Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Rage for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

How did we get from affirmative action to the rage for diversity, inclusion and equity? Obviously, the story is shrouded in mystery. Given our propaganda media, the facts are of no importance. We must advance the narrative-- of endemic racism-- and not consider the reality on the ground.

For an excellent summary of how this all came about we turn to Peter Wood. In an article for The American Mind, entitled “Inclusive Exclusion,” the eminent historian takes us through the process. (via Maggie's Farm) He observes that the push and the thrust to bring more underqualified minority students into American universities, having begun in the 1970s, has failed to produce greater integration. It has produced further segregation, in a rather insidious way.

You will notice that Wood’s analysis of the origins of the inclusion debate sounds markedly similar to what we are hearing today. It was all about explaining away failure. Of course, someone might have gotten the notion that placing underqualified and underperforming students in situations where they could not compete was looking for trouble, but, we Americans often imagine that aspiration, mixed with enhanced self-esteem, can overcome weak scores on standardized tests:

The idea of “inclusion” was born in debates in the 1980s over how colleges and universities should deal with disparities in academic performance, mainly between black students as a category and all other students. Any explanation that pointed to average differences in ability, especially as measured by standardized tests, were deemed outrageous and insulting. 

Explanations that focused on the inadequacy of earlier academic preparation were more bearable but still carried the implication that black students as a whole were not capable of performing at the level of other students. The socially acceptable explanation that emerged was that the black students were victims of multiple forms of racism. American society had short-rationed their schools; college teachers treated them as racially inferior; racist assumptions were built into everyday life in America; and universities were “structurally racist.”

In order to explain the underperformance and to rationalize the failed affirmative action policy the great minds of our intelligentsia concocted the notion that racism was totally pervasive. If black students did worse than Asian students in math the only reason must have been that math was invented by white people to discriminate against people of color.

They managed to conclude that the problem did not lie with the students or the polities, but the standards against which students were judged. Thus, we all needed to recognize that different standards had to be applied to different people from different cultures. Math became white math and the English language, not to mention correct grammar, was a function of white racism. Or some such:

This last is the bridge to the conception of “inclusion.” Inclusion means recognizing that black students must be recognized as possessing their own cultural standards of expression, achievement, and excellence. Judging them by “white standards” is racist—structurally racist. A non-racist college or university would accommodate black students by judging them by black standards.

So, we had to reject what sociologist Robert Putnam called an encompassing American culture and needed to recognize that different people belonged to different cultures and, here is the kicker, that all cultures are equally valid.

That this reasoning ignored the fact that it is positively dangerous to use faulty science while building a bridge seems like a bad idea. And, dare we mention, yet again, that most of the tech workers in Silicon Valley were educated in China, not in America. I will add that in many universities STEM classes have, as of yet, not succumbed to the mania about diversity and equity-- but….

The connection to multiculturalism is evident. Inclusion, as a doctrine, incorporates the idea that black students have a separate culture, the norms of which must be respected. 

Eradicating all the “white assumptions” that pervade the university, however, is no small task. It requires a deep dismantling, the name for which is “Anti-Racism.” We get to “inclusion” by identifying and removing anything that might make black students feel disrespected or that might cast their academic performance in unflattering contrast to the average performance of other students.

Once we start down the path of such “inclusion,” as the path of “equity,” there are no natural limits. Does the SAT include sections in which black students, on average, perform less well than members of other ethnic groups? Out goes the verbal analogy section. Do test scores still lag? Out go standardized tests altogether. Do the names of campus buildings honor historic figures who have some connection to slavery? Rename the buildings. But if the remaining buildings are named after white people, doesn’t the problem remain?

So, the war against everything that might possibly bespeak racist assumptions-- including American history and Western civilization-- is to blame when black students underperform.

One feels obliged to note again that the thrust of this argument is to absolve black students of any responsibility for their performance-- which is grossly insulting.

In any event, the result is re-segregation:

Inclusion creates its own paradox, for ultimately the only way for an ethnic group to experience the world entirely on its own terms is to separate itself from the prevailing culture. To be “included, it may have to exclude itself, or at least put its relations to other groups and to the institution as a whole on an exclusive basis.

Wood has been analyzing this process for several years now:

Dion Pierre and I traced this process in two studies published in 2019, Neo-Segregation at Yale and Neo-Segregation at Wesleyan. In both instances, the origins of racial self-segregation lay in how black students who were recruited in significant numbers to these elite colleges in the mid-1960s responded to the pressures of undergraduate life, which included some contemptuous treatment from white students. More than half the black students dropped out at Yale. Those who remained formed an isolated enclave, Black Students at Yale (BSAY), that began to make demands on the administration to be allowed more and more freedom to self-isolate. One of BSAY’s demands was the creation of Black Studies—the first department of its kind in the United States.

Here we are at Yale University, where re-segregation became the order of the day:

Eventually, almost everything at Yale that could be segregated—with the exception of residence halls—was segregated. Black students are recruited separately, attend separate orientations, have separate academic counselors, enjoy an exclusive cultural center, engage in a wide range of racially segregated social activity, can choose a de facto racially segregated academic program, attend a racially segregated graduation, and are enlisted in a racially segregated alumni society. While on campus, they enjoy a high level of immunity from the rules that other students must follow. In effect, they have become a privileged caste.

This is what “inclusion” looks like at Yale and at hundreds of other colleges and universities. It is, in principle, voluntary. Black students have the option of refusing the comforts of self-segregation and instead engaging Yale (or whatever their college may be) in wholehearted embrace, but to do so means resisting a great deal of peer pressure. Inclusion is not just an option that students can take or leave, like a fruit salad on the dining-hall menu. It is an expectation, backed up by fellow students and by college administrations.

Same word, two starkly different realities. Diversity means cross-cultural connection and, at the same time, in-group exclusivity. Anyone who points out this contradiction is on a short path to being canceled as a racist. Seeking to overcome racial barriers is, on today’s campuses, considered not part of diversity, but an exercise in white privilege. That’s because white students are seen as merely tourists in the land of real diversity. 

They can leave and go home, while black students have to live in diversity-land 24/7.


Anonymous said...

Makes me glad to have gone to college years ago, in my own home town.

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