Pity the diversity consultants.
The billion-dollar industry, long a fixture of corporate HR departments and institutions of higher education across the country, became the woke-whisperers the country supposedly required in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing racial unrest this spring and summer.
But as the New York Times reported this week, all is not well in the world of sensitivity training. President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, the paper notes, “banned the federal government, as well as its contractors, subcontractors, and grantees, from offering certain diversity training on racial and gender biases—teachings that the order called ‘divisive’ and a ‘malign ideology.’”
Reporter Hailey Fuchs, who appears not to have learned the difference between reporting and opinion journalism, frames the piece in a deliberately dishonest way, conflating diversity training with critical race theory (CRT), even though Trump’s executive order was clear that its target was CRT. She is also unfairly dismissive of the work of Christopher Rufo, who has tirelessly documented the infiltration of CRT into government agencies such as the Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security, evidently because he committed the unforgivable sin of appearing on Tucker Carlson’s television show. And she provides cover to an ideological effort (the mainstreaming of critical race theory) that has thus far endured too little criticism.
Figures in the mainstream media often like to congratulate themselves for championing the common man, but in this case, the Times is siding with Goliath, not David. The critical race theory industry, perhaps best personified by How to Be Anti-Racist author Ibram X. Kendi, makes a great deal of money doing something that yields no appreciable good (and is in many ways harmful and counterproductive) while robbing everyday employees of time and resources that would better be spent elsewhere.
“To see the progress, to see the movement, and then all of a sudden, ‘propaganda,’ ‘divisive,’ those words just are so, so untrue of what this training actually does,” one diversity consultant complained to the Times. “If we’re going to actually have this conversation, move the needle, get people thinking about and doing something about systemic racism, you have to talk about it.”
But this is not true. Even the most generous assessments of “diversity” and “racial sensitivity” training (to say nothing of the more divisive CRT and anti-racism training), have shown no measurable improvement in race relations as a result of their efforts. Rather, there is evidence that corporate diversity training is counterproductive, as the Times itself acknowledged when it examined Robin DiAngelo’s approach to training others in the perils of “white fragility.”
Despite the Times’ attempts to portray diversity and antiracism consulting as some sort of selfless calling (like nursing or feeding the poor), it is in fact a billion-dollar industry full of intellectual poseurs whose goals seem more focused on personal branding than national healing. Its most prominent proponent, Ibram X. Kendi, demonstrates as much.
Though contemptuous of the Civil Rights-era standard of color blindness, and deeply invested in seeing nearly every complicated social outcome as the result of systemic racism, Kendi is clearly not averse to capitalism. His latest venture? An Oprah-meets-Mao bit of marketing genius: an anti-racism journal called Be Antiracist “for awareness, reflection, and action” in which Kendi reminds users, “Antiracism is not a destination but a journey.” And, as he notes, since “the heartbeat of antiracism is confession,” the antiracist journal “can be your confessional” (which would, of course, make Ibram X. Kendi either your priest or your god).
Why should taxpayer money fund consultants who are peddling what is effectively a kind of secular religion about race, one that is not evidence-based and has demonstrated little proof of its effectiveness beyond lining the pockets of its most prominent proponents?
As well, in its defense of diversity consultants, the Times ignores a salient fact: The businesses and educational institutions that spend money on such consultants are doing so not out of high-mindedness, or even with the expectation of any practical improvement in race relations. As Pamela Newkirk, who wrote a book about the diversity industry has noted, much of it is done to prevent organizations from being sued, since “courts tend to look for symbolic structures of diversity rather than their efficacy. In other words, the diversity apparatus doesn’t have to work–it just has to exist–and it can help shield a company against successful bias lawsuits, which are already difficult to win.”
Critical race theory (of which antiracism in the Kendi vein is an offshoot), has a far more radical goal: it claims that America is a country infected by systemic racism that can only be eradicated via radical reeducation and, eventually, radically reimagined institutions and government. It is a concerted effort to replace earlier standards of color-blindness with an antiracist worldview that posits whiteness as a suspect category and equality of outcomes (rather than equality of opportunity) as the only standard of measurement between racial groups.
As Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic described it in Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, “Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
If you are a rational and liberal-minded person, that is difficult to defend—which is perhaps why it’s easier for the Times to blame Trump or Tucker Carlson than it is to offer a fair-minded assessment of what critical race theory really is.
Contra the New York Times, critical race theory isn’t essential diversity training; it’s browbeating and indoctrination. If Americans want to spend their hard-earned money to journal away their antiracism with Ibram X. Kendi, more power (and confessional histrionics) to them. But employees and students shouldn’t be compelled to pay obeisance to such a divisive ideology, nor should a single penny of taxpayers’ money be wasted on it.