Back in March in these pages, I posited the classic question from the film “Office Space” to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion departments of our nation’s companies.
“What would you say … you do here?”
Almost a year later, and arguably for the first time in its decades-long history, the purveyors of privilege theory in the workplace, their backs to the wall, have no choice but to tackle this question head on.
A perfect storm has erupted after Claudine Gay, former president of Harvard, as well as a champion and beneficiary of DEI, was found to have been guilty of a Giza-sized pyramid of plagiarism and forced to resign.
This comes at a time when, across the business landscape, more and more companies are ditching their identity-driven DEI departments, both to save money and because it isn’t terribly clear what value they provide.
It is before this backdrop that billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in gleaming white armor, took to social media this week to defend progressive diversity programs.
In response to fellow billionaire Elon Musk posting, quite reasonably, on his platform X that DEI is “discrimination on the basis of race” and therefore racist, Cuban tried to make a practical argument for the programs. It is worth quoting at length:
“Good businesses look where others don’t, to find the employees that will put your business in the best possible position to succeed. You may not agree, but I take it as a given that there are people of various races, ethnicities, orientation, etc [sic] that are regularly excluded from hiring consideration. By extending our hiring search to include them, we can find people that are more qualified. The loss of DEI-Phobic companies is my gain.”
One must grant that this is a positive and, if accurate, persuasive argument for DEI, so persuasive in fact that one wonders why programs providing such great value are being disbanded so quickly.
But there is, alas, a fatal flaw here because, in fact, companies that have DEI departments do not hire substantially more non-White employees as Cuban claims.
Axios attempted to argue this week that businesses without DEI programs lack diversity, but when you look at the study the outlet cites from Revelio Labs you see that firms with DEI hire non-White workers 40.1% of the time, while those without do so at a rate of 36.4%.
That chasm isn’t exactly a Grand Canyon of workplace discrimination.
For Blacks and Asian Pacific Islanders, the differences in hiring rate was almost exactly at a miniscule 1%.
So, it turns out that Cuban’s enlightened self-interest is neither very enlightened, nor particularly self-interested, since businesses that don’t pay millions for diversity seminars are still benefiting from diversity.
But Cuban has moved the ball forward here, because through this exchange we might find that rarest of all things today, something both sides can agree on.
Cuban is concerned that we will throw the baby of positive diversity out with the woke bath water of DEI, and not entirely without reason.
The American workforce did not arrive at its current, laudable, levels of diversity completely organically, this was a choice our society made.
From the mid- to the late-20th century legislative and social pressure not only diversified hiring and advancement, but dispelled stereotypes about aptitude. All in all, it was a success.
The problem with DEI as practiced in boardrooms today is its Orwellian orthodox. It serves only itself, when goals are attained, it is irrelevant because the whole foundation of the business, and of the society is supposedly racist.
But doing away with the performative and confessional conventional DEI programs and seminars does not mean that a commitment to diversity should be ignored or abandoned.
We should celebrate diversity, or more specifically, we should celebrate that the Americans who came before us were dedicated to an equality of opportunity that in its due course will always produce diversity.
What everyone on all sides of this argument should agree on is that the ultimate goal is a society in which diversity occurs organically. Some people think we are already there, some think we will never get there and most think we are somewhere on the way.
Beyond the slings and jibes, the social media zingers and ringing accusations of racism hurled by all sides, there is a way forward here, one that requires listening to each other, respectfully, and deciding exactly what kind of society and country we want to be.
Hopefully, one that is always seeking, if not always attaining, a more perfect union.