Tuesday, June 28, 2016

DelBarton Student’s 'Diversity' Initiative, Though Well-Meaning, is Based on Counter-Productive Premises

In the column Newark teen recognized for tackling race issues, the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Barry Carter describes the work of a black student of Delbarton, a private NJ high school, to foster better race relations at the school. The student, Shawn Ohazuruike, had just received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for his initiative.

The problem I have is not with every aspect of these types of programs—such as getting people of different races and backgrounds talking—but with the premise that cloaks them. Shawn’s program is part of the collectivistic “diversity” movement, which puts at the forefront of personal identity a person’s race or nationality. So, immediately, one must mentally climb over a racial or nationalist wall before one can get at a person’s character; “Oh, he’s black (or white or Indian). Now what? Let’s see, how do I treat this person? Let me consult my ‘diversity’ training handbook.”

Is this any way to foster better race relations—by dividing people by race at the very start?

I left these comments:

I commend Shawn Ohazuruike for his efforts but I question his basic premises.

The answer to problems of race relations is not  “Minority Mentors Program” or “majority mentoring program” or even “Diversity Among Peers.” Those terms imply group affiliation as the primary way of judging people. Diversity of what? Of skin color? How do you get rid of racial stereotypes, a laudable goal, if you’re basic program is to categorize people according to some attribute they have no control over, like their race?

Tribalism, these days more often called collectivism, is as old as human history. Collectivism holds that the focus of moral concern is the group, and thus people should be judged according to some group characteristic. Racism is the crudest form of collectivism, because it judges people according to something he has absolutely no control over—his skin color. How do you get rid of racial stereotypes without challenging collectivism?

I also question the inclusion of a Muslim in the initiative. People should be judged on things they have control over, like one’s ideas. Religion is not a race. It is an ideology—a set of ideas. Humans have free will, so people should be judged based on the ideas they hold and act upon. While people shouldn’t be judged by skin color or cultural background, a person’s religion is properly open to judgement. But that is a subject for another column.

If better race relations is the goal, the only real antidote to racism and racial stereotyping is individualism. Individualism holds that the focus of moral concern is the individual, and thus each person should be judged only by individual characteristics over which he has control. Individualism is a very recent development in human history, stemming from the Enlightenment and the basis of this country’s Founding. Yet tribalism persists, because individualism is not fully accepted and not yet even properly understood. We need to get rid of the last remnants of tribalism in our thinking. The core problem is highlighted by that white student who said his opinion didn’t matter because he’s “not a minority.” Not a minority? He’s an individual, the smallest possible minority. Perhaps Shawn’s original title, “Minority Mentors Program,” might work if the group's working slogan was, The Individual, the Smallest Minority.


There’s a lot of misunderstanding about my point. One correspondent, Verno, replying to my comments, said, “Your entire premise assumes that we live in a post-racial, colorblind society, where it is possible to just ‘ignore’ or ‘look over’ someone's race, cultural heritage etc.” No,”  I responded, “my entire premise is that we should live in a post-racial, colorblind society.” Cultural heritage, of course, like religion, is not the same as race. But the same principles apply: People shouldn't be judged by how other members of their cultural heritage lived and thought. People have free will, and can break away from tradition if they choose

Verno also explained that “The DAP/MMP is not categorizing people according to race (it is in perhaps a literal sense) but more accurately put, it is recognizing that people are categorizing according to race,” but insisted that the solution is “recognizing that race is a meaningful category that needs to be addressed and accounted for in new environments.” The first part is definitely true. But, I reiterated in response, the very fact that “race is a meaningful category . . . in many people’s eyes is precisely the problem. Race doesn’t determine our ideas, actions, or character. The field of individual choice does not come in colors.”

In a revealing paragraph, Verno writes:

Ending racism requires recognition of racial differences instead of ignorance of them. It is important to recognize how black people are consciously and subconsciously excluded from systems whether that's in education, work force, etc. and then make active attempts to include them; not to say we "shouldn't recognize race and should end race". Your whole notion of focusing on "individuality" only makes sense if we lived in a post-racial society. But we don't. Race is a psychological phenomenon that comes with a whole set of stereotypes and issues that need to be actively addressed instead of ignored.

Verno is equivocating the cause of racism with racism’s devastating effects. To eliminate the effects of racism, we must eliminate both consciously and subconsciously manifested racism. To eliminate racism, we must stop group-categorizing people generally and especially by race.

Speaking of blacks being “subconsciously excluded,” two other correspondents, urbanguru and Chris M, respectively, raised the issue of “unconscious bias,” with one saying “Unfortunately, there is no universal solution to the elimination of the ‘unconscious bias’ as it is an ingrained learned mental construct that hardens with age.” I replied, with minor edits:

I disagree that “there is no universal solution.” There is—individualism, which is based on the metaphysical fact that each of us possesses the independent capacity for reason and free will, and thus the power to forge our own character development.

I do agree that “unconscious bias” is very hard (though not impossible) to dislodge. Almost all “ingrained learned mental constructs” [what Ayn Rand referred to as ‘automatization’], for good or bad, start with the explicit ideas we accept early in life. That’s why individualist education has to start with the young, so as to embed in the subconscious that people should be judged on the content of their character, rather than color of their skin. The diversity movement is counter-productive because it only reinforces unconscious racial bias in the young by focussing on racial group rather than individual identity.

Urbanguru responded:

. . . i disagree with you regarding "the diversity issue " as a facilitator of unconscious bias.

i have and continue to witness the adverse impact that the notion and effect of real or perceived racism has on the  fragile self esteem of young black and latino males that live in urban ghettos and emerging( i.e. gentrified ) urban areas. [sic]

Once again, we see the equivocation of racism with racism’s effects, and then failing to see that the first is facilitated by the group-think of the diversity premise.

There is no doubt in my mind that many champions of “diversity” are well-meaning. But it is equally without doubt to me that Leftist intellectual leaders invented the diversity movement as part of the drive to replace America’s individualist foundation with collectivism, as a precondition to their authoritarian designs. It’s a moral travesty that, half a century after Martin Luther King urged us to judge each other on the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, the diversity movement is openly propagating the primacy of ethnicity as the standard by which to judge people.

Related Reading:

From 'Diversity Maps' to Forced Integration: Obama's Racist Housing Policy Masks the Real Problem—Lack of Free Markets

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