Valuing Difference, Exercising Care in Oz: The Shaggy Man's Welcome
34 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2012 Last revised: 11 Jul 2012
Date Written: 2010
“…and he sighed with contentment to realize that he could now be finely dressed and still be the shaggy man.”
One cannot say that the people of Oz valued difference or valued the diversity of its people. Because in Oz, difference and diversity simply was; difference in OZ simply existed. Rather, it might be more accurate to say that the people in the Fairy Land of Oz had a practice of difference in which different people or beings of all sorts were simply accepted and embraced. Not just accepted, as in tolerated in the way someone from Kansas or the greater United States might understand it, but difference in Oz was inherent in the place, it was expected -- respected -- promoted -- taken for granted -- embraced -- sometimes celebrated -- but rarely condemned or rejected. This practice of difference informed and was informed by a theory. But the theory was not a theory about the value of difference or the value of a diverse society. Rather, this practice was informed by a theory, philosophy and ethic of care; care for all sentient beings. In the United States, by contrast, the rhetoric of diversity is everywhere.
This essay briefly examines the story of the Shaggy Man’s Welcome in L. Frank Baum’s series of fairytales about the Wonderful Wizard and the Marvelous Land of Oz. It argues, through an analysis of Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger and against the background of the debates and practices of diversity in the United States, that the people of Oz sincerely value difference and diversity, even though they do not engage the rhetoric of diversity. They instead value difference through an ethic of care, a moral philosophy developed by feminist long after the story was imagined. The essay suggests that, like the Shaggy Man, racial difference may have value for peoples of color and society at large. Thus it argues, consistent with Ozian ethics of care that society should recognize, respect, respond to and -- provide for -- differences in a manner that enables participation. This vision is in contrast to Justice O’Connor’s vision of the future in which she ultimately promotes the non-recognition of race while others seek its replacement with class.
Keywords: race, class, OZ, race-consciousness, diversity, ethic of care, colorblindness
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