"diversity" in plain language, race and gender
preferences underpinned by a multiculturalism that elevates ethnic
identities over a common American identity become America's
new civic religion? Or will it collapse under the increasing weight
of its own contradictions?
As with most
Great Social Questions, this is a hard one to answer because the
signs point in opposite directions.
eventual collapse is suggested by the changing ratio of donors to
recipients just as with the Social Security system. When
hiring and college-admission preferences were introduced in the
late sixties, they benefited the 11 percent of Americans who were
the descendants of black slaves at the cost of the 89 percent who
were not. With the extension of such privileges to women, Latinos,
Native Americans, Eskimos and most significant of all
tens of millions of new immigrants, they now benefit two-thirds
of Americans at the expense of the one-third who are white or Asian
action" preferences now impose heavier and more visible costs
on these "donors" in terms of lost jobs, promotions denied,
and college places taken by others. And that is likely to stimulate
political opposition to them over time.
On the other
side of the ledger again, as with Social Security
the more voters a program benefits, the more difficult it is to
abolish. It is a tribute to the dispassionate moral outlook of many
(at times, most) black and Latino Americans that they have consistently
opposed preferences since the late 1960s because they put fairness
and legal equality above their own self-interest. But the longer
such preferences remain in place, the more they are likely to be
seen as a legitimate entitlement by those who grew up with them.
So minority and women voters are likely to support them in ever-greater
Even more passionate
support will come from the lawyers and bureaucrats, both in government
and in private corporations, who administer preferential programs,
benefit from them directly in terms of income and power, and so
want to see them extended rather than curtailed.
join other American elites in politics, business, and cultural institutions
in deriving from their support of diversity a sense of psychological
superiority over the majority of "racist, sexist and homophobic"
Americans. It adds to this warm glow of morality, of course, that
the children of these elites somehow get into the best schools and
law firms despite preferences the costs of which therefore
fall disproportionately on middle- and working-class whites and
both political parties support diversity preferences the
Democrats because their political base is rooted in the black, Latino,
and other minority communities; and the Republicans because they
want to make inroads into that base.
calculation may be cynical, but it is at least a shrewd appreciation
of what their voters want. The Republicans have not realized that
minority voters who lean to the GOP, let alone whites and Asians,
are alienated by diversity preferences and ethnic consciousness-raising,
demoralized when their party adopts them, and would prefer a strong
defense of assimilation and Americanism. (But that is another column.)
diverging signs suggest is that diversity will be increasingly resented
and opposed as its burdens on Asian and white males grow heavier
but also defended and protected with increasing fervor by
a bipartisan coalition of ethnic interest groups, the diversity
industry, corporate, and academic bureaucrats, and the party leaderships.
We have already seen the first few battles in this war the
refusal of several local governments in California to implement
the voter initiatives banning preferences and failed bilingual education;
the invention of college admission rules that mimic preferences
in Texas, California, and Florida when the courts outlawed them;
the massive corporate donations to the pro-preference campaigns
in California and Washington State (which lost despite a five-to-one
spending advantage); and the Bush administration's quadrupling of
funds for bilingual education and its support for race preferences
in the Adarand case.
In the battle
that looms, the odds heavily favor the side favoring diversity.
It is better financed, better organized, better led, and handicapped
only by the fact that most voters oppose it whenever they get the
so, fighting diversity preferences will be a political battle. Those
conservative groups that place their hopes in the courts are fooling
themselves. Unfavorable court decisions will be either ignored or
evaded by the bureaucracies unless federal and state governments
have been compelled by the voters to crack down on them.
party will lead this fight indeed, they will have to be dragooned
into fighting it at all by individual congressmen, voter initiatives,
and idealistic political entrepreneurs like Ward Connerly and Ron
Unz who are leading national campaigns against racial preferences
and bilingual education respectively. Only when insurgent candidates
have won primaries or voter initiatives defeated establishment opposition
will the parties take fright and listen to most voters.
And the anti-preference
cause is most likely to win if it promulgates the honest truth that
diversity preferences are a cheap substitute for policies that would
genuinely assist minorities and the poor a reasonable cutback
in immigration to protect poorer Americans, including immigrants
already here, against low-wage competition; an education policy
that financially assists parents to remove children in dead-end
schools to better ones elsewhere, whether public or private; and
a strong law-and-order policy that leaves the people in the inner
city afraid of neither criminals nor the police.
policies might be briefly expensive in terms of money and taxes
but not in terms of ethnic strife and division. They would
in fact strengthen the solidarity of multi-ethnic America
and that would be far more characteristically American than a regime
of multicultural preferences. For what is remarkable about America
is not that it is diverse so are India, Brazil, Indonesia,
China and countless other polities but that it has hitherto
taken diverse ethnic groups and forged a united nation out of them.
Or, as we used
to say: e pluribus unum.
For more from
John O'Sullivan on multiculturalism, see "Diversity