the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to visit anew the incendiary issue of affirmative
action on American campuses, attention is simultaneously being refocused
on the collateral--and equally thorny--issue of ‘diversity.’ It was, ironically,
the Bakke affirmative action decision that brought the diversity concept into the lexicon of higher education some 20 years ago.
Although the Court found that the medical school at the University of California
at Davis had used an unconstitutional quota system in denying Alan Bakke
admission, Justice Lewis Powell made his now-famous observation that, notwithstanding
the inherent defect of such a quota system, universities could likely enhance
the quality of their enrollments by striving to create a "diverse student
body," engaging in "a robust exchange of ideas," and that there was "a compelling
state interest" in trying to achieve such a goal.
But in their zeal to construct an academic setting that reflects the true
diversity of the nation--and simultaneous attempts to redress past discrimination
and exclusion--universities have created campuses that have evolved in an
entirely opposite direction. Rather than helping students adapt to the real
diversity of society outside the campus walls, the diversity ‘movement’ has
served to create balkanized campuses where victims of the moment segregate
themselves into distinct and inward-looking racial and cultural groups --
exactly the opposite intention of the diversity credo.
In fact, as Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate have suggested in
their insightful study, "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on
America’s Campuses," diversity and multiculturalism programs, as practiced
by universities, are frauds, through which the very use of such terms has,
in their view, "become a politicized perversion of language." "All that the
social engineers of diversity mean," they say, "is the appreciation, celebration,
and study of those people who think exactly as they do about the nature and
causes of oppression, wherever they are found and however nonrepresentative
those thinkers might be of the broader groups they purportedly represent."
Students from ‘underrepresented’ minority groups, who may well initially
arrive at campuses thinking of themselves as part of mainstream society,
are taught, in the name of diversity, to think of themselves differently:
as part of a racial, cultural, sexual, or political subset of American life.
If they have not previously been aware of their victim status, then indoctrination
about diversity, as Charles W. Sykes points out in A Nation of Victims,
quickly helps them assume that identity and exploit it for social gain. "In
the society of victims," he writes, "individuals compete not only for rights
or economic advantage but also for points on the ‘sensitivity’ index, where
‘feelings’ rather than reason are what count."
More cynically, programs to promote campus diversity and multiculturalism
have essentially become tools by liberal ideologues to construct a world
view that is anything but truly diverse. Jay Bergman, a history professor
at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, bemoaned this very
point when he commented that "what is perhaps most striking about the obsession
with diversity is that most of those who favor it seem to have no interest
in fostering intellectual diversity [and] the inclusion of conservative opinions,
which are woefully underrepresented on college campuses."
Coupled with the exclusion of all but liberal thought is the darker side
of diversity: as victim groups become aware of their supposed classification
as ‘authentic’ victims, they are prone to contradict the stated goal of diversity
by limiting real dialogue and interchange between opposing points of view.
Thus, while diversity proponents adamantly defend free speech in order to
promulgate their own world views, they frequently move to stifle the speech
of others--through calls for censorship, newspaper theft, and speech codes--and
exempt themselves from having to live by the suppressive rules they write
for others. In an article in the school’s Massachusetts Daily Collegian,
for example, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst student made the oft-expressed
claim that designated victim groups could not be held accountable for any
negative thoughts they might harbor against other races or cultures--justifiable
or not. "People of ALANA [African, Latino, Asian, and Native American] descent
cannot be racist," the column observed, "because we don't hold the economic
power in this country, though we may feel anger which is provoked by racists."
Most disingenuous is how universities use diversity as a cover for bringing
outrageous, out-of-the-mainstream views to campuses--either in student-run
organizations, in course materials and teaching philosophies, in the sponsorship
of festivals and cultural events, or in the person of controversial speakers
and artists. Just one month after a report on methods to enhance campus diversity
was prepared for the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, for example,
the university's Association for Campus Entertainment decided to hire the
notorious rap star Ludacris for a March concert that will cost the school
$120,000, half of that amount from student funds.
How did the decision to hire the former Pepsi spokesman strike a blow for
diversity? According to Jessie Warren, homecoming chairman for ACE, Ludacris
was selected because "the black students didn't feel we were catering to
them at all, and with the diversity issues on the forefront we thought it
would be a good time to do it." The second, pressing consideration was that
last year black students had apparently criticized the selection of white
pop singer Edwin McCain as the visiting singer, and wanted ‘equal time’ for
their own cultural representative. McCain’s songs and country-rock ballads
are laced with patriotism, faith, and abiding heterosexual relationships,
themes that apparently do not fit in well on the ‘diverse’ modern campus.
Ludacris, on the other hand, brings a much broader world view, replete with
sociopathic psychobabble, lyrics that simultaneously revile women, blacks,
the white establishment, and law and order, and contain language and sentiment
that could never be uttered on campus by anyone not in an ‘underrepresented’
victim group without severe consequences, censure, and indignation.
"Welcome to the United States of America," he says in one characteristically
inspiring rendition, "Coming 2 America." "Time to roll out the red carpet
on y'all bitch asses. / Hailin from the filthy, dirty South, where the Kings
lay . . . The throne has been taken, so kiss this nigga's earring./ Luda
throw some grapes on these bitches!" When not reviling the South, he has
words for inner city life, as well: "I feel a ghetto rage let's turn the
ghetto page / My bitch will stick you wit ghetto metal stilleto thangs /
And I got a ghetto aim with diamond 'bezeled rangs / So while my index is
working my pinky's blinding thangs / I hit em at close range I spit em at
One ironic suggestion of the UNCW diversity report was that the school reach
out to local black ministries and host "events that show the community precisely
what is occurring on campus as far as programs are concerned and as related
to the institution’s commitment to diversity." How does bringing such a performer
to campus further the intent of diversity, and what message of inclusion
do the students give who push for inviting him?
A similar cultural disjoint occurred recently at Yale University when the
Afro-American Cultural Center and the Black Student Alliance invited Amiri
Baraka, former Black Panther and the recently-dismissed, and embattled, poet
laureate of New Jersey to speak. It surprised and annoyed some in the Yale
community that Baraka--a virulent anti-white, anti-Semitic, anti-Establishment
leftist--was invited to the University in the first place, but not Pamela
George, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Cultural Center,
who drew a comparison between Baraka’s hate-filled visit to that of Yoni
Fighel, a former Israeli general and soldier who came to Yale earlier to
engage in apolitical discussions on Middle East security and Israel.
Perhaps the comparison was made precisely because Mr. Baraka has been under
assault by many who were shocked by the conspiracy-laden anti-Semitism of
his poem "Somebody Blew Up America" in which he refers, among other wild
claims, to Israel’s foreknowledge of and complicity in the bombing of the
World Trade Towers. But the poem also has words to denigrate American culture,
imperialism, the white race, Zionism, and other sinister powers in Baraka’s
cynical imagination. Though he persistently denies his anti-Semitism, earlier
poems have included such descriptions as "poems like fists beating niggers
out of Jocks or dagger poems in the slimy bellies of the owner-jews . . .
Setting fire and death to whities as-."
But at Yale, world-domination fantasies--gleaned from the Arab press and
the Internet--apparently carry great weight, and Mr. Baraka received a riotous
standing ovation and affirmative support from the black audience, just as
he had from a similar audience at Wellesley College this fall when invited
there by the black group Nubian. One has to wonder how exactly Mr. Baraka
appeals to the sense of the inclusion and diversity normally promoted by
minority groups, and why black students at the nation’s elite universities
wholeheartedly embrace and find comfort in the rantings of a leftist, America-hating
One possible answer lies in the way that the diversity movement has segregated
minority groups contrary to its original intent. A recent study prepared
for the New York Civil Rights Coalition, for example, reviewed "the color-conscious
policies" of more than 30 major colleges and universities and found that
current practices actually "support a new form of ethnic and racial segregation
in higher education."
When a white Daily Campus columnist at the University of Connecticut recently
criticized this very separatism by black students on his own campus and claimed
the school’s African American Cultural Center was racist, the reaction was
immediate, vocal, but not surprising. Immediately, some 9000 copies of the
newspaper were stolen from distribution spots in an effort to silence any
further criticism, a tactic that has been used against other college newspapers,
usually when expressing conservative views. Later, at an emergency forum
sponsored by UConn black student groups, participants came up with several
pernicious suggestions for preventing further analysis from the newspaper:
namely, sensitivity training for staffers, avoiding future commentary on
volatile issues, or, as some preferred, outright censorship of the paper
to prevent such articles again-in other words, silencing dissent and controlling
thought and attitudes of opposing, unpopular views.
The trend toward segregated dorms, cultural centers, functions, even separate
yearbooks on some campuses, does not bode well for the diversity movement.
It may be time to recognize it for the fraudulent solution it is and begin
to let students be judged, to paraphrase Dr. King, by their character and
intellectual makeup not by their race or cultural background. John W. McWhorter,
Berkeley linguistics professor and author of Authentically Black, thinks
this would be a move in the right direction, that "a university culture truly
committed to erasing the sins of the past would champion diversity in its
true sense, infusing its discourse on race with a range of views wider than
variations on victimhood. Since 1978, diversity has served as a flimsy and
evasive perversion of justice. It has helped no one, least of all black students.
It’s high time we swept it into the dustbin of history."
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., writes frequently on law, public policy issues, social issues, and real estate.
Email Richard Cravatts
this article to a friend