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Jewish World Review
December 26, 2012 / 13 Teves, 5773
When libs devalue diversity
A. Barton Hinkle
Last week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley named Tim Scott, a congressman, to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. By any measure this should qualify as a triumph of diversity. Haley is the daughter of Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, who immigrated to the U.S. from Punjab. She is the first female governor of the first state to have seceded from the Union and the last state to have removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse which it did, amid much controversy, only 12 years ago.
Scott is black. On Jan. 3, he will become the only African-American in the Senate, the first one from the South since the 19th century and only the fifth in American history. Scott was raised by a single mother who worked 16 hours a day. He struggled in high school but, thanks to strong mentoring, went to college and became a successful businessman before moving on to Congress.
You would think liberals would be delighted given the frequency with which they urge everyone to "celebrate diversity" and the fervor with which they often do so themselves.
Recall, for example, the lyrical effusions that issued forth when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to become the first Hispanic (and only the third woman) on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and was raised in a public-housing project in the Bronx. This made her a "trailblazer and a dreamer," in the words of The New York Times. ThinkProgress cheered her nomination's "historic nature." President Obama called her story "inspiring." There was a lot of gushing along those lines.
Scott's appointment has been greeted rather differently.
"Meet Sen. Tim Scott: The Tea Party Lawmaker Who Wanted to Impeach President Obama and Kick Kids off Food Stamps," said ThinkProgress. The next day it dug up this "EXCLUSIVE: 'Anti-Earmark' Senator Tim Scott Sought Federal Funds for Pet Projects in South Carolina." "South Carolina's New GOP Senator Less Crazy Than the Old One," cracked Mother Jones. A spokesman for the NAACP says Scott's voting record raises "major concerns."
An Indiana radio host termed Scott "an ultra-right-wing, tea-party devotee U.S. senator who's black only in skin color." Current magazine offered "Nine Reasons Newly Appointed Tea Party Senator, Tim Scott, is Worse than You Think." The New York Times met Scott's appointment with an op/ed column on "The Puzzle of Black Republicans." It deemed the recent increase in black representation "a mixed blessing" and called Scott just a "cynical token."
Wait a second. What happened to all the deep concern about how the Senate "lacks diversity"? Apparently an increase in diversity is nothing to celebrate after all at least if the person who is increasing it is conservative.
And if that conservative is black then his blackness, apparently, is inauthentic. (Scott isn't the only one to receive that treatment recently: The other day, an ESPN commentator suggested Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III could be merely a "cornball brother" and therefore "not one of us" because of his white fiancée and allegedly Republican politics.)
It is not a new observation to note that those who "celebrate diversity" often mean diversity in everything but thought; that tolerance of "the other" does not extend to other viewpoints. It is, in fact, almost a cliché. But that makes it all the more damning: It has become a cliché because further evidence keeps appearing.
As U.Va.'s Jonathan Haidt has noted, liberal academics routinely assume discrimination must be the cause of any statistical under-representation in a given setting "but when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations" that somehow justify the disparity.
This is telling. And what it tells us is that, at least some of the time, calls for more diversity are actually calls for something else. As demographic cohorts, women and minorities tend to lean more liberal and Democratic. Hence the demand for greater diversity in political institutions may not really be a demand for more women, blacks, or Latinos but rather a veiled demand for more liberals. Diversity, then, is sometimes just a code word.
But maybe this is too uncharitable an interpretation. So, a thought experiment for progressives: Given the choice between 10 more conservative black senators like Tim Scott, or 10 more liberal white senators like Bernie Sanders, which would they prefer? The answer could suggest what kind of "diversity" they think matters most.
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A. Barton Hinkle is Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages at Richmond Times-Dispatch
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