Friday, February 27, 2009

Diversity Thursday

While pondering AttnGen Holder's "we are a nation of cowards" comment, Jennifer Rubin nails it.
It remains a bit of a mystery as to what type of discussion Holder wants us to have. Does he really want whites and African Americans arguing in coffee shops and loading docks as to why the rate of out-of-wedlock birth rates for African Americans is so high? Does he intend to have college admissions officers candidly discuss the degree to which they employ race-based preferences at elite universities? Probably not.

There is more to quibble with than the specifics of Holder’s language, however. It is apparent from even a cursory review of racial politics in the last few decades that the premise of the speech — that we have not spent enough time or energy dealing with race in this country — is seriously flawed. Indeed, in the name of accounting for our past racial sins and correcting ongoing inequality we have become a country immersed in racial discussion and are awash in race-based preferences in employment, university admissions, and government contracting.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the private sector workplace, where this issue is often subsumed under the buzz word of “diversity.” Most Fortune 500 companies have policies, personnel, and resources devoted to instructing and cajoling employees to promote and hire racial minorities. But this goes far beyond merely prohibiting illegal discrimination.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, in testimony before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2006 (updated in 2007), observed that the obsession with trying to rebalance the racial composition of American workplaces has consumed private entities for years. He reported:
There is a significant amount of discrimination taking place now in the name of diversity. Eight out of ten business executives said that affirmative-action programs had resulted in them giving jobs and promotions to applicants who were less qualified than others. … HR Magazine reported in 1998 that “executive recruiters confirm that more and more companies are placing orders specifically for females and ethnic minorities.” The Center for Equal Opportunity, too, has found that frequently recruiters brag about their ability to find diversity hires for companies.
We are not talking about perfectly legal and appropriate efforts simply to recruit broadly, prevent bias in the workplace, or root out illegal discrimination. What is at issue here is the institutionalization of efforts – in the name of diversity — to recruit, hire, and promote minority employees who are less qualified than their peers in order to boost numbers of minorities in the workplace. In many large and medium-sized companies, executives are judged and compensated specifically on fulfilling diversity goals, which are thinly disguised quotas based on illegal racial and ethnic preferences. Clegg documents that this is par for the course at major employers including Wal-Mart, Kodak, Cisco Systems, BellSouth, Bank of America, and NBC. These are just a few of the country’s employers which reward and penalize managers based on how they rate in hiring and promoting minorities.

...“diversity” programs exist in part because non-lawyers and even misinformed lawyers have come to believe that discrimination in the name of diversity is acceptable. “The conventional wisdom is that this is okay,” says Clegg. Moreover, once personnel and resources (whole departments in some cases) are devoted to diversity programs, they take on the air of respectability and legitimacy.

So in this regard, Holder may have a point. Perhaps it is time to start talking more about all of this. Employees who observe discrimination masking as diversity would be better served to speak up and not remain mute in the face of diversity indoctrination and policies which reward hiring by race and ethnicity. As Clegg says, employees “shouldn’t accept this. They should complain about it.” Skirting or outright violation of the law for some ill-conceived notion of diversity is, Clegg reminds us, “all bad stuff.” And in these economic times it may in fact have significant adverse consequences for non-minority employees who may not enjoy a plethora of employment or promotional opportunities.

Holder, it seems, may have unintentionally stumbled on a truth lurking in many workplaces in America. Employees, by and large, have passively accepted the institutionalization of “diversity,” which is nothing more than disguised discrimination. They are reluctant to speak up both because of fear of the social confrontation and of potential adverse employment consequences. But they should not be afraid to discuss, protest, and confront racism in the workplace — however it is dressed up.

If more employees begin to do just that as a result of Holder’s speech, it would have contributed (albeit unintentionally) to the further reduction of discrimination in America. And that would be a very good thing indeed.
Read it all. You need to brush up on "best business practices" you know.

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