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One of the great deceptions that still dominate the political conversation is how progressives are the ones trying to eradicate “systemic racism” in American society. Yet the reality is that progressives have not only implemented a contemptible system of racial hierarchies but they are also the foremost defenders of that racial hierarchy today.
At the end of this month, the Supreme Court will consider oral arguments brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which has sued both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for denying their clients seats at these elite universities because they happened to be the wrong race — white or Asian.
The group is asking the nine justices to end, once and for all, the pernicious practice of racial preferences, a practice that either assigns value to persons or penalizes those persons based solely on their racial background.
Legally, there is not much “gray area” as it pertains to such blatant racial discrimination. The 14th Amendment expressly guarantees the “equal protection of the laws” for all citizens, and Title VI of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act rightfully declares that “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Cut and dry, like it should be — especially if we’re coming from a biblical worldview. As theologian Wayne Grudem has pointed out, “If all human beings are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and all have equal status before him, then employment selections should be entirely free of racial considerations — there should be no discrimination against blacks or whites or Hispanics or any other ethnic group.”
The same goes for college admissions — there should be no “discrimination against blacks or whites or Hispanics or any other ethnic group” during this pivotal academic process.
Progressives, however, have spent the last 40 years trying to mount a legal and moral argument to substantiate a “gray area” when it comes to racial preferences, and they call that “gray area” diversity.
You may have heard of it.
Ha, who am I kidding?
The mantra “diversity is our strength” is mindlessly repeated so often that you wonder how many millennials and Gen Z types think that the phrase is officially part of American jurisprudence.
(Spoiler: It’s not.)
The phrase didn’t just materialize in a vacuum, though. It was carefully planted by leftist ideologues who’ve dedicated their professional careers to socially engineering American life as they see fit, starting with our colleges and universities. Thus, for four decades, academicians have argued that race must be considered a “plus factor” in admissions to meet their noble goal of achieving “diversity.” As the argument goes, such “diversity” would enrich the campus environment and engender social cohesion by furthering “new and provocative points of view” and by kindling “new intellectual experiences.”
That’s what Harvard contended back in 1978 during the infamous Regents of the University of California v. Bakke Supreme Court case. And in the follow-up case, Grutter v. Bollinger, Harvard struck a similar chord, belting that racial preferences allow them to bring “wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth out of a multitude of tongues, rather than through any kind of authoritative selection.”
The Supreme Court agreed with Harvard both times and in 2003 upheld racial preferences on “diversity” grounds because, according to the Court’s opinion, “‘classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting’ when the students have ‘the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.'”
Now the Ivy League school is at it again, appealing to “diversity” as they defend their admission criteria before the current Supreme Court, claiming that “enrolling a diverse student body is central to fulfilling our educational mission” and that “diversity enhances education for all.”
So if you’re wondering where the “diversity is our strength” trope started, you have academia to thank for that. It makes sense. These days, most corrosive ideas do originate in a classroom.
On the surface, there’s nothing objectionable about attaining the kind of “diversity” that Harvard describes. Introducing students to a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and “tongues” is, in fact, a noble goal.
But as we wade beyond the surface, three serious problems emerge when “diversity” goes from the abstract to the application.
First, these diversity aims aren’t reached in a race-neutral way — as the SFFA lawsuit spells out in exhaustive detail. “Discrimination in the name of Diversity” is a model that should be rejected by all decent people. Telling an Asian kid who worked his tail off in high school to get accepted at a premiere college that there’s no room for him because he isn’t the right kind of “minority” is despicable to the core.
Doesn’t the left oppose “racial profiling?” Apparently not.
Second, the scope of “diversity” ends up being limited to racial or ethnic compositions only. The assumption made by the “diversity drones” is that blacks or Latinos have something to offer their campus communities because, well, they’re black or Latino. This notion turns the Civil Rights Movement on its head, where the righteous petition was to judge a person according to his character and not his color. Notwithstanding these hard-fought battles, colleges and universities have resorted to making judgements on a student’s worth based on how he looks and not on his individual accomplishments.
And third, the diversity dogma is both “arbitrary” and “irrational,” to quote David Bernstein of George Mason University’s law school. In a brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down racial preferences, he underscores how these racial categories are crude reductionisms that don’t even come close to factoring in a student’s culture, life experiences, and upbringing.
He gives numerous examples, but here is one:
“Neither Harvard nor anyone else has explained why a white Catholic of Spanish descent, classified as Hispanic, contributes to educational diversity, but a dark-skinned Muslim of Arab descent, classified as white, does not.”
“Arbitrary” and “irrational” indeed.
Even the category of “white,” derived from federal guidelines, makes no sense because this racial bucket lumps together “Welsh, Norwegians, Greeks, Moroccans, Chaldeans, Afghans, Iranians, and North African Berbers,” among others. “To place people descended from all these groups into one category is inconsistent with the goal of achieving genuine educational diversity,” Professor Bernstein asserts.
Likewise, two black students, one raised by a single mom in Montgomery, Alabama, with African roots and one reared by two parents on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with Caribbean roots, will have vastly different childhoods — yet both students are tagged with the same robotic label: “black.” To a college administrator, they add to “diversity,” not because of their distinct achievements or unique qualities but because they ostensibly look the same.
This kind of “diversity” is both shallow and offensive. It renders college applicants as avatars of a larger racial identity, whether they’ve asked for this responsibility or not.
If you thought that the entrenched problems associated with the use of “diversity” could be contained to one article only, sorry, there’s a lot more to unpack when it comes to this woke obsession.
Click here to learn more in part 2 of this series.
Follow Jason on Twitter! @JasonMattera
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.