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"Diversity" has become an obsession in certain quarters, with mere mention of it producing a reflexive nodding of heads and outpouring of virtue signaling.

The problem is that diversity in the abstract is largely lacking in meaning, neither inherently good nor bad; rather, its value is entirely contingent upon circumstances.

In a recent essay questioning the unquestioning worship of diversity, Jonah Goldberg noted that "diverse stock portfolios are more resilient. Diverse diets are healthier. But that doesn't mean picking bad stocks will make you richer, or that eating spoiled foods is good for you."

In other words, and as with so much else in life, it depends.

The greatest experiment in human liberty, the American founding, benefited from shared cultural and political values, and thus minimal diversity, among the founders, while the worst cases of ethnic/sectarian conflict in recent decades, in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Iraq, can be attributed to too much diversity.

The original invocation of "diversity" in academe came with the Supreme Court's Bakke decision in 1978; more specifically, Justice Lewis Powell's opinion proclaiming diversity in the classroom a "compelling state interest" permitting affirmative action in admissions.

Granted that rather dubious imprimatur of constitutionality, the cause was given further impetus by two exemplars of the academic administrative elite, former Princeton president William G. Bowen and former Harvard president Derek Bok, in their influential 1998 book The Shape of the River, wherein the original idea of using racial preferences to compensate for past discrimination against blacks shifted toward the notion that white students would benefit from having non-white students in their classrooms and dormitories.

Being around people who looked and talked differently was assumed to enrich everyone's educational experience, especially that of "privileged" white suburban kids.

Using discrimination based on race in the present to compensate for discrimination based on race in the past was always a hard sell for Americans who had bought into the logic of the civil rights movement (as well as a violation of the 14th Amendment's "equal protection of the laws" clause), but the practice was saved when the diversity concept came riding to the rescue.

"Diversity" was, in short, a less divisive justification for preferences--who, after all, can quarrel with the idea that our lives are enhanced by exposure to people from difference cultures and races, especially in a multicultural society like America?

Still, when you move beyond that initial proposition, with which so many can so easily agree, you run into an array of contradictions and logical cul-de-sacs relating to the various meanings of diversity and their implementation. For instance, if diversity is interpreted merely in terms of race and ethnicity, how do we achieve it without relying on systems of preferences and the kind of morally odious bean count found in quotas?

Problems also emerge when plopping people into crude racial and ethnic categories, with the implicit assumption that everyone in those categories thinks the same way and has the same values (thereby bringing their alleged "group" identity with them to the educational experience). There is, after all, something profoundly disturbing, even racist, in attributing attitudes and values to people purely on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

Going further, a reasonable person might be forgiven for asking whether superficial differences of pigmentation and gender are necessarily more important than differences in religion, region, class, and, especially, ideas.

Great irony is found in the fact that, in precisely the years that diversity has become such an obsession on our college campuses, the form most crucial for a proper education--political and ideological diversity--has declined precipitously in the same places.

Indeed, those most enamored of crude forms of diversity tend to also be those most intolerant of the ideological diversity consistent with the marketplace of ideas and the broader purpose of education, which is, lest we forget, not to divide but bring us together in our shared humanity.

Those who embrace diversity in a racial or ethnic sense are afraid of ideological diversity because they correctly sense that with such diversity comes criticism of the uses of diversity to support racial preferences; indeed, diversity of ideas is the last thing most of our campus commissars of political correctness want.

Racial and ethnic diversity, and the reliance upon racial and ethnic preferences to achieve it, thus exist in tension with, and require the suppression of, the diversity of ideas.

Going beyond all these conundrums is also the bizarre manner in which diversity makes a fetish out of something that inheres in life itself--we are all "unique" creatures, by definition unlike any others that have walked this earth. Diversity is thus logically impossible to avoid because it's inherent in human individuality. It doesn't have to be pursued or manipulated, it simply is. To worship it is therefore as meaningless and banal as to worship oxygen or the oceans.

Thus, a useful rule of thumb: Those who prattle on the most about diversity are generally those most hostile to the genuine article.

As Thomas Sowell once acidly put it, "The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department."

------------v------------

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 02/12/2018

Print Headline: What is diversity?

Comments

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  • RBear
    February 12, 2018 at 6:45 a.m.

    We get it, Gitz. You hate a diverse population. You use distorted arguments to promote your twisted view of society. You would have been great back in the South prior to the Civil War when preachers were justifying the virtues of slavery. But you're wrong on this on so many levels. You make the claim that those who support diversity actually oppose diversity of ideas, namely those ideas that attack diversity.
    ...
    Let's be clear. That opposition is to be expected, especially when the attack is of the very idea itself. You seem to confuse disagreement with intolerance, a common mistake you often make. For some reason, you focus on college campuses as if that's your ONLY scope of reference. Might I suggest you get off the campus of Lyon College a little more. You DO know the Presbyterians who support that college support diversity. So, if anything, they exhibit more tolerance of diverse ideas than you give people credit for.
    ...
    But let's get to the issue of diversity. During the weekend, an exec at Fox News penned a column that attacked the diversity of Team USA and the moves by the USOC to broaden the diversity of the team. John Moody titled the column "Darker, Gayer, Different," playing off the Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (translated "Faster, Higher, Stronger"). Moody made the insane case that the USOC was sacrificing medals by attempting to diversify Team USA.
    ...
    That's a stupid position to take, especially by someone who apparently doesn't follow the journeys of some of these diverse athletes. Moody doesn't seem to understand that when he attacks such athletes as Gus Kenworthy, an openly gay silver medalist from Sochi who made this year's Olympic team with a top performance at Mammoth Mountain in January. Moody apparently doesn't follow the sport of speed skating who saw Maame Biney, a Ghana immigrant and rising star on Team USA's short track team who finished second in her heat and will compete in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
    ...
    No, Moody decided to attack Team USA with no real sports knowledge at all and only decided to look at race and sexual orientation of the athletes who represent our nation on the biggest sports stage. What Moody overlooks is the great work of the USOC to bring some of these sports to communities where they never have been before to allow the introduction to a new group of athletes.
    ...
    Take the example of the bobsled team who held sledding trials in South Texas to find new competitors from an area that rarely sees snow or ice. Through a similar trial in the past, the team has Justin Olsen from San Antonio competing on the team. Olsen, a soldier, proudly represents Team USA and our country on the sledding track.
    ...
    Unfortunately, Moody's column sparked just as outrageous comments in Breitbart and I'm sure the same would happen here IF the trolls even read the Letters. Most have the same ignorance of the Olympics and just want to attack diversity.

  • notbot
    February 12, 2018 at 8:36 a.m.

    Who is this guy trying to impress? Not someone from this century.

    This paper would do itself a favor to rid itself using him to represent GOP thinking and label him white nationalist. He’s a dog whistler.

  • BOLTAR
    February 12, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    What is blowing smoke?

  • Packman
    February 12, 2018 at 10:37 a.m.

    Once again Dr. Gitz is spot on with his analysis. This is the money sentence: "There is, after all, something profoundly disturbing, even racist, in attributing attitudes and values to people purely on the basis of their race or ethnicity."
    .
    True diversity comes not in the color of one's skin but from diversity of individual thought and life experiences.

  • mrcharles
    February 12, 2018 at 11:04 a.m.

    Ladies and Gentlemen: Lets consider the worthyness of BRG, we have a ADG that caters to the ILKS of this state that elect people like Hester the , rapter man, the previous hand off my children to molesters while I count my money from that there government hand out [ that makes him a purist in gop terms, Herr Hypocrite] Like Fox nuse when its employees are not grabbing you know what like their G-d trump brags about, who cater to the scandal a minute of a democrat but like Sean the slug does, switch you to car wrecks when caught in what is called fake news.

    The red state voters , being fearful of muslim hordes invading our christian communites, worrying about the total mistreatment of the white man, and who cant sleep at night due to seeing spanish on menus and hearing the Spanish language, must retreat back into the cave of ignorance like ancient cavemen who were scared of the dark. The editorials on the left side of the paper in section b, being very right will very subtly zing in a few ancient book phrases to delight the celestial decoders.

    What he is saying is Jesus is white and Santa Claus is white.As to sowell, ask how many Republicans are in the creation science-not department and on the dept of Education in Texas in choosing text books with Moses as the creator of the constitution?

  • PopMom
    February 12, 2018 at 11:31 a.m.

    iker,

    I agree. I am so tired of him trotting out his white supremacist ideas week after week. With respect to diversity, maybe if the Trump administration had more women they would have thought it problematic to have a wife beater in a high position. One of the few women in the administration was the girlfriend of the wife beater. You cannot make this stuff up. Diversity becomes necessary when one lives in a diverse society. Businesses want a diverse staff to relate to different kinds of people. In oh so white Batesville, Arkansas, diversity may not be that important.

  • RBear
    February 12, 2018 at 11:37 a.m.

    Pack spot on about what? You and he just really reiterated the value of diversity that race, gender, and sexual orientation offer through diversity of thought from other experiences. You just echoed what many in the diversity movement have been saying all along. The difference is YOU put your filters on and refused to hear their ideas because the ideas came from class based groups. Those are the ones who brought the idea to the table to start with.
    ...
    So if you're just figuring this out, maybe you should have been listening to the African-American, Asian-American, women's, and LGBT movement at the start. We're so glad you finally joined us in our thinking.

  • Slak
    February 12, 2018 at 12:27 p.m.

    Gitz shoots the bear. The bear screams, growls and postures defensively.
    Nice shooting, Gitz. Bear looks good in front of your fireplace.
    Proglib diversity is a coalition of oddity nuanced into normality. It is by no means a diversity of thought.

  • RBear
    February 12, 2018 at 12:31 p.m.

    Slak dumbest exchange in here so far. Of course you’re wrong about progressive diversity. It’s always been about diversity of thought. Why do you think we promoted it in organizations or companies? It helps build better solutions. Look, I know that thought is REALLY new to right wingers, but if Gitz and others on the right are just now embracing it that’s GREAT! Welcome to the party.

  • Slak
    February 12, 2018 at 12:31 p.m.

    Great grandmother called what proglibs describe as nuance as "Scratchin' aroun' for uh excuse."

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