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The Diversity Fraud By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 17, 2002


Thanks to the efforts of the Center for Individual Rights, the Supreme Court this term will hear the legal challenges to the University of Michigan’s law school admission practices, which allow consideration of an applicant’s race in order to promote “diversity” among the school’s population. If the Supreme Court decides the case as it should, there is finally a real chance that the institutionalized racism and discrimination of Affirmative Action programs will be dismantled.

The decision will turn on an examination of the idea of “diversity,” the conceptual sleight-of-hand with which Justice Powell, in the 1978 Bakke case, rationalized the continuing use of race in college admissions even as he was compelled to acknowledge that most affirmative action programs at that time were simply naked quota systems in clear violation of the Civil Rights Act. Powell argued that only a “compelling state interest” could justify exceptions to the Civil Rights Act’s ban on discrimination by race, and that “diversity” and its presumed boons indeed was such a “state interest.”

Ever since it has been given the Supreme Court’s imprimatur, “diversity” has become almost a religious doctrine in universities and colleges, an article of faith accepted without any discussion or analysis of the idea, a mantra chanted whether the issue be admissions, hiring, or curriculum. In actual fact, this “diversity” is a dishonest and incoherent concept, masking an ideologically skewed interpretation of history in which the wicked white man has oppressed and excluded the dark “other.”

Proponents of diversity hide this ideologically noxious idea by using the old-fashioned bait-and-switch. Don’t worry, they soothe us. Their diversity is just about acknowledging and respecting the cultural differences that make up the wonderful mosaic of American society. But this issue of respecting the various cultures of America is nothing new. At the beginning of this century, the vast influx of immigrants from Slavic countries and the southern Mediterranean sharpened the conflict between what was then called “pluralism” and “assimilation.”

Nor were melting-pot assimilationists the only point of view heard. Pluralists at that time made the same argument the diversity folks make today, as can be seen in this statement from 1937: “No one culture contains all favorable elements, but each group that makes up the total American population has unique values, and . . . the nation will be richer and finer in its cultural make-up if it, the country, conserves the best that each group has brought.” The writer goes on to argue that “the fundamentals of their heritages be preserved for generations.”

For most of this century, then, there were those who argued against completely assimilating away cultural differences that they recognized were intrinsically valuable. But if the call to acknowledge and “respect cultural differences” is nothing new, then what really characterizes current “diversity” doctrine? Quite simply, the old identity-politics melodrama of white Western oppression, as can be seen when one considers the various contradictions and incoherent assumptions of diversity as it is actually practiced.

Real diversity is enormous in its variety, encompassing scores of ethnic groups, economic strata, regions, political views, and religions, to name a few, not to mention the various possible combinations of these categories. A poor, Catholic, Mexican-Indian immigrant farm worker, for example, has an identity quite different from that of a middle-class, suburban 3rd-generation mestizo Mexican-American. The fact that at a superficial level both can be labeled “Hispanic” doesn’t tell us anything about what each can specifically do to foster campus “diversity.” After all, the middle-class Mexican-American will probably have more in common with a middle-class white kid than with the Indian immigrant. Yet in the university, the second “Hispanic” applicant will be courted and presumed to offer more “diversity” than a poor rural white kid who probably resembles in many respects the Indian farm worker.

Here is the illogic of most universities’ idea of “diversity”: it functions in terms of stereotypical, simplistic race-based categories that ignore all the other ways in which people are diverse, all the other benefits of those particular “diversities” that could enrich the university. Certainly most universities today, dogmatically secular and thoroughly materialist, could use the diversity that more religious believers could bring. And given that faculties overwhelmingly comprise liberal Democrats, a concern with genuine diversity surely would mean active recruitment of conservative Republican students and faculties. But I doubt the admissions officers at Harvard worry about having too few Christians or Republicans and thus missing out on their diverse perspectives. And the surest way for a candidate for a job in higher education to lose the position is to let slip any idea or belief even remotely conservative.

Moreover, of all the various categories of diversity, whether ethnic, economic, political, or religious, most universities are really interested in only a few, those minorities that the Civil Rights industry recognizes: Hispanic, black, Asian, and occasionally any Third-World “person of color.” It doesn’t hurt that these are also the groups with organized vocal lobbies adept at putting together telegenic demonstrations whenever an administrator does something they don’t like. Less politically connected groups, however, simply don’t count. Armenians were subjected to genocide in Turkey and discriminated against in California for decades, but they’re not considered to be as “diverse” as a black dentist’s son who grew up in the suburbs. Many other ethnic groups, such as Portuguese, Italians, Russians, or Poles, are lumped together into the meaningless category “white” and thus are deemed irrelevant for increasing campus diversity.

This brings us to the real basis for defining diversity: not the actual variety of Americans in terms of culture, religion, politics, or region, but participation in the exclusive club of anointed victims of white oppression. The black, the Hispanic, the Asian student–– all deemed to be victims of racist oppression no matter what their economic advantages or other differences–– are all courted in order to bring their experiences of oppression to the privileged enclaves of academe, where they can school teachers and fellow students alike about the crimes of white folks and their exclusionary prejudices. In other words, most academic “diversity” is really about white guilt and minority payback, a way for affluent educators to compensate for their privilege by bestowing noblesse oblige on token representatives of the oppressed minority “other” into whose neighborhoods the professor or admissions officer has no intention of venturing for five seconds.

The solution to the problems of diversity, however, cannot be solved simply by enlarging the number of privileged categories, as many schools have done in recent years. Such tinkering will merely obscure the most important objection to such superficial categorizing of people: that as far as a university is concerned, the only diversity that should be important is the diversity of individual minds.


Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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