What Is True Diversity?
Among the advantages of occasional hops across the pond to visit children stationed in Germany, or more recently to relish coma-inducing dining experiences, is the opportunity to observe national habits and collect views on a variety of subjects.
Indeed, no trip to the “old country” would be complete without imbibing cultural delights and learning, for instance, that many Europeans get views about the United States via CNN. I tried to point out that this is something akin to trying to learn about Soviet Russia from Pravda accounts, but to no avail. Shaking my head wearily, I plunged forward. Sometimes to my dismay.
I don’t advise dwelling on the Muppets’ Swedish Chef when visiting Gothenburg, or any other Swedish city, for that matter; my impressions of him weren’t welcomed. Neither was a question about the status of Muslim immigrants in that country, even though our perky, blue-eyed, blond-haired guide put on a convincing show about how there are no problems with Sweden’s newest inhabitants, and anyway, the country needs more people. You know, to keep the birth rate high, and to contribute to the tax base, as well as to the multicultural smorgasbord that Euro-elites insist must be continental policy.
Diversity über alles, one might say, though in a subdued voice.
Which brings us to our current interest, one that dazzled us for every moment we were on a ship that seemed big enough to swallow the entire small town that we call home in the U.S. Midwest. What we observed in the staff and crew on our floating extravaganza was diversity—true, functioning diversity of backgrounds, languages, interests, and skills, which hummed along with admirable efficiency in the performance of complex, time-sensitive tasks, every step of the way.
Intrigued by this process, I asked several individuals about company recruitment procedures, shipboard priorities, employee qualifications, and the cultural and geographic range of efforts to acquire the best people possible. What I learned provided object lessons on how best to attain true diversity in a work environment.
The most important point that emerged from our discussions was that the American cult of diversity, as preached in academia and business, has a perverse nature to it. In fact, the gargantuan “diversity and inclusion” bureaucracies in this country, as Heather Mac Donald stressed in “The Diversity Delusion,” are worse than useless; they’re saturated with self-serving functionaries whose activities undermine the foundations of U.S. society—business, government, and equal treatment under the law. Is this a harsh conclusion? Consider our recent national experience.
The Diversity Scam
Few shibboleths have had as much circulation as those associated with the word “diversity.” Our ears are hammered by variations of “our strength is in our diversity,” based on the multicultural creed that all cultures are more or less equal in their value to the enrichment and development of humankind. The obvious falsehood of this assumption leaps from pages of history filled with stunning variations of individuals’ well-being determined by experiments in recorded times; some cultures advance human freedom, prosperity, and enlightenment, and some don’t.
The United States’ vaunted “diversity” practices fall in the latter category. Mac Donald’s trenchant observation summarizes this point quite well:
“’Diversity’ in the academy purported to be about bridge-building and broadening people’s experiences. It has had the opposite effect: dividing society, reducing learning, and creating an oppositional mind-set that prevents individuals from seizing the opportunities available to them. It is humanistic learning, by contrast, that involves an actual encounter with diversity and difference, as students enter worlds radically different from their own. Humanistic study involves imaginative empathy and curiosity, which are being squelched in today’s university in favor of self-engrossed complaint. Teaching the classics is the duty we owe these great works for giving us an experience of the sublime. Once we stop lovingly transmitting them to the next generation, they die.”
In fact, Mac Donald’s thorough treatment cataloged how diversity protocols exacerbate social divisions, often to violent levels. It’s no exaggeration to say that progressive “diversity” inevitably will destroy the country.
Why is this the case? The principal reason is that diversity as preached and practiced on campus and in the business world is based on collectivist principles that are barely distinguishable from those embodied by totalitarian governments.
Consider the remarks by Colleen Sheehan and James Matthew Wilson in a Wall Street Journal essay about “A Mole Hunt for Diversity ‘Bias’ at Villanova.” They were responding to the university’s imposition of “diversity sensitivity” included in student evaluations of faculty teaching:
“Students are being asked to rate professors according to their perceived agreement with progressive political opinion on bias and identity. Students are also invited to ‘comment on the instructor’s sensitivity to the diversity of the students in the class.’ Professors are rated on their ‘sensitivity’ to a student’s ‘biological sex, disability, gender identity, national origin, political viewpoint, race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.’”
The assumption is that the “identities” cited by professors Sheehan and Wilson constitute categories comprising persons who are regarded merely as so many interchangeable parts extracted from a collectivity dominated by a single point of view. In other words, there are no independent human beings in this scheme, only embodiments of groups characterized in self-defined terms, or by perspectives imputed to them by battalions of “diversity and inclusion” functionaries who run the organization.
Thus, the concept of a “university” collapses into a menagerie of tribalized victims officially regarded as “marginalized” by the system and therefore deserving special treatment. They all have the assurance that “diversity and inclusion are not accessories in higher education today, they are at its core,” according to Villanova’s official response to the Sheehan–Wilson editorial.
The university’s president and provost also insisted that “to foster knowledge without a concern for human connection, or absent a concern for how such knowledge can ‘ignite change’ in our communities is, simply put, inadequate and hollow.” This appalling, politicized redefinition of academia’s core mission couldn’t have been stated better by scribblers in Soviet Russia or the Third Reich.
The Inclusion Scam
The second half of the cult refers to practices that are as meretricious as the first, namely, that diversocrats with six-figure incomes truly are concerned with “including” every tribal hue, nuance, and peculiarity and guaranteeing a seat at the diversity table. No one should be left out (except those who object to the cult), everyone deserves to be included. Except when they don’t or are encouraged to opt out.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) published a report this year that documents the “neo-segregation” they found on American campuses. The authors of this two-year study stated, “What we found was that neo-segregation is widespread if not pervasive. About 46 percent (80 colleges out of 173 surveyed) segregate student orientation programs, 45 percent (75 colleges out of the total) offer segregated residential arrangements, and 72 percent (125 colleges out of the total) segregate graduation ceremonies.”
Like the United States’ descent into tribalism, this amounts to legal and cultural atavism, stepping backward in the social, legal, and constitutional development of the United States to the time when Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” doctrine ruled the land.
The effects of such practices, which are becoming more widespread, are stated in chilling terms by the NAS authors:
“They [members of the segregated group] are encouraged to see themselves as victims or potential victims, and as heirs to past grievances. Training students to see themselves as vulnerable to the transgressions of a larger, intolerant or bigoted community is poor preparation for life in American society. Students who venture outside the segregated bubble may indeed encounter some hostile attitudes and racial stereotypes, but surely it is better to learn how to deal with these realities than to hide from them.”
Indeed, more than “hide from them,” many prisoners of such bubbles conclude they have nothing to lose by emphasizing their status. They are victims, to be sure: victims of diversity and inclusion.
What Is True Diversity?
All of which brings us to our principal question about the true basis of diversity, if by that term, we mean including individuals from a variety of backgrounds to function in a community based on mutual respect and recognition.
I queried several officials about this during our trip; the responses of gentlemen from Romania and Turkey were particularly instructive, and can be summarized as follows:
The individual comes first. There are various ways to state this principle; the concept of meritocracy is inextricably involved, and can’t be separated. Perhaps a better way of expressing the importance of individual qualifications is this: The individual and his or her qualifications come first; there is no second.
In other words, human resources people don’t agonize over irrelevancies by saying something like, “Let’s take the Iranian and Thai, put a hold on Morocco.” Rather, it’s a matter of applicants going through a rigorous, three-part vetting process, the last stage culminating in the person’s potential boss conducting the final interview. “I do it!” exclaimed the charming, no-nonsense chief from Turkey. Then, there’s a probation period to determine if the person hired could cut it or has instead decided to try another profession. What was the result of this process? Diversity.
Diversity of talent. I lost track of workers’ national origins after 20 or so countries, which included Indonesia, Mexico, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Singapore, a whole slew of Asian countries (I apologize for this lack of specificity), plus a bunch in Europe and Africa. I’m lousy at trying to figure out where people are from without asking, so I didn’t even guess about those I didn’t have a chance to meet.
What did they all have in common? They had all succeeded in navigating a challenging review and performance process, which guaranteed to each employee that their colleagues deserved respect, not from a hyped-up affirmative action protocol renamed as “diversity,” but from proving themselves worthy on an individual basis.
Admittedly, what took place behind the scenes was opaque to us and at all events didn’t matter. To repeat, officials in charge told me in no uncertain terms that only performance counted; there was no “anything else” that claimed an iota of interest for those in charge or for their employees. Individuals doing their jobs dominated; who they were, where they came from, what their cultures were like—all extraneous. No doubt interesting, fascinating, in fact, but irrelevant.
Conclusion: The lesson for American “diversity and inclusion” authorities is clear: They’re going about it in completely the wrong way. That is, respect for disparate cultures and experiences must be earned, not dictated, and that can only happen when individuals are respected first for their talents and contributions to common efforts.
Interest in individuals’ backgrounds naturally ensues after the person in question demonstrates his or her worthiness as a fellow student, colleague, or business associate. Then, we can explore more deeply what they’re all about. In fact, there’s a good name for that sort of curiosity, that sort of practice, and the policy it implies.
It’s called diversity.
Marvin Folkertsma is a retired professor of political science and a fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a novel titled “The Thirteenth Commandment.”