The racial diversity movement began with R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., with his 1990 Harvard Business Review article, “From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity.” His thesis was that with the growth of racial minorities in the nation, it would behoove companies to have more diversity in their ranks if they wanted to understand their customers, in order to make more money.
Since then, it has become agonizing to follow the downward spiral of the movement as it has descended into ridiculous thinking and social engineering. The diversity mantra is “inclusion,” but the reality is exclusion.
Particularly ridiculous is the popular trope that racial diversity is indispensable for a good college education, a trope that even the U.S. Supreme Court believes, or pretends to believe. Even more ridiculous are the conventional racial categories of white, Asian, Hispanic, black, Native American, and Pacific Islander—especially the first three.
What makes me qualified to say this? Well, I predated Roosevelt Thomas on the idea of diversity. (Skip the next three paragraphs if you have no interest in my background.)
Paragraph One: Years before Thomas’ article, I led corporate efforts at providing equal opportunity to minorities, especially blacks, by removing longstanding barriers to employment and advancement. My efforts included going on a retreat with black thinkers to have no-holds-barred discussions about our respective racial perceptions and to share ideas about applying the learning to the workplace. This was nothing like the silliness of Starbucks’ recent corporate-wide training, which was the result of the company being extorted by the grievance industry.
Paragraph Two: Decades before that, I was an officer in the well-integrated U.S. Army. And before that, I attended a university where about a third of the student population was comprised of Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals, several of whom were close friends, and none of whom used the label “Hispanic.” As much as I liked them, I’m at a loss to explain how their presence in the classroom helped me to learn accounting, finance, economics, and statistics.
Paragraph Three: Prior to the foregoing, as a fifteen- and sixteen-year-old, I was the only “white” on an otherwise all-black janitorial and kitchen staff at an exclusive St. Louis country club, where Catholics, Italians, and Jews were not welcome as members. For extra money after work, I’d wash and wax the big Buicks and Pontiacs of the black waiters, who were at the top of the staff pecking order, because they interfaced directly with club members, got lucrative tips, and were considered the epitome of the profession because they used to work on cross-country passenger trains as Pullman waiters. This was before black families were dismembered by the welfare state and war on drugs, courtesy of our benevolent government, which was egged on by goo-goos on the left and law-and-order types on the right.
Anyway, let’s return to the ridiculousness of today’s diversity movement. A good place to start is with the conventional racial categories.
It is the antithesis of diversity to lump together the hundreds of diverse races, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures in the nation and world into just several categories. It obscures unique differences and produces a meaningless agglomeration.
Take the “Asian” category or clump.
First, what are the precise boundaries of Asia? Where does Asia end and the Middle East begin? What side of the arbitrary line does Iran fall? Is Mongolia part of Asia or Russia? Why is the subcontinent considered to be Asian for diversity purposes instead of having its own category? And why isn’t Siberian Russia considered to be Asian for diversity purposes?
Maybe facial features, not geographic roots, are the primary determinants of whether someone is Asian or not for the purpose of diversity scorekeeping and admission quotas in colleges. Maybe to be categorized as an Asian, one has to have hooded eyes, high foreheads, and straight black hair. Well, if so, what could go wrong with classifying people by appearance? Oh, wait, that was done by the self-described Aryans who took over Germany in 1933.
In any event, if you want to offend Koreans, tell them that they are the same as the Japanese. Or tell Hindu East Indians that they are the same as Muslim Pakistanis. Or tell Tibetans that they are the same as Indians or the Chinese. Or tell Filipinos that they are the same as Malays. And so on.
Because the racial categories can be offensive, maybe they should come with trigger warnings.
Anyway, here are some questions for the Supreme Court: Which of the scores of unique groups under the “Asian” label should be represented on college campuses to enhance learning? If in the spirit of inclusion, the answer is all of them, the numbers will be quite large. For instance, there are 55 ethnic groups alone in China. But these constitute only a small fraction of the more than 10,000 unique ethnic groups around the world.
On a related note, should there be more Tibetans in nursing schools and fewer Filipinos? Should there be more Muslim Pakistanis in engineering and science schools and fewer Hindu East Indians? Should there be fewer Han Chinese in computer science and more Thais? Who decides these matters and how do they decide while upholding the Constitution? Moreover, what the hell does the racial composition of a class have to do with learning math, science, engineering, medicine, and other disciplines?
More importantly, when students contract with a college to fork over tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for learning a published curriculum, the college has no contractual or ethical right to subject students to a hidden racial agenda, social experiment, or ideological indoctrination. This would be akin to Starbucks lecturing customers about racial issues when they order a five-dollar coffee. Hmm, on second thought, millennials would like a lecture on race and social justice along with their coffee, given that they’ve been immersed in state-sanctioned indoctrination in these topics ever since kindergarten.
TRIGGER WARNING: You might be offended by the following discussion of the “Hispanic” category.
As with the “Asian” category, markedly different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures are lumped together in the “Hispanic” category. The category includes European Spaniards and Portuguese who are whiter than this Italian; Central American and South American aristocrats who descended from these Europeans and didn’t mix their genes with the local native population; Native Americans or African Americans with no European blood; and the largest group of all, those with a mixture of European blood and Native-American or African blood.
Which of the above count for diversity purposes?
Nationalities are just as varied: Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Venezuelans, and so on.
And within each group, there are wide variations in lifestyle, outlook, and conduct, as there is with all racial and ethnic groups. For example, the Mexicans I went to school with were quite different from the gangbangers in the barrio where I lived. Perhaps learning would be enhanced if student bodies were to have a certain percentage of gangbangers (or Italian mobsters). Sure, gangbangers might have trouble getting good SAT and ACT scores, but in the interest of social engineering, these quantifiable admission standards are being eliminated anyway and being replaced with such mushy criteria as extracurricular activities. There is no reason why gang signing, drug dealing, and drive-by shooting couldn’t be counted as extracurricular activities. It would only be fair and nonjudgmental, after all.
On a personal note, using extracurricular activities as a criterion in admissions would have penalized me when I applied for college, for my main extracurricular activity in high school was working in order to save money for college. I didn’t have the connections, time, or money for sexy internships, or study programs in Europe, or unpaid work for some nonprofit charity.
TRIGGER WARNING: Let’s now have an offensive conversation about the “white” category, and specifically, about Italian-Americans like myself, who comprise about six percent of the U.S. population.
Not only am I in a minority group, but I’m also a libertarian, which means that I have no political power and would be shunned on today’s college campuses.
According to the sophomoric thinking of the Supreme Court and diversity scorekeepers, everyone arbitrarily assigned to the “white” category is alike. As such, diversity isn’t advanced by having them in the classroom. It’s only advanced by having non-whites in the classroom.
Based on this bizarre thought process, if I had attended Harvard, I would’ve been seen as identical in perspective to a blue-blooded Brahmin who descended from the Pilgrims. Or if I had attended Yale, there would’ve been no difference between myself and George W. Bush. I would’ve been just as ignorant as him of Middle East history, of the Islamic religion, and of the geopolitical realities in the region.
Granted, Bush and I have very similar backgrounds. His dad went to Yale, headed the CIA, made a fortune in the oil business, and became president of the U.S. My dad had a high school education, worked as a tile setter and warehouseman, and was the son of an Italian immigrant and coal miner. Moreover, Bush no doubt paid for his college education as I did—by working for blacks as a janitor, laboring in an aluminum plant as a member of the Steelworkers union, working for a city sewer department, being a union painter, bartending in a restaurant, and being a stocker and checker in a supermarket.
See, all whites are indeed alike.
But am I really white or even Italian?
Because Italy didn’t exist as a nation-state until 1861, my lineage probably goes back to a city-state, not a nation. Maybe I’m a Venetian. That has a nice ring to it. I’m going to start entering that on Census forms.
Like most people with roots in the Italian peninsula, chances are that I’m a mongrel, a mix of all the different races that tromped through the peninsula over the millennia, either in war, slavery, or trade. This includes North Africans, Semites, Persians, Etruscans, Greeks, Moors, Celts, Lombards, the damn Vandals, and many others.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the Pilgrims landed in Italy, so I can’t claim to be a descendant of them and thus can’t be blamed for starting the white man’s injustices against Native Americans. Likewise, my grandparents were peasants in Italy until the early 20th century, so they had nothing to do with slavery, with Jim Crow, or with Mussolini’s brutal experiment with colonialism in Africa.
Thank goodness the Pilgrims didn’t land in Italy. Enough religious zealots have found their way to Italy throughout history, including Muslims who used to rule what is modern-day Sicily. At least they were preferable as invaders to L. Ron Hubbard and his merry band of Scientologists, whose ship was not allowed to dock in an Italian port, to the credit of the Italian government.
Of course, there are scores of other unique peoples who are thrown into the blender of the “white” category, including, to name some of them, English, Turks, Chechens, Bosnians, Circassians, Hungarians, Greeks, Basques, Corsicans, Welsh, Scots, Belarusians, Georgians, Lithuanians, Russians, Sardinians, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Finns, Danes, and Croats. These range from aristocrats and plutocrats to peasants and the impoverished.
Yet in some quarters of college campuses, whites are all the same: privileged, imperialistic, wealthy, and racist. You betcha: A Scots-Irish Appalachian hillbilly, whose forebears were in indentured servitude or were impoverished tenant farmers, can get into Georgetown University as easily as John Kerry did. And a backwoodsman in Tennessee is no different from Al Gore, who lived in a swank Washington hotel as kid, attended the exclusive St. Albans prep school, and went on to Harvard.
The ignoramuses who think this way seem to believe that the way to stop racial stereotyping is to engage in racial stereotyping. Likewise, the way to be inclusive is to be exclusive. Amazingly, the nation’s intelligentsia and media don’t call them out on their ignorance and hypocrisy.
If any race deserves special diversity considerations, it is African Americans, due to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, as well as other injustices. But even they are all not the same, which is far from a profound observation.
There is a marked difference in worldview between, on one hand, a Thomas Sowell, a Shelby Steele, and a Clarence Thomas; and on the other, a Jerimiah Wright, a Malcolm X, and an Al Sharpton. If a college student were to interface with someone like the first three, the student would get a totally different impression of black thinking than a student who was to interface with someone like the other three.
Which raises a statistical question: How many blacks should be enrolled at MIT as math majors so that other math majors of different races will interface with a large enough number of blacks to get a complete picture of how all blacks think? Perhaps the Supreme Court knows the answer.
The question gets more complicated when one considers black immigrants. For example, the emigrant from Kenya who used to help take care of my mom had a different worldview than the six aforementioned African Americans. I enjoyed speaking with her about her native country, as I enjoy speaking with all racial and ethnic groups about their heritage. As a Kenyon, she was proud that a president of the United States had roots in her motherland but other than that, she didn’t feel that she had much in common with African Americans.
As the above suggests, it’s not necessary to attend college to have exposure to diversity. For open-minded people, everyday life provides ample opportunities—opportunities that come about over a lifetime, not just over four years. There is also the ongoing learning about other races by reading history, sociology, anthropology, and literature. For close-minded people, the racial composition of a college class won’t make any difference.
Speaking of close-mindedness, is there any group that is more close-minded than college administrators and faculty, who try to mask their social engineering agenda with intellectual contortions about racial categories and diversity?
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.