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Jun 16, 2022Liked by Timothy Burke

I think there's another kind of habit that relates here. Lots of institutions in our society today have a nominal commitment to various things that they manifestly fail to live up to. More specifically, many institutions populated by the people Adler-Bell's essay is about, especially universities, have a commitment to inclusion and diversity that they have been ostentatiously failing at for a long time. Furthermore, there is effectively no possibility that if they are criticized for that gap, they will decide to _withdraw_ that commitment. And finally, everyone is aware of this and embarrassed or unhappy about it.

Therefore, there is a lot of mileage to be gained within these institutions by pointing to that gap, or by drawing out various conclusions from that gap, or claiming that some goal you have is an instance of that gap. For example, if you think that timed exams are bad, then pointing to the combination of the university's commitment to access for disabled students and the continuing disadvantage those students face is a powerful way to get your claims heard and perhaps acted upon.

However, the larger society, and particularly politics outside a small number of very liberal places, doesn't work that way. The broader public is not necessarily committed to those aims and does not see failing to live up to them as the same kind of problem. And most importantly, faced with a conflict between rhetoric about inclusion and substantive policy, broader political actors are almost always going to choose to give up the rhetoric. Thus, "you said you wanted equality, I claim equality requires X, so you are committed to X" will just result in people giving up the initial claim about equality.

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