May 28, 2023
Our company, a large U.S. corporation, conducts periodic employee surveys. The surveys are helpful because they provide a window into the honest thoughts of the rank-and-file. Company management, to its credit, takes the feedback seriously and sometimes will schedule meetings with employees. During these meetings management, and sometimes senior executives, will address employee feedback regarding controversial or contentious issues.
In the case of our meeting last week, the topic was diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Apparently some employees had tough words for the company's DEI efforts. Management didn't share precisely what the feedback was. Feedback is supposed to be anonymous, and management does a pretty good job at keeping it that way.
As far as I can recall, the roots of DEI started in the 1980s when the concept of equal opportunity began to show up in corporate boardrooms. While equal opportunity isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, under the Clinton administration we saw the beginning of the full-fledged DEI movement. DEI has matured over the last couple of decades, and it has now become the three-pronged spearhead of the Left's political correctness movement.
The focus of the meeting was primarily diversity. Management brought in its "diversity council" consisting of several employees to speak to the rest of us employees regarding the council members' understanding of diversity, and to recount members' personal experiences with diversity.
Initially, the conversation seemed to go well. The exec in charge emphasized the diversity of thought, opinions, and backgrounds. She made it clear that all employees, regardless of background, brought value to the company; if they didn't bring value, they wouldn't be there. She noted that she valued the diversity of backgrounds insofar as it meant that in the decision-making process, more ideas are brought forward and more opinions shared. So far, so good.
Alas, no conversation on diversity can continue very long, it seems, before the diversity of physical characteristics such as race and sex is brought up.1 Almost right on cue, in our meeting after some introductory banter and remarks, the exec eventually acknowledged that our deparment is "X% diverse," meaning that we had more people of color and women than other divisions within the company, including our parent division. Precisely what X is doesn't matter; what matters is that X is a larger percentage than other organizations within the company, which makes execs happy.
It was now time for the diversity council to address the employees. As part of its diversity outreach, the diversity council at the company puts on events for black history month, Asian history month, and so forth. It also encourages awareness of the Muslim faith (although curiously, it does not do so for other faiths, e.g. Christian denominations, Judaism, Buddhism, etc.).2
Each member of the diversity council addressed our group for 5-10 minutes. The composition of the council was mixed. Two sets of remarks stood out to me. The first was a black male member of the council stating that he struggled earlier in his career because his boss "did not look like him," and the second was a white male member of the council, who happened to be a first-line manager, stating words to the effect that he was unable to empathize with minority employees and therefore needed to "learn and understand" more about how to do that.
Underlying both of these statements is the assertion that person A has to look like, or be of the same sex as, person B in order to have meaningful empathy, communication, or understanding. But is that really the case? What exactly about a person's physical characteristics should preclude empathy and understanding? Are we not all human beings?
The Left argues physical characteristics are substantive, while denying differences between men and women. But if there is any difference that precludes understanding, it is the sex difference. While there is nothing about a black man that is inherently different from a white man, or an asian man, men and women are inherently different. As the old saying goes, men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
The politically-correct Left hates this obvious biological difference; indeed, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers — himself a liberal — was drummed out of his post as president of Harvard University in 2006 in part for daring to suggest that more men than women go into engineering because of "innate differences" between men and women.3
Truth is a conservative value and truth is a liberal value; it is not a Left-wing value.
It so happens that the black male member of the council works for a chill, laid-back white guy — the sort of guy it might be fun to hang out and have a beer with. I'd really like to ask the black council member, "if you couldn't get along with your previous boss because he didn't look like you, what about your current boss who doesn't look like you?" Why must we accept the presumption that people have to share skin color to get along?
A white person will never know what it's like to have black skin, and a black person will never know what it's like to have white skin, but there is also a steep intellectual and moral price to be paid for embracing identity politics: "You can't relate to me because you're not part of my tribe" strips away the humanity that we are all supposed to share.
What about the manager who claimed that he has difficulty empathizing with minorites because he's a straight white guy? This is sort of a twist on the foregoing — the spectacle of well-intentioned whites —usually but not always left-of-center — publicly kowtowing to minorities and unwittingly supporting the Left's dictum that whites are racist. One is reminded of the pictures of whites getting on their hands and knees in front of blacks during the summer riots of 2020 — trying albeit vain to earn their "race creds." Robin DiAngelo wrote a book entitled White Fragility in which she describes any defensive instincts or reactions that a white person experiences when questioned about race or made to consider their own race. Is all of this race obsequiousness a symptom of DiAngelo's "white fragility?" Perhaps.
Examining underlying presumptions, in the case of the black DEI council member, "unless the boss looks like me I will struggle." The manager believes he can't empathize with his employees who don't look like him. Curiously, these presumptions are perversely complimentary: I can't get along with my boss because he doesn't look like me, and no matter how hard the boss tries, he can never overcome his racism — a white boss will always be racist. The diversity cabal preaches that white racism is systemic in the United States and that whites racists — views which "justify" the need for DEI programs and prop up the continued employment of associated diversity managers, directors and other consultants whose salaries often exceed six figures.5
Put the shoe on the other foot, and curiously, none of this holds. Racism is a one-way street: a white employee can hardly say he struggles because his boss is black; a black manager saying that his being black makes it hard for him to empathize with his white employees is foolish at best and a race traitor at worst. Against the ugly charge of "racist!" there is no good defense. Either you are a racist, or you're in denial. Either you're a fool or a traitor. Tails I win, heads you lose. All of this sounds more like puerile name-calling than reasoned argument.
Half-truths are even more dangerous than outright lies. The diversity wolf prowls among unsuspecting minds in the sheep's clothing of ostensible respect for other's opinions, backgrounds, and experiences. But eventually, DEI propositions which start with respecting others' opinions and experiences degenerate into mandatory propositions regarding race, gender, or sexual orientation, none of which is relevant to reasoned decision-making.
Most insidiously, the DEI agenda cannot be questioned. Employees can't ask whether the black council member struggles with his current boss; employees can't question Left-wing dogma that America is systemically racist, or that every white is a closet racist. Questioning gets you fired. Just ask Neil Golightly and others.
To illustrate, I asked a member of the council to speak with me in private about presumptions one has to accept in order to embrace DEI; after some hesitation, she said I need talk to Human Resources (HR) about it. I laughed. Who would be obtuse enough to bring that discussion to HR? Even DEI advocates fear open debate. "No debate; instead, accept and celebrate!" Or more blunty, just shut up and color. In the public sector, employees are protected by the First Amendment, but not in the private sector — indeed, I have long argued for First Amendment protections to be extended to the private sector to protect employees from woke corporate management.
All the efforts of corporations to encourage employees to speak their minds notwithstanding, employees still said that they cannot speak on controversial issues without fear of retaliation or job loss. This effect is chilling. Ideas and perspectives are simply not heard. When there is no competition, rot and corruption ensue. This is true in arena of ideas. When people fear voicing opposing views, groupthink and irrationality take hold.
It is verboten to question the value — financially or otherwise — of DEI programs themselves. How many times do we hear cost as a reason not to start an obviously beneficial initiaitve? Yet no one counts the cost or weighs the benefits of the money spent on DEI salaries and programs. Executives assert that DEI programs add value and financial profitability to the company; I have yet to see an example of how a more diverse-looking workforce adds to a company's bottom line, except maybe by coincidence.
Some say there is intangible value in having a rainbow of people in the workplace or to America in general. But is that true? Let's consider Japan.
In his brief 1991 analysis of Japanese society, Stephen Howell, who lived in Japan for many years, writes concerning the obvious lack of racial diversity in Japan that
Linguistically, culturally, and racially, Japan is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world...there is no tyranny of "political correctness." No one is clamoring for a "multi-cultural curriculum," and no one wants to rewrite history. When a company needs to hire someone, it doesn't give a thought to "ethnic balance;" it just hires the best person for the job. No one has ever been sent to a reeducation seminar because of "insensitivity."This is of course all true, and when we think of the Left tearing down historical monuments during the summer riots of 2020, Mr. Howell's clause regarding rewriting of history rings eerily prophetic. After a long time observing Japanese society, Mr. Howell concludes that the diversity agenda is at its best a time-wasting distraction. If political correctness is defined as the inability to state painful truths, Stephen Howell is too politically incorrect for today's corporate workplace.
Don't get out your pitchforks quite yet. I am not for a moment saying that we should be Japan or that we should summarily eject blacks, latinos, and others from the United States in order to establish some kind of Christian white "European" America — far from it. I don't care for the way Europeans do things, and I really like our guarantee of due process of law. Besides this, America is the world's pre-eminent melting pot! I don't want a "white America" — we're not Norway and "white America" is morally meaningless because whites are inherently flawed like any other race; remember the dictum, "for all have sinned and fall short of God's glory" (Romans 3:23). America needs citizens who treasure the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — I don't care what color they are. Finally, let's dispense with the idea of Christian government — the last time the Christian church and state government worked well together was Byzantium, and that empire fell in 1453. Three hundred years later, America's Founding Fathers recognized that religion needs to be protected from government, not operate in league with it.
When I recently interviewed for a management position at my company, I was not selected based in large part due to my response to the question, "where are you on your DEI journey?" Because I believe that truth is at least as important as getting promoted, I noted that if the company believes the programs are profitable and do good, the programs should be continued; if not, not — the implication being that ineffective programs should be scrapped. While I was likely the best-qualified out of that crop of applicants, I didn't get the job. C'est la vie, as the French say.
DEI dogma replaces America's melting pot with racial balkanization. The American Left has roundly rejected everything good about America; there is nothing positive Americans of different races and backgrounds can unite around. What remains is a culturally-weakened America full of disparate racial interest groups constantly sniping at each other — hence the need for DEI programs to step in and "re-educate" all of us on how to be nice regarding racial and other sensitivities. This smacks of Marxist ideology — an ideology of failure wherever it has been tried.
One obvious question is, what better fosters the open exchange of ideas — to have a room full of people of one race with wildly varying opinions on an issue, or to have a much more diverse-looking room of people who have exactly the same opinion?
Finally, the question of merit — America is first and foremost a meritocracy. Simply put, to include race as a factor in any type of decision-making may make corporate executives and diversity czars feel good, but it's quintessentially un-American — and by definition, it's racist.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are strictly my own, or in the case of cited articles, those of their authors. None of the opinions expressed here represent, or are intended to represent, those of any other person, organization, entity, or company, employment with said organizations, entities, or companies notwithstanding. Any similarity to actual events, past, present, or future, at or involving any entity, company or other organization, is purely coincidental.
1 I say sex because sex is binary, whereas gender is a social construct of identity that means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
2 See this article for the reasons I do not capitalize "black."
6 It goes without saying that by "men" here, Thomas Jefferson meant all of humanity, not just those who happen to be biological males.