This adds a veneer of scholarly respectability to what would otherwise be transparent political advocacy.
Like many American universities, the one in my city has an office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI). ODEI monitors bias and sponsors educational initiatives such as speakers and publications. It emphasizes that people from different racial, ethnic, nationality and other groups have differing perspectives. A prominent idea is that everyone on campus should respect these diverse points of view.
The Problem with the Diversity Industry
These ideas are laudable, but unfortunately, the practice fails to live up to the promise.
As in many other diversity movements on university campuses and in the wider community, diversity deans often restrict, rather than embrace, differences in viewpoints. They divide the world into oppressed and oppressors, thereby favoring some groups over others.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Diversity Office at the state university in my town sponsored radical campus speakers who presented a deeply biased and one-sided view of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Worse yet, the presentation was replete with anti-Semitic accusations. The presenters claimed that major American Jewish organizations spied on them because the OEDI speakers had promoted a “liberated” Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. They characterized Jews as Eurocentric snobs and said that Zionists are white supremacists. The presenters trivialized the Holocaust and said that Jews collaborated with Nazis to carry it out—-a false claim often made by anti-Semites.
Tackling Anti-Semitism on Campus
So how should a university address the problem of anti-Semitism on campus? How should this problem be viewed and what are the solutions? What is the big picture that will help to make sense of all this?
Some have proposed that we present data on anti-Semitic campus activity to university administrators.
But I have been uncomfortable with the strategy of trying to convince an all-too-often unresponsive university bureaucracy to address the needs of Jewish students. Why should we Jews need to argue that Jewish students should have a seat at the Diversity Table, along with other groups? Presumably, the core purpose of the Diversity Movement is to educate everyone about the history, needs and perspectives of various identity groups, and to ensure equitable policies towards, and attention to, these groups.
Understanding the Diversity Movement
I have come to some discomfiting conclusions.
First, the Diversity Movement is not what it claims to be. One clue is that California’s state-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum—the bible of the Diversity Movement in California—hardly conforms to the principle of equity espoused by its proponents. Equity means equal treatment. But the Curriculum prominently favors some groups over others. Most notably, the Curriculum identifies four “core” identity groups: African American; Chicano/Latino; Native American; and Asian American/Pacific Islander. The Curriculum explicitly calls for these groups to be a focus. By implication, this relegates all other groups to secondary status.
In response to pressure from Jewish groups, anti-Semitic content was removed from the Curriculum. Islamophobia was also included. But these are clearly afterthoughts. Lest there be any doubt, the framers of the Model Curriculum name the four “core” groups as “foundational disciplines.” To secure their claim to favored status for these groups, the framers stress that “The adaptations [to the Curriculum] should center on deepening or augmenting, rather than scaling down any of the four disciplines.” And rather than identifying these four groups as interest groups or constituencies, they call them “disciplines.” This adds a veneer of scholarly respectability to what would otherwise be transparent political advocacy.
The naming of four core groups exposes the true motive of the Diversity Entrepreneurs who promote the Curriculum: to differentiate between the Entrepreneurs’ most and least favored groups. The Diversity Consensus is based on the idea that some groups are oppressed and lack power. These are the victim groups. Least favored groups are those who are oppressors of the favored groups. These oppressors have historically (so the party line goes) exploited and abused the oppressed groups.
This drama is all too familiar. What the Diversity Entrepreneurs have done is to adapt old and now discredited Marxist ideology to the field of race, ethnicity and gender—-and more recently they have extended it to other “oppressed groups” also clamoring to join the Victim Club. Marxists imagined a dramatic struggle between the owners of capital and the workers or proletariat. But the Marxist narrative became discredited when the horrors of Marxist experiments—-such as the Soviet Union and China—-became too obvious to dismiss. Enter the Diversity Entrepreneurs. In place of economic class, they divided the world into Identity Groups. The central feature of division into Oppressor and Oppressed has been retained. As in the past, this artificial division is the source of much inter-group resentment and fuels the sanctimonious posturing that is seen among Diversity Entrepreneurs.
Second, although the Diversity Movement claims secular status, it shares many commonalities with much older religious movements. These include rigid doctrine, ostracism of those who violate that doctrine, and a posture of moral superiority. The Diversity Movement also has some characteristics of a cult, for example, a specialized language and the use of old words with new and particular meanings. These include: diversity, equity, inclusion, ally, traditionally disadvantaged, interlocking systems, ableism, power differential, mixed status undocumented families, feminist studies of whiteness, queer studies, queer ethnic studies, intersectional identities, intersectional feminist art history, feminist legal theory, queer theory, and more.
Third, the Diversity Movement has abandoned reason in favor of Diversity Doctrine. Thus, for example, Diversity Entrepreneurs claim that gender is entirely defined by subjective choice with no basis in biology. They reject the existence of obvious and well-documented differences among Identity Groups. Diversity Entrepreneurs reject evidence that men and women have different career talents and interests. Citing obvious differences among racial, ethnic and national groups is condemned as racist or supremacist. Diversity Entrepreneurs would have us believe that white nationalists are a growing menace while black nationalists do not exist; that disparities in criminal offending are entirely due to racism or other factors that deny agency to offenders; that despite evidence to the contrary, all Identity Groups have the same values, aspirations and world views. None of these views is rational.
In the face of all this, a question arises. What strategy should we, as Jews, pursue in securing Jewish interests on campus?
First, we should recognize that we Jews have particularistic interests, as do other groups. We should acknowledge the right to pursue and demand those interests.
Second, we should form alliances with other Identity groups, based on shared interests. We should not offer our support to movements that deny or actively work against Jewish interests. If another group seeks our support for their interests, we should insist on their support for ours. We should not offer our unconditional support for Diversity Entrepreneurs or others who do not support us.
We should avoid arguing that we deserve a place at the table of Diversity Groups because we are oppressed or because we suffer disadvantage or are under attack. We deserve an equal place at the Diversity Table simply because of who we are—-a proud nation of people who have made enormous contributions to every civilization in which we have lived.
We should always have the courage to speak out against injustices to, or attacks upon, Jews. Our dignity requires nothing short of that.
We should insist that objective truth exists. We should understand that the truth can never harm us. We should insist that those who speak untruths about us be challenged.
We should insist on the inalienable truth that Jewish religious concepts underlie much of Western systems of thought, justice, juris prudence and governance. We should take pride in this fact.
We should do good in the world. But we should also recognize that doing good does not define us as Jews. Rather, our unique ideas and moral values define us.
We should understand our unique place in history as an ancient nation of people, often persecuted, often successful by any measure; and as a purveyor of revolutionary ideas that have made the world a better place.