The Dallas Morning News
DEI ideas and efforts have become twisted
Misuse of diversity, equity and inclusion will deepen divisions instead of correcting wrongs
Imust tip my hat to some of my friends on the left side of the political spectrum. They are some of the best wordsmiths in our society. Not only have they coined the awful word “woke” into one of the most used words in our vocabulary, they have come up with phrases such as “defund the police” (the central role of a municipal government is to provide security); “whiteness” (a term of racial division); and “ESG,” or environmental, social and governance ( judging a company based on social issues versus shareholder value).
The list goes on. But the one that worries me most is the misuse of the terms diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI. Before you punch your computer screen or rip up your newspaper into tiny bits, hear me out. There are important ways that society can and should elevate people who have not had opportunities in this country. But the way DEI is applied in too many places risks deepening division rather than correcting historical wrongs.
Look at the recent news from Texas Tech University. A Wall Street Journal report about human resources practices in Tech’s biology department showed officials took it upon themselves to require job candidates to submit to ideological judgment based on DEI principles. Responses about DEI matters were heavily weighted in hiring decisions regardless of credentials or abilities.
This isn’t the way to make sure we are providing the best education. After the Journal exposed what was happening, the policy of asking about ideology under the guise of DEI changed. But we should be asking how this happened in the first place. Why were candidates judged on their use of the words “equality” vs. “equity” or their willingness to make land acknowledgment statements or which pronouns they used to make general references to faculty members?
Part of the answer surely lies in the way DEI is practiced vs. how it should be practiced, if the words diversity, equity and inclusion were applied according to their true meanings.
At first blush, like so many phrases embraced in the lexicon of the left, diversity, equity and inclusion are in themselves mild and virtuous. They represent something that Americans would embrace.
Diversity in its simplest form means “being composed of differing elements.” Organizations are stronger when there is a mixture of opinions, backgrounds, experiences and personalities joined together in a common goal. However, the meaning and application of diversity promoted under bad DEI practices has little to do with different points of view or experience. It instead embraces the idea of distinct and rival groups pitted against one another in a power struggle. This is unhealthy for a pluralistic society.
The basic definition of equity, according to the Merriam-webster Dictionary, means freedom from bias or favoritism. But the left’s use is an Orwellian opposite of this meaning. What is promoted as equity is actually the denial of opportunities to some and the elevation of others based on the expectation of righting a historical or societal wrong. No one can deny the inequality and abuse that ancestors of many of our citizens experienced either because of their skin color, nationality or sex. It was wrong then, and it is wrong today. The Declaration of Independence declares human equality, and while the actions of many of our Founding Fathers conflicted with this principle, it was true then and is true today. We are created equal and should be treated equally as it relates to opportunity.
However, a central tenet of the practice of DEI in many places now imposes inequality as a response to inequality and abuse in the past. In his foundational book How to Be an Antiracist on the equity movement, Ibram X. Kendi wrote that “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination.” That idea guides bad DEI practice. To undermine the principles of equality in the name of equity is to undermine the very foundation of our democracy. Those principles were abused and ignored through too much of our history. Returning to that point is no answer for the future.
Finally, let’s look at inclusion. While diversity means being composed of different ideas, inclusion means to take in or comprise as part of a group. This word is being reshaped in an insidious way. As happened at Tech, too many promoters of DEI want to only include those who agree with them.
We deserve a society where we can civilly debate public policy, and where we should not shy away from voicing our political beliefs (or declining to echo the beliefs of others) for fear we won’t get a job that has nothing to do with politics. That is at the root of genuine inclusion.
There is an important place for genuine DEI in our country. Let me tell you about a company I work with. The company’s board fully supports diversity in its true meaning. They want and value a workforce of varied opinions, backgrounds, experiences and skill sets. To accomplish this, they need to make sure their job candidate pool includes a wide range of applicants.
To reach a place of genuine diversity and offer equality, they must work hard to ensure they recognize and remove any unconscious bias.
And of course, the board seeks inclusion. They believe a healthy culture grows from a workforce of diverse opinions, backgrounds and skill sets.
Gov. Greg Abbott has faced a lot of criticism for his order that state agencies not participate in DEI hiring. He did the right thing, because the way DEI has been applied appears to have created ideological tests for employment. That’s un-american.
But there is a way to bring DEI into the workforce that promotes American principles of diversity of thought and experiences, that offers people a chance at employment and promotion, and that includes people with different voices and skills who deserve a shot at opportunity and advancement.