Diversity, Inc.
“Diversity” places appearances above “the content of our character.”


Victor Davis Hanson

4. Who must be diverse? Affirmative action and diversity were never applied uniformly throughout the economy, and for two reasons. It was apparently one thing for an ascendant dean to insist on a diverse Department of Sociology, but quite another for an airline executive to insist that his 747 pilots reflect the ethnic makeup of the United States, or that neurosurgery departments be subject to court-imposed rulings that would ensure that brain surgeons reflect a diverse profile. No one complained that the NBA and NFL employed blacks in vastly disproportionate fashion (79 percent and 65 percent, respectively), or suggested that each team should have quotas for whites and Asians commensurate with their numbers in the general population. Merit, then, was considered vital for some jobs — where lives depended on racially blind proven skill and experience, or where vast sums of money were involved — but not so for others, where, at least in the short term, qualifications need not hinge on “constructed” norms.

Second, elite whites never saw much contradiction in using their status, influence, and capital to ensure that their own were not subject to tougher standards. If a university was devoted to the idea that historically oppressed groups deserve special consideration, and that as a result some white (and now Asian) students would have to step aside, it was also equally devoted to the archaic and illiberal notion that money and contacts still trumped such considerations. A university provost can preach at noon about his record in improving diversity, and at dinner promise a big donor his child will be admitted to the university, even if his grades and test scores might not be competitive in the new diverse atmosphere. If there were to be losers in the race industry, it would be mostly the white clingers of the middle class (and now Asians), who lacked both the correct color and influential parents.

5. Who can control us all? Once the government insisted on proportional representation, there really was no limit to extending that logic. But do we really wish for a Ministry of Diversity that will begin to ask all sorts of repugnant questions? After all, in 2011, professional sports teams are not very diverse. The Postal Service, with its coveted benefits, has a disproportionate number of African-American employees. Women are vastly overrepresented as K–8 teachers, and they graduate from college at disproportionately high rates compared to their male counterparts. We have not had a white-male secretary of state in 15 years. The Latino community in California still refers to itself as a “minority,” even though it is now the largest so-called ethnic group in the state, where there is no longer any majority. Are we to worry that combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq fell on the “white” community in numbers disproportionate to those in both the U.S. military and the general population? Once one goes down this odious “disproportionate” path of an illiberal sectarianism, the road gets increasingly bleak.

I note superficially that here in central California optometrists and dentists seem overwhelming to be Asian; owners of small quick-stop stores seem disproportionately to be Punjabi or Pakistani; the lucrative raisin-packing industry is still inordinately controlled by Armenian-Americans. Dry cleaners and donut shops don’t seem very diversely operated. The employees at the DMV seem largely Latino. Do we wish to live in a society that makes such observations and in response takes steps to racially tinker? Because if we do, the future will not be a multiracial population bound by a common culture and swirling continuously in a melting pot, but something akin to the Balkans, Iraq, or Rwanda, where our appearances and self-claimed identities are essential, not incidental, to our characters — a nightmare of endless competitive claims that can only end in violence and chaos.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of the just-released The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review