Whitworth’s conception of diversity has troubled me for some time. Although its value is so generally accepted it appears self-evident, I have had a persistent sense there is something wrong with it. I now believe I have found it: Diversity, as often understood, is racist. First, as a general point, diversity in itself is not valuable. Just as having gasoline for your car is valuable only because it gets you from place to place, diversity is only valuable to the extent that it promotes more understanding and better educated people. Unfortunately, it fails to do both.
Diversity dictates that many races and ethnicities be represented in order to provide a learning environment that includes different perspectives. In practice, however, “the overriding message of ‘diversity,’ transmitted by the policies of a school’s administration and by the teachings of a school’s professors, is that the individual is defined by his race,” writes Peter Schwartz of the Ayn Rand Institute. In other words, it is assumed that there is a “black experience,” a “white experience,” a “Hispanic experience” and so forth.
Diversity goes hand in hand with multiculturalism, or the belief that truth is determined on a per-culture basis. The opposite of ethnocentrism, multiculturalism states that it is wrong for one culture to judge another.
Thus, each race has its own characteristics, experiences and manner of thinking. By being exposed to the “experiences” of all races and ethnicities and treating them all as equally true and valid, it is thought that racism will disappear.
But instead of tearing down racial boundaries, this understanding of diversity reinforces them by defining people by their race. Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D., and Gary Hull, Ph.D., define racism fundamentally as “the notion that one’s race determines one’s identity.” By categorizing individuals by race, that is precisely what diversity does at its core.
Berliner and Hull write that “one cannot teach students that their identity is determined by skin color and expect them to become colorblind,” while Schwartz points out that “there is no way to bring about racial integration except by completely disregarding color.” If real racism is ever to disappear, people need to cease being defined by race.
I acknowledge that, although diversity is structurally racist, it does not necessarily follow that it results in interracial conflict. However, given that diversity divides people by race, the only way to avoid causing such conflict is by convincing everyone that every race’s experience and culture is equally true, valid and moral.
But where is the academic value in this? Most reasonable people, if pressed, will agree that there is absolute Truth. Given that there is, it is entirely unreasonable to compartmentalize truth by race and culture, pretending as though multiple, contradictory truths can all exist at once. Thus, diversity divides people by race, and multiculturalism prevents the races from interacting critically with each other. That is of no academic value.
Ideas about racial identity have real-world implications. For instance, in the area of international adoptions, “the United Nations and UNICEF, the U.N.’s program to help children, tend to be biased toward placing race and ethnicity at a higher priority than a family,” according to Jedd Medefind, president of Christian Alliance for Orphans. In other words, it’s better for a child to remain an orphan in their original culture than it is for them be adopted by a family from another culture. As that view has been adopted by our own State Department, the number of international orphans adopted by Americans has plummeted from 22,991 in 2004 to 9,319 in 2011, according to Napp Nazworth of the Christian Post.
If that is not proof enough, look to Europe where multiculturalism is played out in the form of street riots and protests. In the last two years, government leaders of the U.K., France, Germany and Spain have all publicly decried multiculturalism. Europe’s experience with immigration proves that multiple, conflicting cultures simply cannot function in the same space without critical engagement and a common pursuit of truth.
Given that “‘ethnic diversity’ is merely racism in a politically correct disguise,” according to Berliner and Hull, we need to realize that people are people. There is no universal experience for all members of a given race. There are only individuals and individual experiences. I’m not saying race cannot play any role in a person’s life experience, simply that it does not define them.
We must also abandon multiculturalism, but not for individual subjectivism. Just as individual cultures can be wrong, individual people can also be wrong. Instead, we must seek truth through rational discussion among individuals, regardless of race. If we desire a truly challenging and productive academic environment, we cannot simply learn about and appreciate other races, cultures and perspectives, but we must be able to criticize them and at the same time deal with criticism of our own. Anything less is either racist or irrational.
Graphic art by Maria Chumov
Nelsen is a senior majoring in political science. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.