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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 1999/ 11 Tishrei, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings and Craig Cantoni

Marianne M. Jennings
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The Diversity Hoax -- FLIP THROUGH Federated Department Stores' (Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Lazarus) 1998 corporate fact book, and you'll find the diversity coverage, not its financial performance, a source of pride. Never mind earnings, we got diversity, a movement dedicated to the proposition of treating all arbitrarily and unequally. This movement is little more than Orwellian doublespeak, in which racial tolerance really means intolerance, equal opportunity means discrimination, and multiculturalism means racial favoritism.

For instance, this summer's Unity Conference of minority journalists was an exclusionary, separatist event in which race determined who got invited.

Titles from the sessions at the upcoming Society for Human Resource Management Workplace Diversity conference include: "What's a White Guy Doing in Diversity?" Or "Celebrating Cultural Diversity and Mediating Conflict," implying that the two go hand-in-hand? The brochure for an upcoming $1,000 per head conference sponsored by the National Multicultural Institute lists the keynote speaker as the host of a Black Entertainment Television show.

Someone from monocultural and monochromatic BET is a diversity authority? But these conference organizers' wisdom had them book another presenter whose credentials include selection "by the White House Office of EEO to conduct training on sexual harassment prevention for the Executive Office of the President."

Under the guise of promoting equality, diversity violates long-standing antidiscrimination laws by basing employment decisions on race and ethnicity, not qualifications and merit. An August 23 segment on the PBS Newshour included editors from around the nation brazenly admitting that they hire individuals by race and ethnicity to cover corresponding racial and ethnic groups.

Similarly, until halted judicially, the Dallas Fire Department ran a near-decade long program of bypassing qualified white males in favor of women and people of color. Even the Supreme Court was picketed late last year for its lack of black and Hispanic law clerks. Twenty- five years ago the insurance industry was lambasted for assigning white claims adjusters to white neighborhoods and black adjusters to black neighborhoods. Now such practices are considered progressive.

Diversity theorists and trainers blame the lack of advancement of so-called minorities on the red herring of discrimination and white privilege and power, conveniently overlooking the history of assimilation and cultural evolution in America.

A 1997 front-page Arizona Republic story written by a Hispanic reporter claimed that Hispanics were under represented in the executive ranks of Arizona's largest companies. The story failed to mention that Arizona Hispanics are predominately first and second generation Mexican-Americans, many of whom have minimal education and job skills, and about half of whom drop out of school. Of course they are under represented in the executive ranks.

It would have been news if they were not. In 1930, the largest immigrant group of the early 20th Century, Italians, were also under represented in the executive ranks of business and the media. It took two generations or more for assimilation to work its wonders in an era when education was less important than today. In today's knowledge economy, it will take longer.

Even diversity numbers require mental gymnastics. For example, Hispanics are considered a minority, even though they are one of the largest white ethnic groups in America, according to the government's racial classification system. They are a minority only because they are separated out from all the other white ethnic groups, which are lumped together to create a fictitious majority. Who is not a minority using that math?

But the diversity movement relies on such bogus beliefs. Another is that companies will sell more products if their staffs look exactly like their customer base. There are thousands of race- specific jobs in marketing, advertising, publishing and purchasing. No whites need apply. Only a market-deaf company will ignore market segments. But market segmentation does not necessarily depend on look-alikes marketing to look-alikes. If it did, then homogenous, homophobic and xenophobic Japan could not be sell cars to Americans.

Similarly, black Americans would not buy BMWs from lily white Germans, and kids would not buy candy from Mars, Inc., since the candy conglomerate has no grade schooler brand managers. Yet Mars knows its customers because as one brand manager explained: "I spend a lot of time in places where kids hang out -- in malls, convenience stores, and video arcades."

Another assumption in diversity is that, with the exception of Hispanics, all whites are a monolithic group. Hispanics leaders label all whites as "Anglos," apparently unaware that many whites are neither Anglo nor Saxon. A poor immigrant from Sicily is as different culturally and economically from a descendant of English-landed gentry as is an immigrant from Mexico. But diversity favors the Big Two groups: blacks and Hispanics.

As taught and practiced, diversity excludes Iranians, Egyptians, Israelis, Pakistanis, Bosnians, Greeks, Japanese, Vietnamese, Scots-Irish Appalachians, and all other ethnic and racial groups in the American mosaic. Preferences for specific groups has resulted, not in diversity, but, as USA Today reported last week, in racial tensions between blacks and Hispanics over who is more advantaged.

The diversity movement is a subversive one, dependent upon discrimination to reengineer society. It's hokum selling for a $1,000 per monolithic head. Few see its irony. We have our differences, but many of us are one in our beliefs that merit and achievement know no racial or ethnic bounds and performance, not biology, counts.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Mr. Cantoni is a former HR executive and the president of Capstone Consulting in Scottsdale, AZ. Send your comments by clicking here.


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06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
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©1999, Marianne M. Jennings