Diversity

Among governments and on campuses today in the Western world, (but revealingly, not anywhere else), “diversity” has suddenly become a prevalent, if not defining, word. We do not seek truth or unity or agreement or the common good. We seek something called “diversity.” Once the categories of “diversity” are set down, they are not to be criticized. Diversity critics show “prejudice,” the worst of sins.

In a basic sense, of course, every existing thing in its particularity is different from everything else. We do not have to “seek” diversity. We are simply diverse. I am not you. You are not Abraham Lincoln. I am not a rabbit. You are not an oak tree. A major purpose of our having a mind is to point these things out. This thing is not that.

But if everything is simply “diverse,” we are back in nominalism. We have nothing in common. It is evident, however, that common traits exist. We notice that horses are not dogs. And neither a horse nor a dog is a pear. Horses, dogs, and pears are living things. Stones are not.

We find that we cannot talk about “diversity” without talking about unity. Everyone really understands this principle without too much reflection. Beings with life, sensory powers, and intelligence, furthermore, seem to have an ordered unity of different levels of being within them.

But from whence comes this sudden elevation of “diversity” to a central political and educational goal? Is it all that neutral? Diversity is often related to quotas, though the relation is tricky. Governments get into the business of insisting on proportions as a sign of the diversity that they insist on fostering. They think they are doing something called “justice.”

We try to divide mankind up into categories. But we find so many. We try black, white, Asian, Indian, Spanish-speaking, heaven knows what. Much attention used to be paid to people of different parentage. What happens when an Asian marries a Spanish-speaker? What are the children? How far back do we carry this? To grandparents, great-grandparents? I heard of a bishop whose ethnic background includes being 1/64 Indian of some tribe or other. He gets annual tribal money on that basis, presumably from the casinos. The talk about “reparations” for political disorders of a century or more ago presumes a corporate guilt thesis alongside of an “I-am-a-product-of-my-past” determinism.

But “diversity” is, when spelled out, rather more sinister than the thesis that every job or profession must have some identifiable percentage of members of various subdivisions of race, sex, language, degree of handicap, and whatever else one wants to put in or leave out.

Can we then admit that in fact certain people of the same “diversity” are more enterprising than others, more intelligent, or more willing to work? Does this latter kind of “diversity” need to be factored into our calculations? As happens in union situations, is it against the custom or rules to work too hard, to lay too many bricks? And if someone does work hard, is he being “exploited?” Or is he being unfair to those who cannot or will not work as well as he does? Do they both deserve equal pay whatever they do?

Diversity theory has its moral overtones. Once we define homosexual “marriage” as a “normal diversity,” it follows that all benefits and adoption rights follow from the legal recognition. The right of a child to a proper mother and father, of course, does not follow. It is an unaccepted “diversity.”

Europe is a pioneer in forbidding any real discussion of the religious causes of terrorism coming from Islam. This prohibition is just another application of diversity. Diversity theory is never neutral. It is an agenda that seeks to allow and disallow what the positive laws establish. It is law unrelated to reason.

So can “diversity” change human nature? Can it make right wrong and wrong right on the grounds that they are merely diverse ways of doing something? Once we set up “diversity” criteria as our operative principle of rule, we must see to it that our institutions and words mirror the established “diversity” criteria.

If the criterion of a “diversity” university is that it has a certain quota of its faculty and student body according to the defined percentages of members of the society as politically calculated, does this criterion end up serving or undermining the purpose of a university to seek the truth?

The real enemy of diversity is, I think, truth. Diversity is, in fact, a much easier thing to establish. You just have to know how to count, though the effort to categorize just who belongs to the preferred categories is bewildering. Indeed, it makes the whole enterprise artificial. In the end, diversity proselytism almost always becomes something artificial, which is to say, something unnatural.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, was one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his many books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught, Catholicism and Intelligence, and, most recently, On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018.

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