E-Pluribus | January 18, 2024
DEI in retreat; optimism for 2024; and getting to the truth on "truth."
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
John Sailer: The DEI Rollback
Pluribus has featured a number of articles recently evaluating the direction of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) model in business, education and elsewhere. At The Free Press, John Sailer, who has been in the vanguard of the efforts to expose DEI for what it is, says that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
. . .After what appeared to be an inexorable rise of the DEI bureaucracy through government, higher education, and business for the past few years, many now feel like Cox—and are taking action. Legislators have proposed and passed laws curtailing DEI practices. Businesses have trimmed their DEI positions. Some universities have voluntarily ditched mandatory diversity statements. DEI is still deeply entrenched at our institutions—but retrenchment is well under way.
Lawmakers in more than a dozen red states have either passed or proposed sweeping higher education reform packages curtailing DEI initiatives. Florida banned state funding for DEI programs. Texas banned DEI offices outright. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order in December that prohibited funding DEI initiatives not just at universities but within all state agencies.
[. . .]
Things are different in blue America. But there are a few signs even in these states that the mood has shifted. For the fall 2023 hiring cycle, for example, the University of Massachusetts Boston quietly eliminated its diversity statement requirement.
And last year, after I filed a public records request at the University of Washington, the school conducted an internal investigation into its psychology department, concluding that it had flagrantly discriminated against white and Asian job candidates. This report is unprecedented: a university exposed and condemned the excesses of its own DEI policies.
Where progressive legislators won’t curtail DEI, courts might. In August, a group of California Community Colleges professors sued over the system’s policy requiring all employees—faculty, administrators, and staff—to be evaluated for their diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility competencies.
There is reason to think cases like these will be taken seriously in the courts. In a ruling decades ago on McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, the Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment “does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.”
Read it all here.
ICYMI: Abigail Shrier: Three New Year's Resolutions for Americans
At the very start of 2024, Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, wrote an essay of encouragement for 2024 in the fight for the future of our country. Shrier warned against becoming bitter in the struggle, focusing rather on living a life with purpose “for America’s sake.”
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows, this civilization is in desperate need of a rescue mission: from those who would teach our kids to hate their bodies and to hate this country. From those who pretend that any nation can survive the unimpeded invasion occurring along our southern border. From district attorneys who refuse to prosecute criminals out of an ideological marriage to “equity,” and now apply the same coddling to the pro-Hamas crowd openly defying our laws and vandalizing our national monuments. If we can find new friends now to stand next to us, we ought to welcome them, and log the win. In a moment of emergency, we haven’t the luxury of behaving otherwise.
We all wish that more Americans had understood the dangers of DEI earlier. None of us should ever have allowed “white” to become a dirty word. A country committed to racial equality ought really to have known better. And letting teenage girls harm their bodies in irreversible ways based on ineffable gender identities? Was sounding the alarm even hard?
For some, it was. And the shallow gratification of “I told you so” does not actually advance any worthy goal. Our kids need a broad coalition of fighters for their future. And we won’t get that broad coalition if we force late arrivals to grovel or perform a Walk of Shame. Their need to save face is human and universal; allow for it.
Here is a humbling truth, which all conservatives must face: If you have been shouting anything from the rooftops for years, it is not to your credit that no one listened. That you did not change minds. That you did not form a winning alliance. That you instead earned attaboys online from the same crew who pledged you loyalty from the start. Bitterness is deeply unattractive; that may have been one reason the more rational side sometimes fails to win enough support.
We must be effective in defense of this country because our adversaries are remarkably so in its deconstruction. In just the last month, the pro-Hamas rallies shut down Grand Central Station, wrecked the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller center, blocked access to JFK airport right before Christmas and LAX right after, and defaced the Lincoln Memorial. Christmas day, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters chanting “Christmas is cancelled here” flooded the streets of New York City and clashed with police. They vandalized the office of Democratic House Representative Ritchie Torres, leaving him a baby Jesus doll soaked in red paint, and shut down the Oculus Transportation Hub at the World Trade Center. And, yes, it bears remembering that these “protesters” gaze at a conflict between a gang of homicidal rapists and a peaceable democratic ally, and side unequivocally with the jihadists.
They want to reshape the character of this country—to make it more like Western Europe—where Christians tread quietly and no longer have kids, and even Orthodox rabbis remove their kippot before walking home from synagogue. Our adversaries want Christians to think twice about coming to Jews’ defense, or hosting an apolitical public Christmas celebration. We can’t allow any of this, for America’s sake.
Read it all.
George Weigel: Claudine Gay, Jimmy Lai, and the Truth of Things
Writing for First Things, George Weigel presents us with a contrast between Claudine Gay and Jimmy Lai. While Gay attempted to defend herself with “my truth,” Lai has been imprisoned in Hong Kong for publishing THE truth about the regime that rules China. For those truly interested in the future of democracy, free speech and liberty, the choice is clear: Lai’s truth over “my truth.”
Hard as it may be for normal people to grasp, the notion that there is only “my truth” and “your truth,” but nothing properly describable as the truth, is virtually axiomatic in the humanities departments of American “elite” universities, and has been for some time. Now, following the Orwellian script in Animal Farm, the woke plague has created a situation in which some of those personal “truths” are deemed more equal than others’ “truths”—the superior truths being the “truths” of political correctness. As dean of the Harvard faculty, Claudine Gay was a vigorous proponent of the new axiom that some truths are truer than others. But in her apology, she reverted to the basic, postmodernist absurdity that “truth” is a matter of personal conviction rather than conviction anchored in reality. Her downfall thus illustrates another axiom, one that antedates postmodernism by almost two centuries: The Revolution devours its children (Jacques Mallet du Pan, writing from Paris 1793 as the tumbrils rolled).
When postmodernism first reared its head decades ago, some Christian thinkers suggested that its mantra of your-truth/my-truth might provide an opening to serious intellectual exchange with non-believers, which was impossible with those academic nihilists and relativists who denied that there was any truth at all. This always struck me as a forlorn hope. For what happens when there is only “your truth” and “my truth” and our “truths” collide? Absent any agreed horizon of judgment (call it “the truth”) against which we can settle our difference, either you will impose your power on me or I will impose my power on you.
Which means the death of serious conversation, of scholarship, and, ultimately, of democracy.
Seven thousand, four hundred and ninety-four miles away, I doubt the thought occurred to my friend Jimmy Lai; but the fact that the Claudine Gay affair coincided with the beginning of Jimmy’s trial on charges of having violated Chinese “national security” by defending the basic human rights of his fellow Hong Kongers nicely illustrated Oscar Wilde’s point about life imitating art—including the arts of irony.
For there was President Gay, trying to save herself by an appeal to “my truth,” while Jimmy was risking life imprisonment at a Stalinesque show trial because he had courageously borne witness to the truth: the truth that today’s Hong Kong regime is a thugocracy terrified by free speech and a free press; the truth that the Beijing regime that controls Hong Kong is comprehensively violating the commitments to honor basic human rights it had made when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997; and, perhaps above all, the truth that Catholic faith demands solidarity with those defending their God-given rights—rights that express built-in truths about the inalienable dignity and infinite value of every human life.
Read the whole thing.
Around Twitter (X)
The New England Patriots’ new coach said this at his introductory press conference: “I do see color, because I believe if you don’t see color you can’t see racism.” Conor Friedersdorf thinks he’s missing the point.
James Fishback has a new report at The Free Press on school libraries in Florida, reportedly a hotbed of right-wing censorship. Presumably, PEN America and the American Library Association will be up in arms!
And finally, Donald Trump is out with his latest defense (technically on Truth Social, but republished on Twitter/X.) Brace yourself for the “what he really means is” clarifications.