Can DEI Be Saved?
Recently, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page featured two articles about the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs that have infiltrated universities, corporations and professional organizations throughout America. One article celebrated the anticipated demise of DEI (Pop Goes the DEI Bubble, by Andy Kessler written January 21, 2024) and the other asserted that some aspects of DEI are worth saving (DEI is Worth Saving from its Excesses, by Roland Fryer, written January 22, 2024).
I applaud the Journal for presenting two sides of an issue but must admit my beliefs tend more toward Mr. Kessler’s point a view. Mr. Kessler is a WSJ editorial writer and his article celebrated recent events that indicate that DEI is in decline such as the banning of DEI programs by five states, the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard, and the removal of Claudine Gay at Harvard where she had catapulted to the presidency of that prestigious university for her promotion of DEI programs as Dean of Faculty.
Mr. Kessler points out that DEI programs are based on the writings of Karl Marx that have been transformed into Critical Race Theory, a theory that supports the slaughter of 1200 innocent Israelis (defined as oppressors by CRT) at the hands of the supposedly oppressed terrorists of Hamas. All those protestors shouting “from the river to the sea” are just echoing what the DEI programs have indoctrinated them to believe. DEI isn’t about diversity, equity or inclusion at all. It is about redesigning American society into a collective utopia (like the Soviet Union). Mr. Kessler closes his article with the warning that, “while the DEI movement may have peaked, like that Monty Python character, it’s not dead yet.”
Roland Fryer is an economics professor at Harvard who earned the enmity of anti-racists and critical race theorists across the country by publishing research that showed (much to his own surprise) that racial bias does not appear to be a significant factor in cases where cops shoot black suspects, as I noted in my commentary Critical Race Conundrum, published April 15, 2021. Professor Fryer concedes that, “some of what happens under the DEI banner is truly objectionable.” But he insists that DEI can be used for “talent optimization,” a process of “finding hidden talent in a world where not everyone has an equal chance to exhibit their abilities.”
Professor Fryer states that his research shows that “roughly 10 to 15% of racial disparities in hiring and promotion are due to bias,” which is probably a lot less than most DEI advocates would suppose. But he also discovered that truly talented blacks received wage increases slightly more rapidly than whites. Where there is more discrimination and bias is among the more mediocre performers, both black and white, that are subjected to less scrutiny by HR departments. He recommends that artificial intelligence be used as a talent-optimizing strategy that could reduce or eliminate bias.
But the amount of bias and discrimination that Professor Fryer’s research indicates would hardly justify the omnipresent and draconian DEI programs across American institutions. He reveals his positive attitude toward DEI (although back then it was called affirmative action), which he credits for his getting a scholarship to graduate school although the fact that he graduated cum laude from UT-Arlington in only two and one-half years might have helped to tip things in his favor.
Professor Fryer does not discuss the philosophical underpinnings of DEI programs which are based on Critical Race Theory and the anti-racism propounded by Ibram X. Kendi. These are radical ideas intended to transform the entire foundation of America (just as Mr. Kessler observed), and not just machine-learning based algorithms to help HR departments tweak the system in order to achieve a color-blind society as Martin Luther King envisioned.
I think some of the positive feeling that Prof. Fryer has for DEI programs arises from the words diversity, equity and inclusion. These sound like positive goals for Americans to strive for. It is the hidden agenda of the DEI programs behind these positive sounding words that we must look at critically.
Firstly, it is the DEI programs themselves that define diversity and what goals diversity should strive to achieve. Under DEI, every institution is supposed to “look like America,” which means that all identity group should be represented proportionally, no matter how different those groups might be. But what does this achieve? It means that some individuals are placed in positions they don’t want or don’t deserve. But the individuals in the group are meaningless, statistical errors. Who cares what the individual wants or thinks? Diversity of thought within the group is not allowed. Think differently and you will be cancelled.
There must not only be diversity, there must be equity. That means that every group should have income, housing and transportation in the same proportional amount as the other groups. Some individuals within a group will receive more than they deserve, while others in a different group will lose what they have earned. Who cares? There must be equity between groups . What could be more fair?
I had to check a number of DEI websites to get a handle on what inclusion actually means. Apparently inclusion is not something that you can quantify like you can diversity and equity. And, unlike diversity and equity, the individual reigns supreme in inclusion. Because inclusion is the feeling of belonging a person has within an organization. DEI requires that every person should feel respected, no matter their identity group. Also no matter their talents, habits or proclivities. I was taught that respect had to be earned. But not anymore. Respect must be freely given to everyone no matter what.
I think the DEI that Dr. Fryer admires lies in the colorblind society that Dr. King invoked when he said he hoped his children, “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." The key word in Dr. King’s quote is “judged.” Judgment is not allowed in the anti-racist DEI movement. Judgment would recognize individuals are unique and not defined by being part of a group. Judgment would recognize the equity lies in opportunity not outcome. And judgment would recognize that respect is earned.
DEI programs use the words diversity, equity and inclusion to conceal their true intent. Their intent is to overthrow the America based on Enlightenment philosophy that guarantees our personal liberty and economic freedom and replace it with a race-based collectivist state ruled by leftist elites. There really is nothing worth saving in DEI. That’s why I lean toward Mr. Kessler’s point of view.