The Diversity Delusion and the Pursuit of Mediocrity

Progressives have a visceral hatred for America, its Judeo-Christian values, its free market system, its freedoms, opportunities, and material comforts. They want to change it fundamentally -- or destroy it. Our founding documents guarantee the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with a functioning, limited government that serves the people. But such a milieu of healthy competition is an anathema to the Left, which thinks it offensive that Americans are free to work hard and pursue their dreams with minimal government intervention. Instead of letting such a meritocracy prevail and deliver the best to the nation, the Left wants to impose a system that obsesses over race, gender, sexuality, and perceived inequities associated with these identities. Leftists seek proportional quotas to reward targeted minorities for arbitrary criteria of identity and dismiss effort and talent as “privilege.”

This dumbing down of America in the service of equity is occurring everywhere -- in schools, universities, the workplace, and beyond. Paramount to this effort is the idea of diversity uber alles trumping merit, competence, or exceptional effort. This tyranny doesn’t spare members of minority groups who, out of experience and conviction, may believe in rising through merit and effort: deemed “unwoke,” they are reclassified as “multiracial white.” This misguided ideology peremptorily negates the multifarious influences that shape each individual’s unique perspective; it assumes a person is branded for life with the stereotypical characteristics of a particular race, gender, or sexual identity. Thus, the Left denies the heterogeneity of individuals and the influences on them even as it clamors for diversity.  It prejudicially assumes and demands ideological uniformity.

Here’s how the Left’s nefarious design is playing out. Schools and universities are forcing Leftist diversity standards on students, parents, and faculty at the expense of excellence. At the nation’s top high schools, the most represented race (by a significant margin) is Asian, followed by whites.  Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented. But is this evidence of racism? No, for it turns out that the admissions process at these institutions is blind to gender and ethnicity and based solely on the highest grades and test scores. In fact, these schools are forbidden to consider race and income as acceptance criteria. Attempts to coach black and Hispanic applicants for the admission tests and encourage more of them to apply have been unsuccessful in improving their representation in the student body. So the question is: Should academic standards be sacrificed, hard work penalized, and meritocracy substituted for mediocrity in order to achieve diversity?

To give minority students a leg up, San Diego, America’s second largest school district with about 106,000 students, has dispensed with grading. The policy was apparently launched to “combat racism.”  Since more minority students than white students have failed, grades will no longer depend on class participation or annual average. Deadlines to submit assignments will be suspended.  Surely, minority students’ failure to measure up to standards cannot be blamed primarily on racism in the educational system. Besides, by abolishing grades and not holding students responsible for their performance, excellence is stifled.

A 2009 Princeton study showed that to be admitted to top universities, Asian students had to score 140 points more than whites; 270 points more than Hispanics; and 450 points more than blacks.  After Harvard University instituted a quota for Asian-American admissions, a lawsuit was filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate the use of race in college admission. Last November, an appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision against SFFA, clearing the college of racial discrimination charges. In February, SFFA petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari on the same issue. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will let meritocracy prevail, ignoring the Leftists’ credo of equality of outcome for groups they deem victims.

Most Americans believe that diversity should not be attained at the expense of merit. A 2019 Pew Research Center report on race found 75% of respondents believed that employers should only consider a candidate’s qualifications -- even if the result is less diversity. Despite this, the diversity delusion -- that “diversity is our strength” -- is omnipresent in the corporate world and in government. Even vital domains like defense, political appointments, and air traffic control haven’t been spared.

After the Congressional Black Caucus demanded a black secretary of defense, the Biden administration selected retired General Lloyd Austin for the position. This necessitated waiving the requirement that a nominee be out of active duty for at least seven years. Critics faulted the appointment on three grounds.  While at Centcom, Austin had downplayed intelligence on the rise of ISIS and was responsible for a less-than-stellar outcome in the Syrian civil war.  Additionally, they felt he lacked knowledge and experience of the rising China-Russia threat. In the end, Austin’s skin color won out and was a major determinant in his securing the position. More identity drama followed.  Feminist groups were upset at his nomination and lobbied for a female secretary of defense. Their dissent centered on identity politics rather than a candidate’s ability to handle military threats.

Yet another example of the pernicious pursuit of diversity is under way in California. After Kamala Harris vacated her position as senator, California governor Gavin Newsom gratuitously affirmed his plans not to name a white man to the seat. Although an election would be the fairest way to choose the best among qualified candidates, activist groups have been lobbying Newsom to appoint a black woman, a Latino, or a member of the LGBTQ community.  Rather than California’s real concerns -- like skyrocketing homelessness and the highest tax rates in the country -- Harris’s replacement will be decided by the irrelevant ‘optics’ of race, gender, and sexual preference.

The sidelining of merit and competence is already endangering lives in the air nationwide. In 2015, the Obama administration ordered changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rigorous, longstanding admission standards for air traffic controllers. This was solely in the interest of raising minority representation after the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees complained that the workforce was “too white.” The new standards gave preference to those who were unemployed and those who fared poorly in high school science over licensed pilots and those with post-high school ATC training. Racial parity won over public safety.

Corporate America, too, is in the grip of the diversity delusion. NASDAQ has proposed that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandate new securities listing criteria, requiring that corporate boards have at least two members representing diversity: either a woman and a member of a minority group, or a woman and someone from the LGBTQ community. The objective is “inclusive growth and prosperity to power stronger economies.” NASDAQ makes the fallacious, risible claim of a correlation between diversity and better company performance. But if diversity per se were good for business, mandating it would be unnecessary, corporations would have embraced race and gender parity long ago.

Former President Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ ideology focused on strengthening the economy with pro-American, pro-business, and free market policies. But the new administration is influenced by the Left’s “woke” policies and kowtows to its diversity quotas, which seek to impose burdensome requirements that militate against effort and excellence.

From a meritocracy, America is declining into mediocrity.

Image: Pixabay