White organizations everywhere create entire commissions and councils surrounding diversity. Their mission statements usually say things like, "We believe the University environment is greatly enriched by the presence of people with diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives." They have a lot of pretty words. But what they really mean is, "How can we reach out to people of color and make them want to join our organization?"
The question that logically comes next but is rarely asked is, "Why would people of color WANT to join our organization?"
If you asked THAT question, things would get interesting.
The good Comrade, denizen of White Institutions, has this to say:
As a member of a white organization, I can say from personal experience that this is, indeed, exactly what "diversity" ends up meaning for us, and how we strategize about it.
I have participated in many discussions concerning "How can we reach out to people of color and make them want to join our organization?" as well as "What can we do to improve the prospects of people of color succeeding within our organization?" I have never had a single discussion concerning "Why would people of color WANT to join our organization?"
Well, I'm a member of multiple white organizations and he's high as a kite.
As always truth is slightly more nuanced. I've been on the usual committees which are focused on enhancing diversity in the academic sphere before and I have definitely found "What can we do to make ourselves more attractive to a diverse pool of students/applicants/etc" to be a topic of conversation. Perhaps not always, nor on every committee but it does happen pretty consistently. Not everyone who is involved in these efforts from within white institutions is a complete and utter idiot. (I can't speak to wherever PhysioProf derives his experiences.)
Now it is indeed true that, IME, committees try their hardest to remain focused on practical, doable steps and on metrics of success/failure. This is because the natural tendency of committees is to get distracted and waste* a bunch of time blathering about all of the myriad issues involved in, for this topic, enhancing diversity. So yes, committees on diversity tend to focus overtly on numbers: How do we get more people of color? Sure. Because this is tangible. And, speaking from the science-y side of white institutions, quantifiable. Things that are familiar to scientists, things that they can understand.
Nevertheless, there are indeed people within white institutions who are also concerned about the fundamental question asked by The Witty Mulatto. Personally I don't have any brilliant answers although my dedicated readers will have anticipated my best** answer. Science is really great fun. It is a decent career*** offering many benefits from a pure "job" perspective, intellectual satisfaction and in many cases the confidence that in some small way we are improving the human condition in a lasting way. These are the types of reasons why anyone, of any background and ethnic or racial identification, should be attracted to the white institutions within science. Communicating this is not, however, something that the usual committee-to-enhance-diversity can do much about. This job, my friends, is up to each of us. To make our job sector a little better known and understood in every walk of life. I regret that I do not blog a little more on this topic.
*I mean "waste" in the sense that there are some things that a given committee is simply not going to be able to change such as the local ethnic makeup, the University-wide reputation, a geographic handicap, etc.
**My cynical answer is that this is simple: pay up. I have raised this in one or more of my stints, being the experimental psychologist that I am. Offer to pay more than the competition. Bribe people to come to your lily-white enclave by offering them a salary bump over the expected value. I find that this is not popular despite some common and erroneous opinions that white institutions "throw money" at diversity initiatives.
***Sure there are drawbacks but even N-th year postdocs with no professorial prospects could stand to take a hard look at the alternative careers in cold-calling dubious investment opportunities and whatnot that their peers took straight out of college.