The diversity racket

Millions have been poured into the diversity industry. But it is only fostering division.

Rozali Telbis

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‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket’ – Eric Hoffer

People of all stripes are undergoing an identity crisis. Although identity crises have long existed as part of the human condition, today’s crisis has emerged in tandem with, and in part as a reaction to, the diversity movement — or as proponents call it, diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Industry experts and D&I leaders comprise primarily of educated and ideologically homogeneous Westerners who dictate social norms, policies and the correct usage of language. Everyone else is forced to agree, or else be labelled an oppressor. Ironically, these experts are able to agree on a consistent ideology, precisely because diversity of thought is so lacking. Real diversity would mean inviting everyone to the conversation, not reaching a moral conclusion in an invite-only group and then forcing everyone else to adopt it because ‘that’s just the way it is now’.

D&I has created an immense pressure to use only socially approved language. A fear of offence runs so deep that censorship of speech is an inevitable outcome, both within and outside these circles. Language is changing so quickly – what was acceptable yesterday is racist today. For instance, in the consultation process to develop Canada’s latest anti-racism strategy, some of the participants said that once neutral words like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘visible minority’ could be contributing to racism. For everyday people who don’t keep a pulse on these trends, this high turnover of acceptable language can be overwhelming and alienating. Unsurprisingly, this can also lead to further resistance and can tempt people towards the right, where there is less concern about being politically correct.

Big business and academia have jumped on the diversity train. ‘Inclusion strategists’ and ‘equity experts’ are highly sought after by multinational companies who want to inject diversity into their workplaces. Irshad Manji describes the emptiness of this phenomenon in her book, Don’t Label Me:

‘In America’s transactional culture, diversity amounts to slapping labels on individuals. People wind up packaged like products – crammed into prefabricated molds, presumed indistinguishable from others in the same category, handy for a momentary purpose and destined to be disposed of afterward.’

Governments follow closely behind industry, pouring millions of dollars into the diversity cause.

While the outpouring of support for marginalised groups is an important step towards equality and fair representation, these programmes continue to mask the structural cracks growing in society. These fault lines ready to slip at a moment’s notice. Government creates programmes to combat racism, but doesn’t make any attempts to understand the root causes of racism and discrimination in late capitalism in the first place.

Not only are social norms, language, and policy dictated by a few people at the table, but the structure and implementation of these D&I programmes is largely based on subjective individual accounts and self-reported questionnaires. These non-quantifiable assessments have been used to fund entire D&I departments in academia, business and government, where D&I experts are paid generously by unwitting taxpayers and students.

At one diversity and inclusion workshop I attended, the white female facilitator spoke at length about her white privilege and her internalised guilt as a white person. Through her own guilt, the certified D&I practitioner made the other white participants in the room feel ashamed and guilty on the basis of their whiteness alone. By the end of the training, I also felt culturally insignificant and ashamed of my own ‘whiteness’ – despite being an immigrant.

When the woke wonder why diversity rubs so many people up the wrong way, I want to point them to the above incident. I have heard variations of this time and again. Some people may feel guilty, while others may react defensively when they are told that their very existence is oppressive. ‘These days’, Irshad Manji writes, ‘to be labelled “white” is to learn that you’re a cultural non-entity’. What’s more, D&I advocates are eager to admonish white privilege while conveniently ignoring an entire group of underprivileged white people: the working class.

If we want to move beyond labels and have deeper conversations about diversity, we have to be willing to make mistakes and forgive each other when we do. To risk giving offence is the most concrete way we can bridge gaps together.

In 2017, the German newspaper Die Zeit organised a day of mass conversation. Hundreds of strangers were paired with people who held completely opposing political views. A total of 1,200 people showed up to have a simple conversation. The experiment was an overwhelming success. It has since inspired a global initiative called ‘My Country Talks’. The programme has provided a critical opportunity for people to re-learn how to talk to each other. Participants overwhelmingly reported having a better understanding of the ‘Other.’ They said that having a simple face-to-face conversation was enough for them to reconsider their own beliefs and be more understanding of those with opposing views. The experiment proved that an open conversation can pave the way towards greater understanding and empathy with each other.

Perhaps this is the most effective way diversity can be implemented – by the active participation of everyday people in real life circumstances. It’s a simple, but powerful starting point, and offers an opportunity for real exchange and insight.

At present, we funnel so much money into diversity while continuing to fail at it, despite good intentions. In my circles, where terms like ‘diversity,’ ‘oppression’ and ‘privilege’ are uttered on a daily basis, it is our responsibility to reflect on how our own biases and actions may be harmful to others – like preaching our dogmatic ideologies and expecting others to follow, or silencing others who disagree by using dangerous labels (no, not everyone to the right of you is racist).

As someone who genuinely believes in diversity, I’m often disappointed with both its advocates and critics for refusing to work together to bridge divides. For diversity to have any meaning at all, it needs to include people of all ideological stripes. Yet, here we are, excluding many of the people that need to be included in this global conversation. The diversity cause has turned into another excuse to engage with others who already fit into our own tightly sealed ideological bubbles and do away with everyone else.

Diversity and inclusion advocates are right to say that diversity is critical to a healthy democracy. But if we are going to continue selectively handpicking which types of diversity matter the most, and ignore the most significant inequalities and differences, then we really won’t progress much at all.

Rozali Telbis is a writer based in Vancouver, Canada.

Picture by: Elvert Barnes, published under a creative commons licence.

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Comments

Gerard Barry

14th November 2019 at 12:51 pm

“Diversity and inclusion advocates are right to say that diversity is critical to a healthy democracy.”

What? I liked this article as a whole but the above sentence leaves me feeling confused. The only kind of diversity that might be critical to a healthy democracy is diversity of thought and opinion. I fail to see what diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. has to do with democracy.

steve moxon

11th November 2019 at 10:18 pm

“Great cause”? What, despising the mass of ordinary people?
The author of this article (and the rest of ’em on this site) need a history lesson.
’The Origin of ‘Identity Politics’ & ‘political Correctness: Not Consideration for Minorities but Hatred Towards the Mass of Ordinary People; Specifically ‘the Workers’— Tracing the Roots of Why and How it Arose and Developed Reveals the Greatest Political Fraud in History’.
‘Identity politics’ (often or even usually dubbed ‘political correctness’) is the result of a political-Left major backlash against the mass of ordinary people (in Europe and ‘the West’), beginning in the 1920s/30s, in the wake of the persistent failure of Marxist theory to be realised in European ‘revolution’ or any real change through democracy. In shifting the blame away from Marxist theory and its adherents, and on to those the theory had prescribed and predicted would have been the beneficiaries — the workers — if only they had responded accordingly; then the cognitive-dissonance within the political-left mindset caused by this crisis to an extent was salved. [It is NOT at all the same as what the Left mistakenly term ‘the politics of identity’ to tag the new movements against the elite, on the false assumption that they are essentially nationalistic and ‘white backlash’. Trump and Brexit triumphed because the general populace have come to realise that the government-media-education uber-class has an unwarranted profound contempt for and visceral hatred towards them; and, therefore hardly is liable to act in their interests.]
The intellectual rationalisation was first by invoking Freud’s now comprehensively discredited notion of ‘repression’ to attempt to explain a supposed impact on ‘the workers’ of ‘capitalism’ acting within the context of the family. With most workers (the group considered the principal ‘agents of social change’ in a ‘revolution’) being male, then the theoreticians had in mind the male as ‘head’ of the family. It was a simple extension in political-Left imagination for ‘the worker’ to change from being the putative conduit of the impact of ‘capitalism’ to its embodiment, leaving women to be deemed a replacement supposed ‘oppressed’ and ‘disadvantaged’ ‘group’.
This implausible and unfalsifiable non-scientific nonsense mainly festered within academia until the co-option after 1968 by the political-Left of a movement which appeared to be akin to the revolutionary activity predicted by Marxism: the US ‘civil rights’ movement. This added to the ‘new oppressed’ the category ‘non-white’, which like that of women could be envisaged as an inversion of a retrospective stereotype of ‘the worker’. In the wake of the similarly seeming revolutionary Stonewall riots of 1969, the ‘gay rights’ lobby was also co-opted to further add to the abstract demonised aspects of ‘the worker’, thereafter retrospectively stereotyped as male plus ‘white’ plus heteroS. [You have to abbreviate to S or s-word to get past the dumb censorship on thso site.]
The strands of the ‘new oppressed’ combined in a new (neo-Marxist) conceptualisation to account for these political shifts after the fact, which came to be termed ‘identity politics’ (or more pejoratively but accurately, ‘cultural Marxism’, and latterly dubbed ‘modernising’ [sic] in political parties). The deemed ‘groups’ replacing ‘the workers’ – subsequently expanded to embrace the disabled, the elderly, trans-Ss and the obese – are abstractions rather than groups per se, and in any case far too heterogeneous to be in reality ‘oppressed’ or ‘disadvantaged’; providing a window on the sophistry and origin of this politics as other than it purports.
For example, the category of ‘non-white’ / ‘ethnic minority’ includes such as migrant Indians and Chinese, who by no criteria are ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘oppressed’; ditto the category ‘homoS’ in encompassing lesbians. By any objective, non-ideological analysis, women are privileged — certainly, as has been regularly pointed out, Western middle-class women are privileged; the most privileged large ‘group’ in all history.
This absurd situation arose through the political-Left’s forcing of specific conflicts to be considered as emblematic of Marxist struggle, rendering them as generalisable, with their participants abstractions. US Afro-Americans became generic ‘ethnic minorities’, and ‘gays’ became ‘homoS’. The history of feminism — not just of the ‘third wave’ — is of upper-class or upper-middle-class women demanding to somehow to be the same as their very high-status husbands and males within their rarefied social milieu; which even if it could make any sense given profound s-word difference, hardly was a basis of anything comparable for the great majority of either women or men. The upshot is that ‘identity politics’ is a ‘gravy train’ for the already privileged. Worse, it is an instrument of oppression against the very ‘group’ perennially disadvantaged and the victim of prejudice, which formerly had been identified as worthy of the liberation Marxism promised: the vast majority of (necessarily lower-status) men.
The pretence to egalitarianism is perfect cover for what ‘identity politics’ actually is: the very perennial and ubiquitous elitist-separatism the political-Left ethos attacks and denies; rendered a quasi-religion, being an ideology in the wake of the Christian notion of ‘the promised land’ in the utopia/dystopia of equality-of-outcome. This represents a continuation of the process of a shift in religiosity from envisaging a ‘god’ as being in man’s image, through the humanist deification of mankind, to worship of a supposed dynamic of teleological social change (originally understood in Marxism as a form of explicit cognition known as ‘the dialectic’). ‘Identity politics’, in being both not what it pretends to be and now so widespread and entrenched across the whole and every facet of the establishment in Anglophone nations and ‘the West’ generally, can properly be regarded as the greatest political fraud in history.

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