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Who Cares About Diversity?
All across the Academy, schools are requiring “Diversity Statements” as a condition for new hires. Everyone has to submit a statement explaining how they are going to contribute to “diversity”. What you’re supposed to do in these, and what everyone damn well knows you’re supposed to do, is (i) talk about your race, gender, and other “identity group” traits that it would be illegal for the university to explicitly ask you about, and (ii) talk about your activism on behalf of left-wing identity politics. Note: If you write a statement merely explaining how you will scrupulously avoid discriminating, or explaining how you will contribute to intellectual diversity, your application will be tossed in the trash. No university will say this out loud (yet?), but, again, everyone knows that.
These Diversity Statements, as a recent commentator notes, are the secular version of the Statements of Faith long used by religious schools (www.insidehighered.com/views/2022/05/23/diversity-statements-are-new-faith-statements-opinion).
You can see the most obvious problems with this – (a) racial, gender, and similar forms of discrimination are wrong, (b) enforced ideological conformity is poison to any institution of education or research. There’s a lot to be said about those two obvious problems, but I won’t say it now. Because what I want to start with right now is this question: Who actually values diversity?
My claim: Most proponents of “diversity” do not value diversity. In fact, they are passionately against diversity.
1. What Is Diversity?
1.1. When did we start pretending to care about diversity?
Before saying what is meant by “diversity” in this context, let’s first remember the origin of the current use of that word.
It goes back to the Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke [438 U.S. 265 (1978), https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4987623155291151023]. White medical school applicant Allan Bakke had sued the University of California for racial discrimination. He had been rejected from UC Davis, and he argued that, had it not been for the university’s affirmative action program, he would have been accepted. Bakke won his case, and the court struck down racial quotas in admissions; however, the court also allowed some affirmative action to go on. Justice Powell’s opinion explained that you needed a “compelling state interest” to justify affirmative action, then allowed that “the educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body” could form such a compelling interest:
"The atmosphere of “speculation, experiment and creation”—so essential to the quality of higher education—is widely believed to be promoted by a diverse student body. … [I]t is not too much to say that the “nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure” to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples."
That is when progressive academics started talking about how much they love diversity. Because they heard that that would be a legally permissible rationale for affirmative action.
1.2. Diversity is intellectual
Given that origin for the current usage, we have to interpret the meaning of “diversity” in light of that. “Diversity” is supposed to be good because it promotes good education through an atmosphere of speculation, experimentation, and creativity, which results from exposure to a wide range of ideas. Therefore, what diversity is must have something to do with that. Most fundamentally, in this context, diversity would be variety of ideas, experiences, and attitudes, especially those relevant to the things that people are learning about in school. Diversity would not mean, for example, having people with different birthdays, or different numbers of fingers. It means having people who think differently. (It could be that people of different races think differently due to their different experiences, etc. I'm certainly not ruling that out here.)
2. Universities Don’t Want Diversity
2.1. The argument for affirmative action
The diversity-based argument for affirmative action is this:
People of different races (& other ‘identity groups’) have different ideas, attitudes, and experiences. Therefore, by diversifying the racial composition of the student body, we will be indirectly producing intellectual diversity.
On the surface, that’s a possible explanation of how people who really value intellectual diversity would come to support some form of affirmative action.
But that’s just on the surface. If you stop and think for a second about exactly what such people would support, it totally fails to match what the universities are doing.
If the rationale for affirmative action were as described, the first thing we’d expect is that, obviously, the strongest candidates for affirmative action would be people with diverse belief systems. In the academy, left-wing beliefs dominate; therefore, the affirmative action supporters would be first and foremost demanding preferences for conservatives, libertarians, moderates, fascists, monarchists, and other people who do not accept the current progressive orthodoxy.
Everyone knows that isn’t happening. Virtually none (maybe actually zero) of the woke, social-justice-warrior people support philosophical diversity. The most “woke” people are the ones who aggressively try to silence all dissent (https://fakenous.net/?p=2932) and to exclude conservatives, libertarians, etc., from the Academy. So they not only fail to value intellectual diversity; they are just about the most stridently anti-diversity people in the entire country.
2.3. Other countries
If people of different races think differently, presumably that’s because of their different experiences (rather than, say, because different beliefs and attitudes are genetically programmed into different races). In that case, the most diverse people would naturally be those from other countries. They’ve not just grown up in a different part of our society; they’ve grown up in a completely different society. So affirmative action proponents would greatly favor affirmative action for, say, African immigrants over affirmative action for blacks born in America.
2.4. Other races
And it wouldn’t just be people from Africa. Affirmative action would also apply more strongly to, say, immigrants from Iran, or Korea, or Israel, than to black people (or anyone else) from our own society. Again, a person who grew up in Iran is obviously going to have experiences and attitudes more different from the typical American student than a person who merely grew up in a poor neighborhood in the U.S.
In fields that are white-dominated (such as philosophy), there would also be affirmative action for Asians. In fields where there weren’t many Jews, there would be affirmative action for Jews.
2.5. Social class
People from different social classes would also be subject to affirmative action. A poor white person from rural America is going to have experiences more different from me than a middle class black person who grew up in the suburbs. So poor, rural white people would get more affirmative action points than middle class suburban blacks.
Educational benefits are supposed to be produced by exposure to a variety of ways of thinking. That’s plausible on its face. But nothing about that argument is tied to the percentage that each group makes up in the overall population.
In other words, say that groups A, B, and C think differently (on average). If you’re trying to get the educational benefits of diverse viewpoints, you could argue that you need some representation from each of A, B, and C. Or you could maybe argue that there should ideally be equal numbers of people from A, B, and C (maybe to maximize the chances that any given class will have all three viewpoints represented). Or maybe you could argue that there is some threshold number of people from each group that you want to be present in any discussion (enough to make those people feel comfortable contributing, say). But there just isn’t any argument to be made that you need a number of people from group A that is proportional to the current percentage of people in the general population of your society who belong to A.
2.7. None of that is happening
Of course, none of the above predictions are borne out: the current practice of affirmative action has none of these features that you would expect if its proponents actually valued diversity. Conclusion: By and large, they don’t care about diversity. They’re just lying, in a really transparent way, because they think it gives them a patina of legal legitimacy.
You might object that some of the above features should only be expected if diversity were the sole rationale for affirmative action. Maybe diversity is just one rationale among many. Briefly, I’ll just say that I don’t see any indication at all that most affirmative action proponents value diversity. It’s not just that, e.g., they prioritize AA for black Americans over AA for conservatives. It’s that they have no interest whatsoever in idea-based AA; indeed, most would be aggressively opposed to it. Similarly for foreigners: as far as I can tell, woke AA proponents, controlling for race, show approximately zero interest in whether a person grew up in a different culture. Etc.
This illustrates my general view that the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity movement is Orwellian: it's the opposite of what it says it is. “Diversity, inclusion, and equity” refers to ideological uniformity, exclusion, and discrimination.