Diversity, more precisely, the ideology of diversity, has become the most dominant force in America’s institutions of higher learning. It is a massive project, developed over several decades, designed to provide America’s marginalized minorities with educational opportunities previously denied to them by an oppressive white America. Applying diversity principles such as social justice, fairness, and inclusion, as well as disparate admission standards and curricula, the rolls of colleges and universities have now been infused with the marginalized, in a varyingly subjective proportion to their demographic mix in the general population.
So assembled, inclusive scholastic mingling, pedagogical elites assert, will enrich the education of all students (including the white majority) by preparing them to be better global citizens in an increasingly multicultural world. During four years of embracing each others “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age”, marginalized minority students will achieve academic success; white majority students will reject bigotry; all would learn that what people have in common is more important than their differences. Diversity, therefore, will produce both educational and social benefits.
And grief. Mostly grief, and vast quantities of it. In the real world of higher education, where scholastic achievement matters, group achievement differences expose the hubris of the diversity ideology and shatter the delusional hopes of its proponents. On America’s campuses, the most notable products of diversity doctrine are the fetid, entangled grievances of students, where diversity czars preside over what historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his 1992 book The Disuniting of America, prophetically called “a quarrelsome spatter of enclaves, ghettos and tribes.”
Social psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt have found that diversity policies designed to reduce discrimination and inequality have the opposite effect. Disparate admissions standards, for example, reinforce racialism and stereotypes, making campus life more uncomfortable for all students – not to mention faculty members and even diversity administrators themselves. According to Haidt’s research, diversity policies “exacerbate racial conflict and grievance,” especially those that create “ethnic enclaves” through identity studies (aka narcissism studies, aka ethnic and gender therapy studies, aka self-esteem studies), and diversity training.
But the enclaves seem to relish being aggrieved; no inequity escapes their rage. Princeton student groups, for example, recently issued a statement condemning “racism, white supremacy, Nazism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, ableism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, transmisogynoir, xenophobia, and any oppression of historically marginalized communities” that plagues America and their “white-serving and male-serving institution.” Such behavior, they say, exposes its underserved “students of color, LGBT and non-binary students, women, undocumented students, students with disabilities, and low-income students” to horrific grief.
Princeton is not alone. There are currently 80 others; and the demands of these schools only address systemic and structural racism. With the growth of the victimhood culture, the lists of demands are growing rapidly, and becoming more demanding. What used to be accomplished with honor and dignity, is now achieved through victimhood. The trick is to present yourself as a fragile and aggrieved victim -- of oppression, exploitation, discrimination, …, even scholastic competition. On college campuses, “Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy,” Haidt observed, “so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.” In diversity-world, traditional “domination” students are chumps, who, through discipline and diligence, win academic success honorably. Earned dignity is passé to modern administrators, who, when confronted with the silly demands of their stroppy wards, trample the foundational principles of liberal education, in a flurry of moral preening, followed by a spate of vain concessions.
The concessions of diversity have found no harmony. Instead, they have created what Mr. Schlesinger found:
black dormitories, black student unions, black fraternities and sororities, black business and law societies, black homosexual and lesbian groups, black tables in dining halls. … "ethnic theme houses." … separate armed camps. The black kids don't mix with the white kids. The Asians are off by themselves. Oppression is the great status symbol.
… Asians live in Asia House, Jews in "J" House, Latinos in Spanish House, blacks in African-Heritage House, foreign students in Third World House. Even the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Union has broken up into racial and gender factions.
Today the aggrieved factions huddle in safe zones and cringe behind orwellian speech codes, trigger warnings, and behavior intervention teams that protect them from offensive language. Yet when such language carries rational inquiry instead of social justice, or demands for excellence instead of acceptance of mediocrity, it becomes hate speech, which must be eliminated. Intellectual diversity is sacrificed for skin color and gender diversity.
Marginalized minority groups view the white majority as the source of their grief (the “white problem”), and attack its history as being offensive to them. But it is unclear how these attacks advance their goals. Will the eradication of historically offensive objects reduce their periods of grief, freeing up more time to study? In any case, the effort to remove what offends -- to tear down historic statues, monuments, and flags; rename streets, buildings, and holidays; and ban books, movies, and music (e.g., Christmas carols and the national anthem) -- has backfired. They have been largely spurned by the general white public, which has shown little sympathy for the desecration of its own culture, and wonders where the destructive absurdities will end.
In Diversity’s quest for social justice, and the inevitable mediocrity of scholastic equality, it faces the ongoing task of assessing ever changing quantities of grief. How should it set its quotas for the rapidly growing Hispanic population, or the white and black populations that it crowds out? What should it do for Asian-American students, who are already being punished, well, for their academic excellence? And how does it placate gender identity groups, as new genders are invented?
Despite the ongoing juggling of quotas, increasingly in their favor, marginalized identity groups continue to suffer the grief of microaggressions. A microaggression is statement, gesture, or facial expression -- usually ambiguous, often unintentional, almost always by a white student -- that offends a marginalized minority student or his entire identity group. A white student asking an Asian student for help solving a math problem is an example. A black or Hispanic or female student asking that question is not. A white student asking Asian or Hispanic students where they are from is a microaggression; Asian and Hispanic students could feel unwelcome, thought of as not real Americans. A white student trying to be nice to a marginalized minority student is a microaggression, if the act is thought to be superficial. Both may be better examples of nanoaggressions.
Speech codes banning certain words and phrases have been developed to prevent microaggressions. The University of Michigan’s Inclusive Language Campaign includes “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “ghetto” and “illegal alien” as offensive terms, since they “offend the mentally ill, the disabled, gays, poor minorities and illegal immigrants, respectively.” “Kinky” is an example of a term that only offends black students. “America is the land of opportunity” is an example of a phrase that offends all students. The phrase “I want to die” has also been banned. It offends a new campus identity group (one whose rapid growth in recent years has perhaps been propelled by Diversity’s milieu of depression and anxiety): Suicidal-American students.
But no aspect of American education has experienced more grief than intellectual diversity. Diversity proponents reject intellectual diversity, especially the conservative and libertarian variety. Conservatives and libertarians are virtually absent from administrations and faculties, ensuring that students are not exposed to ideas that might challenge the dogma of social justice. Protests, often violent protests, are reflexively launched against speakers from outside of diversity’s intellectual bubble.
Alas, grief has even spread to the bowels of Diversity. According to a recently published study, diversity educators are victims of burnout, compassion fatigue, and racial battle fatigue, inflicted by “the emotional weight” of their jobs.” Their “consistent exposure to various microaggressions,” no doubt “from unruly students” aggrieved by juvenile, overbearing diversity policies, are considered to be “forms of assault and torture” – ironically, and deservedly, so.
Imagine a beleaguered diversity educator taking shelter in a campus safe house from a heavy rain storm. He takes off his jacket as he passes the coloring book and play-dough area, and lies down on a nearby couch to relax. He thinks about his officious day of soothing the aggrieved, censoring speech, sniffing out bias, and, in general, carrying out the morass of Diversity’s obtrusive rules to ensure intellectual and social conformity at his institution. “Compassion fatigue” brings sleep, and dreams of his pompous job, of what Toqueville would have called “soft despotism,” to enforce “a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd.” He wakes abruptly, snapping upright, quivering in a cold sweat, having mistaken a bolt of thunder for the clash of ideas, and the rush of rain for his dignity swirling around the bowl.