These days, when you want to show you care about ending oppression of marginalized groups for their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, you show it by saying you support the DEI movement.
D is for Diversity. It means looking around you and asking if everyone looks the same. If they do, then you need to bring in others who are different. This adds color to the workplace and other social settings.
E is for Equity. It’s a type of compensation given to people who have underachieved because of an oppressive system. In the workplace, this means giving the job to someone who may be less qualified, but is more socially deserving.
I is for Inclusion. This is added to the above because, even if a social setting is diverse and equitable, there still needs to be an open-hearted engagement with the new people. In the workplace, this means being happy about working with your new, diverse, equitably-placed fellow employees, and include them in your activities.
One way DEI policies strive to make life better for the oppressed is to show how language perpetuates biases and prejudices, and to suggest new ways of speaking with one another that avoids offensiveness. And since a diverse group will have diverse triggers and ways of offending someone, the limits on speech can feel oppressive to those who need to change their language and ways of thinking.
In fact, one possible outcome of DEI policies may the opposite of that intended.
For example, as we seek social integration at work by pushing diversity, we need to recognize that diversity is not always good in the workplace. People may work better when they are completely comfortable with their fellow employees, sharing the same sub-culture. Familiarity and similarity are not necessarily bad things.
It is argued that diversity brings the freshness of new perspectives and ways of thinking, which is true. Diversity might make sense for certain positions in a business, especially ones that reach out to diverse customers. But not all positions benefit from diversity. Mixing cultures may help sometimes, but it can also cause a Tower of Babel effect, where differences between people, their language, and their cultures, hampers connection and collective action.
Sometimes, you may not want diversity as a customer. When you go to a physician, for example, do you want someone of your own gender, ethnicity, religion, and race with whom you can easily identify? Or would you like someone who seems completely different from yourself? Probably, you want someone who understands you best, and who shares your values, language, and cultural referents when you are dealing with personal issues.
On the other hand, diversity can be beneficial for cultural experiences, like dining, theater, music, and other forms of art and entertainment. Many people appreciate some spice in their life. This means diversity is sometimes very much desired, while at other times, we want sameness.
Equity sounds like something that makes sense for those groups which are systematically suppressed, and whose qualifications for a job may seem inferior to others as a result of that oppression. Giving these people preference in getting a job sounds like the break they deserve. But it also means giving the job to someone who is less qualified than other applicants. For some jobs, this could be life-threatening, depending on the job. Do you want a pilot to fly your plane who was hired for their race or gender and not for their ability?
Hiring someone under equity considerations necessarily means that you are hiring the less qualified person. If they were equally qualified or better qualified than other applicants, then it would not be equitable to hire them. Equitable hires, by definition, are less qualified for their jobs than others. This might be a great opportunity for the person hired for political reasons with below average skills, but it is a stigma that they will need to bear. It must not be nice being known at the workplace as the less-competent token.
Unless everyone agrees that the less qualified deserve a break in hiring, this will create resentment, especially from those who needed to be qualified for their jobs, and for those who lost a job to a less qualified person for political reasons.
This means that diversity and equity can cause Division and Incompetence.
Forcing oil into water and shaking things up will not mix the oil and water. It will separate again. The diversity that is being artificially created through equity and forced integration disrupts coherent cultural environments where sameness is valued. The apparent diversity can be a false perception, and may lead to division among working groups where had once been unity.
Birds of a feather flock together. Integrating birds of different feathers creates momentary mixing, until they sort themselves out again. If you keep on mixing them up, it causes stress, anxiety, and confusion. Like attracts like. That’s a fact of nature, including human nature.
DEI policies try to mitigate this human tendency towards homogeneity. But while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make people mix their drinks.
That’s where inclusion comes in. Inclusion calls for mixing of the elements brought together through diversity and equity, but it offers no emulsifier.
What happens when you put Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Hindus together, and you start to talk? What words can you say that will not offend anyone?
The answer is that there are many words you can use, but you better think about what they are before using them. Diversity increases the potential for offensiveness. The concern over not being offensive is causing stress and anxiety, and can lead to exhaustion. It’s difficult for people to watch their language for any offensive triggers. Once exhausted, people will turn off to DEI altogether. They can also go in the opposite direction, and become angry and resentful, creating prejudice where it may not have existed.
Humans are pecking order animals. There is a social structure where some are above others. When you realize this order is unfair, and decide to take someone from below and put them on top to create diversity and equity, you’re messing with the pecking order. That is an unstable condition for our species, and sets up fights to establish a new order. The artificial order created by DEI will alway struggle against the negative elements of human nature.
Part of the problem is that DEI policy tries to avoid offending people. This puts the burden on the speaker to watch their words, and creates a thin-skinned culture of people easily triggered. However, a thick skin can help avoid offensiveness, too. After all, the person offended is the listener. How they respond is up to them.
This means diversity requires more tolerance, not less tolerance. As diverse cultures clash, people need to take less offense to get along. Sensitivity is not a virtue, but a weakness, when meeting diverse groups of people.
Here, then, is the emulsifier needed to mix the masses. We need tolerance of one another and of our differences, and a thicker skin.
Low tolerance and easily-triggered sensitivity is not necessary for the DEI agenda. We can integrate and work together and be fair, while still making jokes about our differences. We can still work towards social justice goals, including awareness of how hateful words can cause harm to others, without becoming too sensitive to words. After all, the more sensitive we are, the more words hurt us.
On the other hand, we don’t want such a thick skin that we put up with abuse that should end. Some sensitivity is needed to motivates us to change. But too much sensitivity, and you become unable to function, and drive everyone around you to exhaustion worrying about how to talk to you.
This means the good intentions of DEI policy, without the emulsifier of tolerance, can inadvertently cause DIE, or Division, Incompetence, and Exhaustion. But too much tolerance of abuse can lead to further abuse, and prevent the measures needed to make needed change.
How do you create tolerance in a pecking order species which likes to form exclusive groups? How do we make people stop pecking and start kissing?
Clearly, we need to start with children. Exposing children to diversity and encouraging inclusion can create empathy and comfort with others. When you feel comfortable with others you can start to like them. And when you do that, you can see why you would want to give someone a chance to do a job they are not yet qualified to do, because you care what happens to them.
However, you can’t create empathy by force. You can’t make people appreciate diversity when it is forced on them, or accept affirmative action by taking their jobs away. You can’t build community by mixing people who don’t care about one another. Empathy and tolerance are the essential keys to people liking one another and playing (or working) together in peace.
Forcing change through coerced diversity, equity, and inclusion policies can cause a backlash of division, incompetence, and exhaustion, while creating the very prejudice it was trying to mitigate. Let’s find things to like about one another, try overlooking the things we don’t like, and realize that being human means eternally struggling to get along.