DEI: Perpetuating Racism and Creating Division

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies are common today. While they claim to promote better workplaces and “social justice,” critics argue they foster racism and division. How could policies advanced with such a positive goal have the exact opposite effect?

What is all the fuss over DEI policies? Let’s begin our discussion with some definitions. Note also that here we will talk about diversity in the workplace, but the same applies in schools or other settings. We will also focus on DEI primarily in the context of race, yet the same principles apply for gender or other categories.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Company defines DEI as the following

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.

While closely linked, it is important to consider each of these values individually to understand what each aims to achieve.

Diversity

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as

1 – the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : especially : the inclusion of people of different races, cultures, etc. in a group or organization

2 – an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities : an instance of being

Diversity and Inclusion consultancy firm Global Diversity Practice defines diversity as

Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another.

In a nutshell, it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin.

For McKinsey & Company, “Diversity refers to who is represented in the workforce.” Diversity is focused on things such as race, gender, ethnicity, physical abilities.

According to human resource technology firm Workable, diversity is

the variety of differences among people, encompassing race, gender, age, experiences, talents, skills, and opinions. In the workplace, it means having employees with varied backgrounds and perspectives, ensuring a broader range of ideas and fostering creativity and innovation.

Diversity, in a DEI context, then, refers to have a variety of people in the workplace. This diversity is at least along racial and gender lines, and often includes other attributes, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Equity

Merriam-Webster relevant definitions of equity and equitable are

Equity a : justice according to natural law or right specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism

b : something that is equitable

Equitable : dealing fairly and equally with all concerned

For McKinsey & Company

Equity refers to fair treatment for all people, so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or workplace outcomes. Equity differs from equality in a subtle but important way. While equality assumes that all people should be treated the same, equity takes into consideration a person’s unique circumstances, adjusting treatment accordingly so that the end result is equal.

Notice that equity is not equal treatment. Instead, equity in the DEI context refers to treating people differently in order to achieve a particular outcome.

Inclusion

Merriam-Webster relevant definition of inclusion is

the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)

For McKinsey & Company

Inclusion refers to how the workforce experiences the workplace and the degree to which organizations embrace all employees and enable them to make meaningful contributions. Companies that are intent on recruiting a diverse workforce must also strive to develop a sufficiently inclusive culture, such that all employees feel their voices will be heard—critical if organizations want to retain their talent and unlock the power of their diverse workforce.

Workable defines inclusion as

the strategies and procedures organizations implement to integrate everyone, ensuring their differences coexist beneficially.

General Arguments for DEI

The principle arguments for DEI are grounded in a claim for justice. Certain groups have historically suffered under legal discrimination in American society. Because they have been discriminated against in the past, members of those groups today continue to suffer through the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage. We must act to eliminate this intergenerational suffering. This is the core DEI argument.

In addition, some claim that DEI leads to better business outcomes. For example, McKinsey & Company writes on their website that higher “representation” of women in leadership positions correlates to higher probability of above-average corporate income.

Meritocracy versus DEI

As we discuss alternatives to DEI, consider this scenario. A company has a job test that reasonably accurately predicts a person’s ability to do a specific job. A score under 70 suggests the person likely is not able to do the job. A score above 70 suggests the person may be able to do the job, and as scores rise, so does the likely proficiency of the person in the job. Now, consider the hiring decision when two candidates have scores of 75 and 85 on the test. In other work-related respects, the candidates are general similar.

DEI Hiring

DEI offers a model of organizing the workplace that is concerned with representation of and participation by various groups. Proponents of DEI might argue that of course candidates for a job must meet some minimum standard, but beyond that standard DEI factors must figure heavily in hiring decisions.

If the person scoring 75 comes from a group that has been historically disadvantaged or is deemed to be disadvantaged now, we may add points the score. Alternatively, the score itself may be one of many factors included in the hiring process. Regardless of the exact structure of the DEI policy, the DEI-focused hiring manager may hire the marginally proficient person over the strongly proficient person. DEI proponents may claim that the diversity benefits provided by hiring the person that scored 75 provides outweigh the downside of that person’s lower proficiency.

Meritocracy Hiring

The alternative model is a meritocracy. In a meritocratic system, we hire the best candidate for a given position, based on capability to do the job. In a meritocracy, employers ignore the factors such as race and gender that are central to DEI. They instead focus on the ability of the person to do the job.

Consider the same hiring scenario. In a meritocracy, the job goes to the person scoring 85 on the test. The hiring decision is much easier, but more importantly, it is based solely on evaluation of the candidates’ proficiency for the job.

Racism

Merriam Webster defines racism as

1 : a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 : the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another

The American Psychological Association states that

Racism is a form of prejudice that generally includes negative emotional reactions to members of a group, acceptance of negative stereotypes, and racial discrimination against individuals; in some cases it can lead to violence.

Discrimination refers to the differential treatment of different age, gender, racial, ethnic, religious, national, ability identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and other groups at the individual level and the institutional/structural level. Discrimination is usually the behavioral manifestation of prejudice and involves negative, hostile, and injurious treatment of members of rejected groups.

Encyclopedia Britannica notes that racism is

the belief that humans may be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races”; that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioral features; and that some races are innately superior to others. The term is also applied to political, economic, or legal institutions and systems that engage in or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race or otherwise reinforce racial inequalities in wealth and income, education, health care, civil rights, and other areas.

Let’s consider for a moment what racism is. We have three definitions here. We have offered three varied definitions to make sure we fairly consider what racism is. From these definitions, we see some commonalities and can synthesize a definition.

We can divide human beings into groups based on groups of physical traits, such as skin color and eye shape. We can call those groups races. Racism exists when a person treats one race differently than another race based on a sense of superiority of one race or animosity toward one or more races.

We believe our definition is both accurate and neutral in the sense that we define the concept without any sort of bias toward any specific group. Members of any race may be racist. People of any race may have racist feelings toward their own race.

Diversity, Racism, and Division

Above, we noted that Global Diversity Practice, a pro-DEI consultancy, says that “diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another.” What dimensions can we use to differentiate groups? Race, ethnicity, and gender can all be used.

Racial Classifications

In our discussion of what racism is above, we noted that for racism to exist, there must first be recognized groups (called races) of people. Diversity sets about defining those groups. You simply cannot pursue diversity as a goal without having division into groups. By reinforcing racial definitions, the pursuit of diversity strengthens the foundations of racism.

To be sure, we are not saying that diversity is necessarily racist, and we don’t think that DEI advocates generally are consciously racist. We are saying that DEI’s diversity and racism have the same prerequisite, so by pursuing diversity, you help to enable racism.

Race Consciousness

Pursuit of diversity also breeds race consciousness. If you are measuring how many Blacks, Hispanics, and Orientals are in leadership positions in your company, you are necessarily focused on race. Race consciousness is a prerequisite to racism. If your opportunities for employment depend upon race, your race becomes much more visible to you. You become more conscious of your race. When you are more conscious of your race, you become more conscious of other people’s race. If you perceive, rightly or wrongly, that members of another race are being advantaged at your expense, racial animosity will be fostered.

The concept of race is central both to racism and to racial diversity. Promoting that concept is inherently divisive, fitting people into racial boxes. Instead of promoting the concept of race, we should focus on things that unite us as people, not promoting concepts that divide us. While perhaps race is an interesting biological or anthropological concept, we need to reduce it in importance to that of eye or hair color. While eye and hair color differences exist, we don’t so elevate them in our identities to create societal divisions along those lines. Race should be no different.

Equity and Discrimination

As McKinsey & Company notes, equity in the DEI landscape is not equality. Instead, equity “takes into consideration a person’s unique circumstances, adjusting treatment accordingly so that the end result is equal.” While they suggest there is only a subtle difference between equality and equity. The difference, though, is massive.

Equality says that we should treat people the same. Expectations should be the same for everyone. The same rules and criteria for advancement should be the same. This is the equality paradigm.

The DEI equity paradigm, however, opposes the equality paradigm. Instead of basing criteria for hiring and advancement, for example, on the needs of the job, they now become at least partially based on the demographics of the people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged us to judge people “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” DEI advocates, instead, challenge us to make hiring decisions “not by a person’s proficiency at the job, but by the color of their skin.” While King fought for equal treatment of Black Americans, DEI openly fights for different treatment.

Discriminatory Treatment

DEI advocates defend this unequal treatment as promoting better “representation” of “disadvantaged” groups in corporate leadership or other places in the workforce. The DEI movement is proudly discriminatory against supposed “advantaged” groups. To achieve McKinsey’s equality of outcome, we must hold down highly achieving groups and advance disadvantaged groups.

Typically, we think that the “advantaged” group is white, heterosexual males. Other groups, however, often end up being targeted. In particular Asian Americans, who by far have the highest per capita income of any major ethnic group in the United States, often face significant discrimination under affirmative action or DEI programs. Asian Americans have been successful litigants in several cases that have made their way to the U. S. Supreme Court on the issue of educational racial preferences or even outright quotas.

DEI Equity is Explicitly Racist

We noted above that racism exists when we treat members of one race differently than members of another race based on animosity or perceived superiority. DEI equity is fundamentally racist, whether its advocates consciously acknowledge it or not. Historically advantaged groups (often viewed as oppressors, though they don’t necessarily have to be) are openly and consciously disfavored for the benefit of historically disadvantaged (often viewed as victims) groups. That is based on a sense of moral inferiority of the oppressor group that applies not just to those who committed oppressive acts, but to generations of descendants. Conversely, DEI perceives victim groups as morally superior, not just for those who suffered injustice, but to generations after.

Perpetuating Historical Divisions

Note here, also, that DEI equity perpetuates racial division of the past. In historical periods of legal slavery or systemic discrimination, those perpetuating the system were predominantly (but not exclusively) White, and those hurt by the system were predominantly (but not exclusively) non-White. DEI recreates and strengthens those divisions by looking for groups that were historically disadvantaged. Under a DEI mindset, those divisions will be perpetual and never fade away. DEI thus rejects the mainstream civil rights movement of the1960s that sought equality under the law.

Inclusion and Coopting the Workplace

DEI Inclusion centers around the idea of everyone feeling comfortable at work. More precisely, it centers around members of supposed disadvantaged groups feeling comfortable expressing their differences at work.

Unlike diversity and equity, inclusion is not necessarily racist. It is, however, divisive. Inclusion typically requires managers to muzzle those who reject certain lifestyles that corporate policy deems to be disadvantaged. In this sense, it is profoundly discriminatory.

Issues of inclusion often center around sexual orientation or gender identity. In this context, inclusion typically means creating a safe environment for non-traditional orientations or identities to express themselves.

Why? How is sexual or gender expression (whether traditional or non-traditional) appropriate for the workplace? In the typical workplace, discussion of one’s sexual history or behavior would typically run afoul of sexual harassment policies. This simply is not an appropriate topic for expression in the workplace. Again, this is true whether sexual orientation and gender identity are traditional or non-traditional.

We might hear of the need to be able to bring your “authentic self” to work. That doesn’t seem to be objectionable. It, however, is not a license to promote a particular lifestyle at work. At work, you are there to advance the employer’s business. That said, personal, non-work-related conversations happen in most workplaces. When they are relatively private, consenting adults may discuss just about anything. When they are in public areas, some topics are just not appropriate, regardless of perspective. And when in public, basic etiquette would require not engaging in conversation that would be offensive to those around you. Perhaps, instead of discriminatory “inclusion” policies, we need to teach etiquette.

Alternatives to DEI

As we have shown, DEI is inherently divisive. The diversity goal fosters an environment ripe for developing and strengthening racism. The equity goal plunges DEI headlong into racism. What about the issues DEI raises, though? Are there alternative strategies to achieve some of the things DEI proponents claim to want? We will continue to focus on the race element here.

There are disadvantaged people in the United States. These people, however, do not fit neatly into DEI race boxes. There are poor, under-educated people of all races. Likewise, there are rich, well-educated people of all races. While DEI focuses on arbitrary factors such as race, race does not really define a group needing help. If we want to help disadvantaged people, let’s do that, but let’s not pretend that race and gender identification tell us who is disadvantaged. Here are some clear proposals to do that.

Ban DEI

Ban DEI programs (whatever they may be called) in education, employment, and public accommodation environments. Educational and employment standards need to be the same across the board for all people, regardless of race, gender, or any other morally arbitrary characteristic.

A DEI ban should be part of an overall ban on all discrimination based on race and gender. We must move to a system of minimizing the importance of race and reducing race consciousness. This will undercut racism.

Abolish the U. S. Department of Education

The Carter Administration created the Department of Education, seemingly as a reward to the National Education Association for supporting Carter’s 1976 campaign. The department was carved out of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Since the department was created, American educational performance has continued to drop. There is no convincing evidence that it has done any good for American education and by trying to impose a variety of broad requirements on the states, it may have done significant harm, accelerating the decline in American education. The federal government also has no Constitutional authority to set educational policy.

States Strengthen Academic Standards

In too many jurisdictions, too many functionally illiterate people are receiving high school diplomas. American public high schools are turning out far too many graduates who can’t do basic math, can’t proficiently read or write English, and have no comprehensive of history or American civics.

Create more robust standards focused on knowledge transfer. Core areas of study should include mathematics, reading and writing English, European History, American history, American civics including significant study of American founding documents, life sciences (botany, biology, etc.), and physical sciences (chemistry, physics). A second tier of topics includes Financial Literacy, World history, English and European literature, Western art history, and Western music history. Elective areas might include Foreign languages, Driver’s Education, Performing Arts, Shop, and Technology.

When students don’t meet the core standards for their grade, schools should not be advancing them to the next grade. Unenforced standards are of no value. Students that are promoted without meeting standards will fall further and further behind. Growing frustration for the student frequently erupts in violence toward other students, faculty, or staff. Instead of helping them, we condemn these students to a life of failure.

We have fundamentally strayed from the purpose of elementary and secondary education. The purpose should be, indeed needs to be, creating good citizens. We create good citizens in part by providing a solid, broad base of skills for making it in society. Good citizens also require broad and solid information about the society in which they live. Let’s make a high school diploma worth something again.

Fix Failing Schools

Even with the dilapidated educational standards of today, some schools fail to meet the grade. These are often in inner cities or other poor areas serving largely non-White populations. We must hold these schools and their students to the same standards as other schools.

Too often, we hear that because these schools serve genuinely disadvantaged students, they must have lower standards. This is wrong. More than anywhere else, we must raise and hold to high educational standards here.

Beyond maintaining higher standards, schools must be safe. We need to remove disruptive students from classrooms and hold parents accountable, criminally in some cases, for student misconduct at schools. We hear far too many stories of students misbehaving, often violently, with schools having no recourse.

Rebuild American Families

One of the most powerful predictors of success in life is the presence of a father in the home. By far, children raised by their mother and father in an intact home have the best life outcomes. They have much less juvenile delinquency. They are more likely to graduate from high school. As a group, they have higher incomes.

For the adults, married couples have higher levels of happiness than singles.

Certainly, there are cases where a home with mom, dad, and children don’t work. There are single parents who do heroic work raising children. They start at a major disadvantage relative to married parents, however.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s ushered in an era in which traditional sexual norms have been significantly weakened. In their place, we have developed a culture of hedonistic self-gratification. This has become more and more pervasive. A skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birth rate has severely harmed our children. We need to reverse this trend.

We can do the following to help rebuild the American family.

  • Eliminate all disadvantages in the tax code for married couples. While policymakers revised tax brackets long ago so bracket thresholds for married couples were twice what they were for single filers, tax disadvantages for married couples persist. We see these in areas like the thresholds for retirement account contributions.
  • Provide a modest tax credit for married couples with one or more (biological or adopted) children under 23 at home.
  • Revive and build on an initiative launched by the Obama Administration to promote responsible fatherhood through public service ad campaigns. Part of that is promoting marriage as a goal. Responsible fathers do not abandon mothers when they get pregnant or have children. Target communities with high out-of-wedlock birth rates.
  • While promoting responsible fatherhood, promote respect for others in a sexual context. It is fundamentally disrespectful to use another person for your sexual gratification. The #MeToo movement was all about disrespectful, even abusive, conduct in Hollywood directed at women. We need to condemn such conduct in general society, but we need to also push back on the culture of promiscuity which is damaging the lives of too many children and young women and which fosters the misconduct condemned by the #MeToo movement.
  • When a single mother gives birth, promote adoption of the child, with a strong preference for a married couple as the adoptive parents.

Conclusion

While DEI claims to help disadvantaged groups, it really promotes, deepens, and perpetuates dangerous divisions in society. Instead of dividing society, we should seek to unite it. We unite it with equality.

Proponents of DEI say that there are disadvantaged people in America. They are right. Policies to help them should aim at lifting everyone, though, not discriminating against supposedly advantaged groups. DEI also focuses on racial, gender, and other groups as proxies for the disadvantaged. Policy should instead take aim directly at the disadvantaged people.

The most powerful thing we can do to help the disadvantaged is rebuild the American family. Nothing provides a better chance for life success than being in a functioning family with a married couple at its head. We salute single parents who overcome the disadvantages of single parenthood, but in policy we strive to maximize the chance of married couples parenting their children.

More controllable from a public policy perspective is educational reform. In the 1980s, during the Reagan Administration a blue ribbon panel declared that if a foreign power imposed our educational system on us, we would consider it an act of war. They were right, and American education has continued a steep decline in the 40 years since. Revitalizing American education with consistent and higher standards will help to level the playing field for all Americans as they reach adulthood and enter the workforce in earnest.

These policies are not overnight remedies. They are, however, essential, if we want to heal societal divisions. The fact that it will take some time to see the effects of these policies only makes it more urgent to act quickly.

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