The Outstater

December 28, 2020

ALTHOUGH THE DEBATE is over as to whether equality should be “of opportunity” or “of results” (we lost), there are doubts that still nag. The bullet points below reflect our random thoughts denying the winning side’s promise of a better society:

• There is a rise of diversity “officers” at every level from elementary school to university. We are told that the school board of prestigious Park Tudor in Indianapolis hired one even though the school is 20 percent “minority.” Our local branch of Purdue University announced the appointment of one last week. And a diversity “czar” was named last month to oversee all of state government.

Set aside for now the role of political officers in socialist history. Let’s address the job description itself. The purpose of the modern diversity officer is not to create opportunity per se. It is to advance those who have not advanced otherwise — and for undetermined reasons. We say undetermined because the diversity officer does not justify his or her recommendations, decrees and judgments with evidence of actual prejudice or even unfairness. All that is needed is the statistical disparity itself. It is wrong or at least insufficient for a water faucet, for sake of example, to be available to anyone and everyone at any time. It must be made available in demographic order and in social and cultural categories determined by the diversity officers themselves. That is a formula for resentment-fed autocracy, not individual prosperity and well-being.

• Along those lines it is useful to review the work of the economist Thomas Sowell, who has said so many wise words on education that it is hard to choose a quote. Here is a start: “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” One of his early statistical observations was that a characteristic of groups that did well in school relative to other groups was the seemingly obvious parental admonition, “Do what the teacher tells you to do.” That proved true even in households where the parents spoke no English.

• Professional titles have crept upward to appropriate achievement. TakiMag posits that if you stop someone in a hospital wearing a white coat, it may be the janitor. So many employees wear white coats now that doctors no longer consider them distinctive, even the long ones reserved for staff physicians. And the Army recently discounted the special forces beret to worthlessness by allowing even sad sacks in the motor pool to wear one. The person in your high school class voted most likely to be an executive secretary now has “Vice President in Charge of Appointments” on her name plate. Finally, there is a company, Books by the Foot, that will fill your bookshelf to impress Zoom meetings.

• Michelle Obama has shamed a generation with the accusation that white flight to the suburbs during her childhood was caused by racial prejudice, a viewpoint that seems to have defined her personality.  William Voegeli of the Claremont Review of Books wonders if it had anything to do with young Michelle (née Robinson). He thinks that crime rather than pigment was the motivating factor: “Some whites who fled South Shore (Obama’s Chicago neighborhood) and communities like it in the decades after World War II were prejudiced. Others were simply observant — of rising crime, devastating riots, deteriorating public schools, vanishing business opportunities and plunging property values.” 

A political corollary holds that the prejudice was built into the big city administrations (most of them white and Democrat). Once blacks moved into a neighborhood, city hall turned its back on its civic responsibilities. How, though, do we explain the plight of these same neighborhoods once a city is run by black elected officials? In any case, Voegeli argues that to state Ms. Obama’s position is to demonstrate its unreality: Did whites really have a moral duty to risk solvency and family by staying in a dangerous neighborhood?

• A friend graduated 40 years ago from a prestigious university with a Ph.D. and the highest of recommendations. In all those years he has never been fully employed in his chosen field. His career coincided with an “equality” push in universities throughout the nation. Women and minorities filled the positions for which he arduously trained. My friend was not damaged; he raised a fine family and made his mark in many other ways. The question, however, is whether academia was damaged. At West Point, for example, where the social-justice method of selection has been the rule for a couple of decades, Joint Force Quarterly found that two-thirds of today’s officers would be in the bottom one-third of the class of 1980. A generation selected by whimsy can produce a heap of stupid.

• On the topic of the military, it is tough duty pretending that women are equal to men in combat. True, there are individual women who can hold their own but they are too few to meaningfully contribute to a modern fighting force. Nor are they needed, there being plenty of willing and capable men available even in a post-draft army. Nonetheless, the political mood demands that accommodations be made (emergency leave for shipboard pregnancies, etc.). The most costly, though, may be paid in something as critical as fighting reach. Because too few female recruits could throw a grenade farther than the blast range, it was thought there would have to be two classes of grenades. The U.S. Army, always resourceful, solved that potentially costly logistic problem by lifting the requirement that recruits throw a grenade any particular distance.

That last makes the point neatly: If we are determined to self-destruct, mandating precise numerical diversity will work as well as anything. — tcl


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