President Bush faces an ideal opportunity to take a principled position on the issue of racial "diversity." As his administration ponders whether to support the legal challenge, now before the Supreme Court, to the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies, he should go further and raise a moral challenge to the entire notion of "diversity." Instead of timidly wavering on this question, in fear of being smeared by Democrats as racist, President Bush should rise to the occasion by categorically repudiating racism—and condemning "diversity" as its crudest manifestation.
It is now widely accepted that "diversity" is an appropriate goal for society. But what does this dictum actually mean? Racial integration is a valid objective, but that is something very different from what the advocates of "diversity" seek. According to its proponents, we need "diversity" in order to be exposed to new perspectives on life. We supposedly gain "enrichment from the differences in viewpoint of minorities," as the MIT Faculty Newsletter puts it. "It is the only way to prepare students to live and work effectively in our diverse democracy and in the global economy," says the president of the University of Michigan. Minorities should be given preferential treatment, the university's vice president says, because "learning in a diverse environment benefits all students, minority and majority alike."
These circumlocutions translate simply into this: one's race determines the content of one's mind. They imply that people have worthwhile views to express because of their ethnicity, and that "diversity" enables us to encounter "black ideas," "Hispanic ideas," etc. What could be more repulsively racist than that? This is exactly the premise held by the South's slave-owners and by the Nazis' Storm Troopers. They too believed that an individual's thoughts and actions are determined by his racial heritage.
Whether a given race receives special rewards or special punishments is immaterial. The essence of racism is the idea that the individual is meaningless and that membership in the collective—the race—is the source of his identity and value. To the racist, the individual's moral and intellectual character is the product, not of his own choices, but of the genes he shares with all others of his race. To the racist, the particular members of a given race are interchangeable.
The advocates of "diversity" similarly believe that colleges must admit not individuals, but "representatives" of various races. They believe that those representatives have certain ideas innately imprinted on their minds, and that giving preferences to minority races creates a "diversity" of viewpoints on campus. They have the quota-mentality, which holds that in judging someone, the salient fact is the racial collective to which he belongs.
This philosophy is why racial division is growing at our colleges. The segregated dormitories, the segregated cafeterias, the segregated fraternities—these all exist, not in spite of the commitment to "diversity," but because of it. The overriding message of "diversity," transmitted by the policies of a school's administration and by the teachings of a school's professors, is that the individual is defined by his race. What, then, is a more loyal adherence to that message than the desire to associate with members of one's own race and to regard others as belonging to an alien tribe?
If racism is to be rejected, it is the premise of individualism, including individual free will, that must be upheld. There is no way to bring about racial integration except by completely disregarding color. There is no benefit in being exposed to the thoughts of a black person as opposed to a white person; there is a benefit only in interacting with individuals, of any race, who have rational viewpoints to offer.
"Diversity," in any realm, has no value in and of itself. Investors can be urged to diversify their holdings—but for the sake of minimizing their financial risk, not for the sake of "diversity" as such. To maintain that "diversity" per se is desirable—that "too much" of one thing is objectionable—is ludicrous. Does unimpaired health need to be "diversified" with bouts of illness? Or knowledge with ignorance? Or sanity with lunacy?
The value of a racially integrated student body or work force lies entirely in the individualism this implies. A racially integrated group implies that skin color is irrelevant in judging human beings. It implies that those who chose the students or the workers based their evaluations only on that which reflects upon the individual: merit. But that is not what the advocates of "diversity" want. They sneer at the principle of "color-blindness." Whether the issue is being admitted to college or getting a job at a corporation or being cast as an actor on TV shows, the "diversity" supporters want such decisions to be made exactly the way that the vilest of racists make them: by bloodline. They insist that whatever is a result of your own choices—your ideas, your character, your accomplishments—is to be dismissed, while that which is outside your control—the accident of skin color—is to define your life. Their fundamental goal is to "diversify"—and thus to undercut—the standard of individual achievement with the non-standard of race.
As a result of their efforts, the creed of "diversity" is metastasizing. There are now demands for "linguistic diversity," under which English teachers grant equal validity to ungrammatical writing—for "diversity" in beauty pageants, under which the unattractive are not discriminated against—for "diversity" in oratory contests, under which mutes are not excluded. These egalitarian crusaders for "diversity" seek to wipe out a standard of value as such. They want to negate genuine, life-serving values by claiming that non-values must be given equal status.
Is this the philosophy that will "prepare students to live and work effectively"?
Racial "diversity" is a doctrine that splits people into ethnic tribes, which then battle one another for special favors. If President Bush is eager to demonstrate his disagreement with the racist views of a Strom Thurmond, let him stand up and denounce all forms of racism—particularly, the one that underlies "diversity."
Mr. Schwartz, editor and contributing author of Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand, is chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.