Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Back in the Eighties when “diversity” and “multiculturalism” were starting to invade the universities, critics like me used to ask proponents if they wanted to apply “diversity” to selecting brain surgeons and airline pilots. Seems our common sense was naïve. According to an op-ed by Stanley Goldfarb, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, medical schools are under pressure to include in its curriculum “social justice” shibboleths like gun-control, climate change, and eliminating racial disparities.
We are reaching new levels of dangerous absurdity when the study of medicine––perhaps our most practical, science-based discipline with concrete outcomes easily visible even to laymen––is being diluted to satisfy progressive ideology and dubious scientism.
Yet we should have expected that this day would come. From the moment that the Supreme Court in the 1978 Bakke case enshrined into federal law a concept the vagueness of which was exceeded only by its complete lack of empirical evidence that it provided any measurable benefits. More important, “diversity” as progressives understand it, is an ideological and political weapon divorced from reality.
To start, true diversity is a fact of human history, one oversimplified and corrupted by our continuing reliance on the modern concept of “race,” which was given scientific pretensions by “scientific racism” starting in the late 19th century. A term like “white” is useless, for example, when it comes to the ancient Mediterranean where Western civilization began. Europe at the time of Roman expansion was fragmented into hundreds of tribes with distinct languages and dialects, cultures and mores, religions and cults, geographical circumstances and available resources. Constant warfare, enslavement, and trade promoted continuous intermingling of these peoples and the creation of hybrid cultures that belie the notion of a unified, distinct “race.” To say all those peoples were “white” is to say nothing meaningful for understanding them.
Or take the English, who comprised the bulk of colonial America’s people. England’s people were the consequence of centuries of intertribal invasion and cross-breeding, its language a pastiche of at least five different dialects. They were culturally diverse as well, particularly in the case of religious denominations. The peoples who came to America and established the United States represented several different “nations,” in the sense of rivalrous cultural, dialectic, and religious differences. Indeed, given that diversity, it was indeed a “miracle in Philadelphia” that the Constitution could be written and ratified by the states. It was that diversity, moreover, that the Founders took into account when they created a mixed government of separated and balanced powers, and respected the sovereignty and diversity of the states to counter the centralized power of the federal government.
To argue, as hacks like Howard Zinn and the New York Times’s “1619 Project” do, that this country reflects the unified, homogeneous racialist interests of “white males” is to speak historiographical gibberish. I was lucky to have grown up in the rural San Joaquin Valley, among a wild variety of ethnicities. The categories “black” and “white” were useful only to Jim Crow segregationists, who like today’s diversicrats and multi-cultis, relied on the fundamentally racist assumption that skin color, hair texture, accent, and nose-shape expressed the essential human reality of people.
But all these outward markers were useless for understanding what created the distinct identities of the Southern black, Mexican, Armenian, Basque, Portuguese, Southern Italian, Volga German, Swedish, and Dust Bowl immigrants who flocked to the Valley. Nor could those superficial physical characteristics justify making them into a collective called “white” or “black” or, most egregiously, “Hispanic.” They were and are what their cultures, circumstances, and experiences made them. The lives of the “whites” I knew were light-years from the stereotypical “white” people one saw in Fifties and Sixties sit-coms like The Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, and the like.
Believe me, those worlds were completely alien to the truly diverse world I grew up in. Ward Cleaver never started laying down rounds from his M-1 carbine, like my dad did, to chase off trespassers in our pastures. Dr. Alex Stone, Donna Reed’s fictional husband, never stuck a gun in a guy’s face for urinating in front of our house, or letting his dog run wild among our cattle. Steve Douglas of My Three Sons never regaled his family with tales of riding the rails, brawling in juke-joints, and leaving home at 15 to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps camps.
What I experienced growing up was real diversity, one ignored today by the fake “diversity” of progressives. Like the racists of old, they look to the same old superficial characteristics of people, now buttressed by stereotypes and invented “cultures” that lump millions of diverse black people, Mexicans, Latin Americans, and other chosen “victims” into crudely defined collectives oppressed by an equally crudely defined collective called “white people.” The distinctions of class, culture, religion, and region within those collectives are then sacrificed to the racialist, progressive narrative that inveterate white “racism” is responsible for the failure of some chosen minorities to succeed.
More destructive, this narrative requires that the most important diversity–– that of individual minds and opinions and characters––be ignored. The result is a rigid orthodoxy, intolerant of dissent and opinions that challenge the racialist narrative. That is, the opposite of diversity. Instead it is a unified dogma more typical of totalitarian societies, and a diminishment of the complex, quirky humanity of the very people they claim to represent.
But as the lawyers say, cui bono? Who benefits from holding on to this racist vocabulary? Why do our government documents and censuses ask our “race”? For progressive elite blacks in sports, entertainment, corporations, education, and politics, the racial melodrama and the white guilt it fosters provide them with social and career leverage, and with camouflage for their privilege that is far greater than that of most white Americans.
Watch the debates featuring affluent, highly educated black candidates vying for the Democrat presidential primary candidacy. Their diction, their appearance, their dirigiste economics reek of privilege that millions of “white” people will never enjoy. Yet they run on about “white privilege,” “white supremacists,” “endemic racism,” “implicit bias,” “intersectionality,” “disparate impacts,” and other magical thinking that misdirects attention from their own privilege. That they demonize the president who has done more to materially improve ordinary black people’s lives than they, Barack Obama, or the Black Congressional Caucus have, adds shameless hypocrisy to this sleight-of-hand. Meanwhile, real crises afflicting some black communities––broken families, predatory gangs, failed schools, high murder rates, and an astronomical rate of abortion––are scanted as candidates fulminate over the racism of Donald Trump and his “white supremacist” supporters.
More significant, progressives in general have kept the narrative alive as the permanent “crisis” they will never let “go to waste.” It provides the pretext for policies and programs that relentlessly expand the federal government: More redistributed wealth to fund entitlements for political clients; and more federal jobs to expand a deep-pockets donor base of government workers. And don’t forget metastasizing regulations imposed on small businesses that can’t afford, like corporations, the extra expense; and more interference in private life, civil society, and the public square that narrows the scope of our freedom and autonomy.
Again, if you need evidence, listen to the Democrat candidates and their policy proposals like “Medicare for all,” the “Green New Deal,” racial reparations, gun confiscation, calls to limit protected speech, demands for higher taxes, and other policies that have one aim: to expand the power of the federal technocratic elite at the expense of individuals, civil society, and the sovereign states.
Finally, let’s not forget the ancient human propensity to assert that one is better than everybody else. The race melodrama provides endless opportunities for moral preening, virtue-signaling, displays of self-righteousness, and other signs of a social, moral, and political status higher than that of those “white” racist, sexist, homophobic, Bible-thumping, National Anthem-singing rubes and hicks living in flyover country.
Unfortunately, the racialist narrative is deeply embedded in politics, education, and popular culture. Its moral idiocy and rank hypocrisy have debased our public institutions, and its divisiveness has eroded the national solidarity––the unum–– that in our mixed constitution allows the country’s real diversity––the pluribus–– to coexist without compromising our freedom.
These malign consequences of identity politics and racialist narratives have long been obvious. But with the medical profession going down the road of politically correct “diversity” and “social justice” sermonizing, while displacing the professional knowledge required to be a good doctor, those consequences may become lethal.