Tennessee Rep. Roger Kane might be a middle-aged white man, but that does not mean he is not diverse — or at least that is what he believes.
The Republican lawmaker drew laughter at the annual East Tennessee Society for Professional Journalists legislative luncheon, held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, when he turned the discussion toward diversity in education, the Tennessee General Assembly and well, in general.
“Women have actually gone down and minorities have gone up,” said Kane referring to the university’s enrollment rate. “Well, that's just trading spaces. It's really not creating diversity.”
Ironically, the legislature defunded the university’ diversity office last year. Moreover, higher minority enrollment is a definite example of diversity — even if Kane, a member of House Education Administration & Planning Committee, does not see it that way.
“If you look at this panel, that's in front of you, we look rather homogeneous,” he added. “But we're incredibly diverse! We really are.”
As the Nashville Scene reported, the 12-person panel Kane was talking about included 10 white men, a white woman (Sen. Becky Duncan Massey) and only one African-American lawmaker (Rep. Rick Staples).
“But my mother’s Jewish, my father’s Catholic and I’m a Baptist. Does that not make diversity?” he continued. “I grew up in Houston, probably one of the most diverse towns you will ever see. And that's the school I went to. Does that not add to my diversity? But you see me as a white, middle-aged man, that's all you see. But we're so much more than that!”
Houston might be home to large Chinese, Vietnamese, African-American and LGBTQ+ populations, but the truth is, living in the same city or even attending high school with other minorities does not make you yourself diverse.
Then, digging a deeper hole for himself, Kane described a fictional applicant who only defined herself as a lesbian Filipina.
“She’s forgotten all the other benefits she is,” the GOP lawmaker remarked. “She’s a woman, she’s college-educated, she’s funny, she has black hair — those are all diversity things. She had forgotten all of those things because in her strive to be diverse, she had honed in on two things, and that’s it.”
Watch Kane’s misinformed commentary on diversity in the video below. The lawmaker starts speaking around the 23-minute mark.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters