Monday, September 9, 2019
Twitter tends to be a forum for superficial and ill-considered reactions, but this one certainly was striking. I had written that, while I agreed with Professor Witt about the merits of changing the name of a Yale residential college named after a gross apologist for chattel slavery, I was,
also inclined to agree with Professor Kronman that (as he recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal), “Diversity, as it is understood today…means diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity in this sense is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political [i.e. justice for victims of discrimination]. The demand for ever-greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.”
In response, Jeffrey Selbin, a clinician at Berkeley's law school, tweeted:
White straight cis male education is apolitical until everyone else wants in. Then, “The demand for ever-greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.“ Seriously?
Of course, no one suggested that during the era when elite institutions systematically discriminated against non-WASPs and women and racial and ethnic minorities that these institutions were apolitical: far from it, they were devoted to reproducing the class system with a particular racial and ethnic composition. But none of us were even talking about that era!
Kronman's point, and my point in the article of mine I linked to, was that "diversity" rhetoric arose from a political goal: to defend affirmative action not on the grounds that it was a requirement of justice towards victims of discrimination, but because it was "good for business" and "good for education." But that political aim has now been transmorgified into an educational value. Because "diversity" has now taken on a life of its own as a mantra, its beneficiaries now include anyone who has some non-white ("whites" now including Jews, Italians etc.), non-male ancestry, regardless of their class status, their national origin, or whether they or their ancestors were the victims of American apartheid or comparable injustice. By turning the political goal of recompense for racial injustice into an alleged pedagogical and educational value, the original aim of affirmative action has been thwarted.