The Racism of "Diversity"
By Peter Schwartz (Providence Journal, Feb. 11, 2003; Hartford Courant, March 26, 2003; Detroit Free Press, March 28, 2003; Orange County Register, December 19, 2003)
Texas A&M president Robert Gates should be praised for announcing that race will no longer be a factor when applications are considered, and that students "should be admitted as individuals, on personal merit--and no other basis." What is needed now is for him, and others, to go further in challenging "diversity." They ought to declare their categorical opposition to racism--and, therefore, their repudiation of the entire policy of "diversity," which is simply an insidious form of racism.
Unlike the valid policy of racial integration, "diversity" propagates all the evils inherent in racism. According to its proponents, we need "diversity" in order to be exposed to new perspectives on life. We supposedly gain "enrichment from the differences in viewpoint of minorities," as the MIT Faculty Newsletter puts it. Admissions should be based on race, the University of Michigan's vice president insists, because "learning in a diverse environment benefits all students, minority and majority alike."
These circumlocutions translate simply into this: one's race determines the content of one's mind. They imply that people have worthwhile views to express because of their ethnicity, and that "diversity" enables us to encounter "black ideas," "Hispanic ideas," etc. What could be more repulsively racist than that? This is exactly the premise held by the South's slave-owners and by the Nazis' Storm Troopers. They too believed that an individual's thoughts and actions are determined by his racial heritage.
Whether a given race receives special rewards or special punishments is immaterial. The core of racism is the notion that the individual is meaningless and that membership in the collective--the race--is the source of his identity and value. To the racist, the individual's moral and intellectual character is the product, not of his own choices, but of the genes he shares with all others of his race. To the racist, the particular members of a given race are interchangeable.
The advocates of "diversity" similarly believe that colleges must admit not individuals, but "representatives" of various races. These advocates believe that those representatives have certain ideas innately imprinted on their minds, and that giving preferences to minority races creates a "diversity" of viewpoints on campus. This is the quota-mentality, which holds that in judging someone, the salient fact is the racial collective to which he belongs.
This philosophy is why racial division is growing at our colleges. The segregated dormitories, the segregated cafeterias, the segregated fraternities--these all exist, not in spite of the commitment to "diversity," but because of it. 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. It is no surprise, then, that many students associate only with members of their own race and regard others as belonging to an alien tribe.
If racism is to be repudiated, it is the premise of individualism, including individual free will, that must be upheld. There is no way to bring about racial integration except by completely disregarding color. There is no benefit in being exposed to the thoughts of a black person as opposed to a white person; there is a benefit only in interacting with individuals, of any race, who have rational viewpoints to offer.
"Diversity," in any realm, has no value in and of itself. Investors can be urged to diversify their holdings--but for the sake of minimizing their financial risk, not for the sake of "diversity" as such. To maintain that "diversity" per se is desirable--that "too much" of one thing is objectionable--is ludicrous. Do brown-eyed students need to be "diversified" with green-eyed ones? Does one's unimpaired health need to be "diversified" with bouts of illness?
The value of a racially integrated student body or work force lies entirely in the individualism it implies. It implies that the students or workers were chosen objectively, with skin color ignored in favor of the standard of individual merit. But that is not what "diversity" advocates want. They sneer at the principle of "color-blindness." They want decisions on college or job applicants to be made exactly as the vilest of racists make them: by bloodline. They insist that whatever is a result of your own choices--your ideas, your character, your accomplishments--is to be dismissed, while that which is outside your control--the accident of skin color--is to define your life.
We need to identify "diversity" for what it is: a malignant policy that harms everyone, because it is the very essence of racism.
Peter Schwartz, author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest, is a distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
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