What do we really mean by 'diversity, equity and inclusion'?

What do we really mean by 'diversity, equity and inclusion'?
by Robert Maranto, Michael Mills and Catherine Salmon

November 7, 2022

With rapidity and stealth, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ideology has come to replace the classical liberal values of merit, fairness and equality (MFE) in the academy, professional organizations, media, government and large technology companies. DEI bureaucracies have mushroomed. Many operate behind the scenes with ambiguous DEI definitions, goals and policies.

This is a significant cultural and ideological revolution, one that has been accomplished with almost no debate or operationalization of terminology. Who originated DEI? Why DEI and not another set of laudable values? Does "equity" refer to opportunity or result? How do those of mixed race fit in diversity assessments? Is the goal of racial representation proportionate to that of the population, the history of marginalization, or something else? DEI terms are defined so obtusely that they can refer to a spectrum of policies from mere platitudes to radical agendas including litmus tests and racial quotas.

In its most radical forms, DEI is derivative of neo-Marxist identitarian ideologies that attribute virtually all average group differences — from arrest rates to medical school admissions — to systemic discrimination. However, average group differences in outcomes can reflect a variety of factors (see Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel"). The unexamined acceptance of DEI, however defined, is surprising in a free society where critics are encouraged to challenge and debate significant social changes. The time for a national debate over the conflicting values of DEI and MFE is long overdue.

For example, one-fifth of the advertisements for higher education faculty jobs (and more for prestigious posts) require applicants to write statements of allegiance to DEI. Academic employment often depends on DEI relevant presentations at scholarly conferences and publications in scholarly journals. Increasingly, scholars are required to explain in advance how their research supports DEI. Such litmus tests are traditionally associated with totalitarian regimes and, in America, with McCarthyism. We all know how well those turned out.

Professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association, and even the more moderate American Political Science Association are adopting DEI initiatives, embracing empirically contested concepts such as implicit bias and endorsing legally questionable hiring and admissions policies that utilize de facto racial quotas.

In the academy, DEI and other identitarian orthodoxies are often mandated to be taught in student orientations and required courses, and enforced by campus DEI bureaucrats who now outnumber history faculty. By categorizing virtually any criticism as "prejudiced," DEI bureaucracies can chill free speech and have empowered some college presidents to slander their critics as bigots and then terminate them. Program renewals for academic departments, and thus continued employment for professors and graduate students, are increasingly tied to embracing DEI rhetoric and goals.

DEI in many respects is a revolutionary ideology. But it is winning. This is in part due to fear of ostracism, censorship or termination — but also because you can't beat something with nothing.

Enter University of Chicago Professor Dorian Abbot's DEI alternative, merit, fairness, and equality (MFE), which is consistent with traditional Enlightenment and scientific values. Under MFE, academic decisions are based primarily on academic merit, well validated standardized test scores, grades and, for faculty, publication and teaching records. Individuals are primarily evaluated on their achievements, not by their group identities. This respects individual dignity and promotes the primary mission of research in higher education: the production of knowledge.

MFE also accords with public opinion. The Pew Research Center found that more than 90 percent of Americans want high school grades to influence college admissions and more than 80 percent want standardized testing to play a role. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that gender, race or ethnicity should not factor into educational admissions decisions. As Kenny Xu points out in "An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy," MFE would actually increase demographic diversity by ending the unfair quotas against Asians at elite schools. One study found that at Harvard an Asian-American applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance of admission if Caucasian, a 75 percent chance if Hispanic, and 95 percent if black.1

But the powerful avoid debating their critics. Just as Alabama segregationist governor George Wallace never debated Martin Luther King, DEI backers with institutional power show no enthusiasm for defending their ideas in real debates. Without vigorous open and civil debate, DEI bureaucracies will continue to impose doctrinal training programs, litmus tests, censorship and discrimination. Unless this is challenged, we risk entering a new era of institutionalized McCarthyism.

Ed. note: While the authors are correct, how does one challenge DEI? If one works for the government, he has the First Amendment. But most people work for the private sector in which — regrettably — there is no First Amendment protection. In fact, in most corporations, one cannot challenge DEI without losing his job. How do we create a space for employees to have that "vigorous and civil debate" and force the DEI bureaucracy to defend their ideas in a workplace environment? This is the one question the authors don't ask — because there isn't an answer. And without an answer, DEI will continue to metastacize in corporate America.

1 I have taken the liberty of decapitalizing "black" for the reasons Dennis Prager explains here.


More reading:
1. D.E.I. Statements: Empty Platitude, or Litmus Test? https://www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=14317&omhide=true&trk=rm
2. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies https://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-Societies/dp/0393317552
3. Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media https://www.harvard.com/book/9781541600492_free_speech/
4. Other Than Merit: The Prevalence of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statements in University Hiring https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/other-than-merit-the-prevalence-of-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-statements-in-university-hiring/
5. Mandated Diversity Statement Drives Jonathan Haidt To Quit Academic Society https://reason.com/2022/09/30/mandated-diversity-statement-drives-jonathan-haidt-to-quit-academic-society/
6. A Book Too Risky To Publish: Free Speech and Universities https://www.academicapress.com/node/382
7. American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/about/apa/equity-diversity-inclusion
8. American Bar Association https://www.americanbar.org/groups/diversity/resources/
9. American Political Science Association https://apsanet.org/DIVERSITY/Diversity-and-Inclusion-Programs
10. Prejudice Under the Microscope: The Implicit Association Test (Part I) https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2020/12/30/prejudice-under-the-microscope-the-implicit-association-test-part-i/
11. Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy https://www.heritage.org/education/report/diversity-university-dei-bloat-the-academy 12. Cut Their Pay and Make Them Teach https://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2022/06/09/cut_their_pay_and_make_them_teach_110737.html
13. The Diversity Problem on Campus https://www.newsweek.com/diversity-problem-campus-opinion-1618419
14. As courts weigh affirmative action, grades and test scores seen as top factors in college admissions https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/04/26/u-s-public-continues-to-view-grades-test-scores-as-top-factors-in-college-admissions/
15. An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy https://www.amazon.com/Inconvenient-Minority-Admissions-American-Excellence/dp/1635767563
16. Race Consciousness Hangs by a Thread https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2022/10/24/race-consciousness-hangs-by-a-thread/
17. There Is No Debate Over Critical Race Theory https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/opponents-critical-race-theory-are-arguing-themselves/619391/

Reblogged from The Hill