings, the recent presidential election, new executive orders targeting people from a particular religion and part of the world, and violence towards ethnic minorities, including the story from earlier this week in our region of an elderly white man shooting at a Hmong neighbor who was working in her garden—have brought these concepts and questions to the forefront.

However you feel about these issues, it’s clear that we are at a unique point in our history. Trump’s victory is seen by some as a mandate to change everything, grow the economy, and undo much of the previous administration’s work in the name of restoring America’s former glory. Others see Trump’s ascent as a “whitelash” in response to the multi-racial era of the Obama presidency, and argue that his election could prove to be one of the last stands for white supremacy in the face of an American future that will be characterized by much greater racial and cultural diversity, even if all immigration were halted tomorrow.

Whether we reject or embrace this vision of the future, and the corresponding decisions we make in the coming months and years will have a lasting impact, nationally and here in Oshkosh as well.

How are we faring locally in this regard? To this point, we thankfully have not had any police shootings or major instances of violence targeting minorities in Oshkosh in recent years. But our population remains quite homogeneous and people of color may not see it as very inclusive or welcoming. How important are these concerns to those in power? What can we expect for the future?

Many local people and some institutions seem to be working together to try to figure it out, and I hope that such constructive exploration will build continue to build momentum and become widespread, helping us avoid tragedies and produce positive change.

My primary purpose today is to lay the foundation for a series of articles that we will be publishing at Oshkosh Independent in the coming weeks. We also just started a new, regular feature called “Pass the Mic”, which spotlights a diverse range of people who help make Oshkosh what it is today.

Be on the look out for these pieces. In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider the above questions and maybe even chat about them with some folks you might not normally talk to about such things. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say our future hangs in the balance.

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About Author

Paul Van Auken

Paul Van Auken has been a member of the sociology and environmental studies faculty at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh since 2007, after completing a Ph.D. in sociology from UW-Madison. A native of Iowa but resident of Wisconsin since 1999, Paul conducts research on issues related to neighborhood, community, land use planning and access to public space, sustainability, and teaching and learning. He also practices public sociology, regularly writing a column called “Shortening the Distance” for Oshkosh Independent. He lives with his wife and two daughters on the historic, walkable, and interesting east side of Oshkosh, near the shores of Lake Winnebago.

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  1. Pingback: Diversity in Oshkosh: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

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