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On Diversity

Diversity is not charity. Can we get clear about that? You aren’t going to get a pat on the back for diversity because it isn’t a charitable act. What does diversity mean? Usually in our society it means that there is a proportional representation of the groups of people we actually count. If our society were completely just we would neither have to comment on diversity or focus on diversity because it would happen naturally. There are barriers to access, that is why we have to talk, think and work on diversity, so when you have diversity, you are not being charitable, you are doing the basic right thing, and as my students will tell you, you don’t get praised for doing the baseline good thing. So, I want to get that out of the way. You are doing no one any favors for diversity, you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, I don’t owe you a thanks and I am not in debt to you. I say this, because I can’t tell you how many times people have told me to be grateful to Stanford. I am glad I was educated there, I am proud of my association, I value my education but I don’t owe them anything, admitting me was the basic good thing to do. They weren’t doing me any favors. I had the same things that all of the other kids who got in had and everyone at Stanford is being financially supported by someone else, whether that is their parents or Stanford. They weren’t doing me any favors by admitting me, they were doing their job, which is to provide an education to the best and the brightest of our country. If your system purports to do that and then is disproportionately one group then it is failing at its goal, so no gold stars for diversity.

Diversity is also not good just because it nice. I want to get clear about that too. When we talk about diversity we talk about it as if it is just “nice” and as if it only benefits the underrepresented group. This is nonsense. Stanford and the elites in society gain a lot from having me around, first and foremost, they gain the right to claim that we have a meritocracy and aren’t operating as a feudal system, which is really important to them if they would like to keep their power. The other thing they gain is from my experience. I work at an integrated school. My privileged kids gain a lot more educationally from being around non-privileged kids than my poor kids gain from going to school with the rich. Sure my poor kids get the resources of privileged kids, but they also have to deal with nearly constant bigotry, whereas my privileged kids are learning a lot about the world from their peers.

Walmart recently asked that people donate canned goods to feed their employees and was SHOCKED when people were offended and disturbed. That shows you how out of touch and delusional they are. This delusion is a major problem in our society and system right now. Look at Congress and Wall Street. They are clearly out-of-touch and incapable of doing their jobs. They are failing at their jobs. They should be fired. There are many reasons they are failing but a big one is that they don’t understand anyone outside of their narrow worldview. This is also the reason that the TFAers on my campus are struggling, most of them have limited life experience. The Stanford kiddos who were privileged gained educationally from me being around and if there were more people with my life experience with positions of power the people with power would be making a lot fewer stupid decisions, or at least would have more tact when they are making them because then someone in the room would say: “hey, I know from experience that what you are doing is stupid, let’s try something else.” Having to listen to that kind of bigotry really doesn’t benefit me, but the resources do, so it is a fair trade, not charity.

Diversity is good, not because it is nice, but because our society functions better when we have the truly brightest minds in positions of power. The folks at the top right now aren’t terribly impressive because our society is so stacked that it is easier for an idiot from privilege to get to power than it is for a genius from poverty to get to power. So we need diversity to function. You can’t have a claim to a meritocracy if you don’t have diversity. It is essential for our survival and for a functioning democracy. Our legitimacy as a government and society rests on the belief that all people should have the freedom and access to contribute as much as they can and to rise to the top if they have the talent and drive to do so. It has never been the case that that has been true, but we’ve always at least tried to act as though that were a goal. Right now we are not, this is a very bad idea if we want to maintain the system we have. People will only tolerate being lied to for so long.

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