A DEI Meeting You’ll Never See

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Would the discussion leader be applauded or booed for citing uncomfortable facts about DEI?


TUCSON – A nonprofit foundation recently held a national conference at an expensive resort near my house.  Since the foundation is headquartered on the East Coast, this means that the attendees flew across the country to attend the conference.


One of the agenda items was a breakout meeting of the foundation’s DEI committee.  No surprise.  Just about every organization of every type and size has to pay homage today to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Judging by the superficiality and groupthink demonstrated across the land on the subject of DEI, it’s a safe bet that the DEI meeting was rife with platitudes, pieties, pabulum, posturing, and parroting.  For sure, the discussion leader didn’t open the meeting with the following remarks:

“Thank you for your interest in this important subject.  I’m going to set the stage and then turn the meeting over to you for discussion and action planning.


As with DEI initiatives in general, our mission is to address the issue of so-called underrepresented groups.  These are groups that are deemed as underrepresented in highly paid professions, in management and executive positions, and on boards of directors.  The idea is to do whatever it takes and do it very quickly, to get more people from these groups into lucrative and influential positions.

Of the hundreds of unique ethnocultural groups in the nation, scores of them are underrepresented.  But as we will discuss, DEI focuses on only a couple of them.  The rest are excluded from DEI initiatives, either officially or in reality.

One of the excluded groups is the ethnocultural group of poor and poorly educated Scots-Irish Whites in the backwoods and hollows of Appalachia, where their forebears were impoverished woodsmen, tenant farmers, and coal miners.


Also excluded are people like the Kalash, who hails from the impoverished Kafiristan area of northwestern Pakistan.  The smallest ethnic minority in Pakistan, many are fair-skinned and blue-eyed, the result of Indo-Aryan immigrants and invaders over millennia.  For any Kalash who have immigrated to the United States, they are not only excluded from DEI but are demeaned and stereotyped in some quarters as privileged and racist, based solely on their whitish appearance.

Incidentally, south of Kafiristan is Peshawar, near the Khyber Pass, which is the pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And southeast of Peshawar, on the eastern side of Pakistan, is Lahore, the city on the border between Pakistan and India.  As with most other parts of the world, this stretch of geography has a tragic history of oppression, persecution, and bloodshed, due to being at the intersection of different tribes, clans, colors, races, religions, ideologies, and nationalities.

This is what happens when people are seen as members of a group instead of as individuals.  It was the thinking behind slavery in the Americas and throughout the world.

An endless cycle of injustice is often the result.  When the victims end up in power, they invariably turn the tables on their former victimizers and seek revenge.  Meanwhile, those of us who see ourselves as enlightened and sophisticated keep the cycle going by encouraging group identities and identity politics.

Well, I’m not going to stand athwart history and stick up for individuals instead of groups. In the name of DEI, I can be just as hypocritical as the next phony.

Therefore, in keeping with the standard DEI practice in America, the focus of this meeting is on groups, not individuals.  And, in keeping once again with standard practice, the focus is not on all underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes.  The focus is much narrower.  It is on Blacks and non-White Hispanics. 

The core belief of DEI is that the target groups should hold highly paid jobs in the same proportion as their percentage of the U.S. population.  If they don’t, this is considered prima facie evidence of discrimination and racism.  Under that belief, given that Blacks are about 13 percent of the population, they should hold 13 percent of board positions, executive positions, management positions, and professional positions, including professions such as lawyers, accountants, physicians, engineers, chemists, and so on.  The goal is 19% for non-White Hispanics.

As many of you know, I have decades of experience at the vanguard of equal opportunity, equal rights, affirmative action, outreach, diversity, and anti-racism training.  Those decades have seen marked improvements in equal rights, equal opportunity, advancement, and pay for so-called disadvantaged people.  But the cold reality is that further progress is limited by the pipeline problem.

The pipeline problem is particularly acute for Blacks and Hispanics.  Too many are graduating from high school without the requisite knowledge to succeed in college, especially in difficult majors.

For example, according to the American College Testing Organization, only 10 percent of Black high school seniors are rated as college-ready, based on combined scores for math, general science, and reading.  Tragically, on a similar note, two-thirds of Black seniors are unable to demonstrate such basic math skills as performing arithmetical calculations or recognizing a linear function on a graph.

White seniors are five times as likely to be college-ready as Black seniors.  It is not known what percent of Kalash students and Appalachian students are college-ready, because there is no breakdown of scores for each of the many sub-groups lumped together as White.  It is known, though, that over 30 million Whites live in poverty.

The situation is less severe for Hispanics than for Blacks, but their test scores, on average, are well below what is needed for college success, especially those whose second language is English.  It was a similar situation for my poor emigrant grandparents from Italy, except that their children had the option of attending parochial schools, which were affordable back then, even on their meager income.

The possible causes of the pipeline problem are many and complex.  The possibilities include poverty, the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, poorly designed welfare programs that create dependency and absent fathers, the public education monopoly in poor neighborhoods, the stranglehold of teacher unions, negative cultural influences, slowness in assimilating, and families without positive male role models.

Whatever the root causes, it is counterproductive to lower standards or do away with standards completely for admission to college or entry into the professions in order to meet DEI goals.  This just delays the inevitable reckoning from not addressing the pipeline problem. 

It also leads to highly qualified and educated Blacks and Hispanics being seen as getting ahead through preferential treatment instead of through personal achievement and merit.  Ironically, they are in such high demand that they don’t need our paternalism, tokenism, pandering, and virtue signaling.

In conclusion, it would seem that our time, energy, and money would be better spent on addressing the pipeline problem.

Okay, it’s now time to turn the meeting over to you.”

If the discussion leader had made the foregoing remarks to the DEI committee—or to any DEI committee for that matter—what do you think the reaction would have been?  Would the person have been applauded or booed?


Mr. Cantoni is a retired author, activist, and executive who was at the vanguard of equal opportunity, equal rights, affirmative action, outreach, diversity, and anti-racism training.


As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email