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Heather Mac Donald, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture, St. Martin’s Press: 2018, 278 pp., $22.73 (hardcover).
Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to the institute’s City Journal. She is probably best known for her pro-police book The War on Cops and columns such as “The Myth of the Racist Cop” and “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.” She is a tireless voice for sanity.
The delusion Dr. Mac Donald so ably describes in her latest book is the idea that intellectual skills, talents, and interests are distributed evenly across all groups. It’s obvious that they are not. East Africans routinely win the Boston Marathon. In 2020, 70 percent of National Football League players were black. Black dominance in the NBA inspired the 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump.
The delusion that all races are equal leads to the assumption that all races should be proportionately represented at all levels of society, but BIPOCs (except for Asians) do far less well than whites. This has led to the secondary delusion that objective standards are racist and must be adjusted. As Dr. Mac Donald notes about the SAT:
[P]erfect 1600 scores would have to be understood ‘contextually.’ They might end up being given the same weight as 1100s, say, if the 1600-scoring student had come from a stable two-parent family and had attended a top high school. And 900s on the SATs might count more than 1600s, if a student came from a school with many low-achieving students or if he came from a single-parent home or if he spoke a foreign language at home. Admissions officers perk up when they read that a student came from a gang area or had been shot.” (page 43)
Admitting students “contextually” requires an army of admissions officers. Affirmative action; diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI); gender studies; and other “equity” efforts enrich bureaucrats while harming people these programs claim to benefit. Dr. Mac Donald points out that Duke University admits blacks with lower SAT scores (average 1275) than whites (1416) or Asians (1457). Blacks get lower freshman grades, but by senior year, the difference has shrunk by 50 percent. Preference advocates claim this shows that Duke admits blacks whose unrecognized academic potential helps them excel. This ignores the fact that 76 percent of incoming black men intend to major in hard sciences. So many blacks switch to easier tracks, however, that only 35 percent of blacks graduate with science degrees while 63 percent of white men do. If blacks stayed in the sciences, there would be no convergence of grades.
Duke Chapel, Duke University. Photo credit: Warren LeMay, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Mac Donald writes:
I learned that nothing riles an affirmative action proponent more than the suggestion that academic achievement is an individual, as well as a social, responsibility. . . . ‘Why not encourage the same commitment to learning in underrepresented minorities as in Asians, a group that once suffered discrimination?’ I asked Patrick Hayashi, a former UC associate president . . . . ‘A lot of Asians are deeply committed to education,’ Hayashi advised me, ‘but a lot are deeply involved in gangs, drugs. Be careful how you generalize.’ p. 51
Students are ranked according to levels of victimization and oppression, and must learn their proper roles in society:
The overriding goal of the education establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech. p. 29
The universities’ encouragement of victimology has wider implications beyond the campus. The same imperative to repress any acknowledgement of black underachievement as the cause of black underrepresentation in higher education is more fatefully at work in repressing awareness of disproportionate black criminality as the cause of black over-representation in the criminal justice system. p. 82
Dr. Mac Donald sums up the costs:
The more resources that US companies spend on engineering diversity while global competing firms base themselves on meritocracy, the more we blunt our scientific edge. Employees are thinking about leaving Google because of its heavy-handed ideology. p. 31
Forbes once estimated that for the year 1992, affirmative action cost the U.S. $350 billion, or 4 percent of gross domestic product.
California had aggressive systems for promoting preferred minorities until 1996, when voters approved Prop. 209, a constitutional amendment to ban racial preferences. Dr. Mac Donald notes that “underrepresented minorities accepted at Berkeley dropped by half in 1998, the first year that Prop. 209 went into effect, and by nearly that much at UCLA.” p. 39 She adds that “a pro-preference organization claimed in 2004 that transportation-construction contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses had dropped 50 percent since 1996 and that the percentage of women in the construction trades had declined by one third. These figures suggest the extent to which race and gender discrimination had been keeping many noncompetitive enterprises afloat.” p. 37
Some government agencies cut back on affirmative action, but the university system found creative ways to violate the constitution. Dr. Mac Donald writes: “That die-hard center of race and gender obsession [the university system] has managed to stay out of court (except for one sweetheart suit brought by pro-preference advocates) through fiendishly clever compliance with the letter of the law, while riding roughshod over its spirit.” p. 37
Heather Mac Donald
Dr. Mac Donald devotes a chapter to how admissions officers got around the law, but mostly it had to do with such tricks as “comprehensive review,” “evaluation in context,” and “redefinition of merit.” The test-score gap between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other, widened to the point that Berkley philosophy professor John Searle would complain that “they admitted people who could barely read.” p. 38
Whites may be able to read, but they don’t know much:
American students arrive at college knowing almost nothing about history, literature, art, or philosophy. If they aspire to a career in STEM fields, they may have already picked up some basic math and physics, and possibly some programming skills. But their orientation in the vast expanse of Western civilization is shallow; they have likely been traveling on the surface of selfies and pop culture with, at best only fleeting plunges into the past. p. 238
They leave college in much the same state. In the 1980s, Jesse Jackson went to the Stanford Campus and changed, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go.” He got his wish.
As Dr. Mac Donald notes, there’s money to be made fighting discrimination.
In September 2012, for instance, in the midst of California’s then-budget crisis, as the university system faced the threat of another $250 million in state funding cuts on top of $1 billion lost since 2007, UC San Diego hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion who would pull in a starting salary of $260,000, plus a relocation allowance of $60,000, a temporary housing allowance of $13,500, and the reimbursement of all moving expenses. (A pricey but appropriately “diverse” female-owned executive search firm had found this latest diversity accretion.) p. 174
Dr. Mac Donald lists a total of 20 official university groups in charge of stamping out just sex/gender prejudice. These include a Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, a Committee on the Status of Women, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and a Women’s Center.
Feminists are never satisfied. They promoted the myth that one coed in four will be raped before graduation. This is as bogus as the delusion that objective tests are racist. During the 1980s, feminists were disappointed to find that so few women say they’ve been raped. Ms. magazine commissioned public health professor Mary Koss to ask women if they had experienced actions Prof. Koss classified as rape — and Prof. Koss had an expansive definition. This is what produced the 25 percent rape rate, which Ms. published in 1985. It is now gospel.
Ms. magazine, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
No serious crime has a victimization rate anywhere close to 25 percent. The 2016 violent-crime rate in Detroit — the most violent city in America that year — was 2,000 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 for a total rate of 2 percent. Of course, the facts don’t matter: “You don’t need evidence for the rape culture; you simply know that it exists. But if you do need evidence, the underreporting of rape is the best proof there is.” p. 122
To no one’s surprise:
It’s a lonely job, working the phones at a college rape crisis center. Day after day, you wait for the casualties to show up from the campus rape epidemic — but few victims call. Could this mean that the crisis is overblown? No: It means, according to the campus sexual-assault industry, that the abuse of coeds is worse than anyone had ever imagined. It means that consultants and counselors need more funding to persuade student rape victims to break the silence of their suffering. p. 115
By the early 1990s, there were campus rape centers and 24-hour hotlines all across the country, consuming tens of millions of dollars of federal funding. As Dr. Mac Donald notes, a lot of people quietly ignore the myth:
Highly educated mothers in New York pay $200 an hour to prep their female tots for nursery school admission tests, all in the hope of winning a spot for their little darlings in the Ivy League thirteen years later. Yet we are to believe that these ambitious mothers are deliberately packing off their daughters to a hellhole of sexual predation. p. 119
Campus administrations speak out of both sides of their mouths:
While social justice administrators coordinate anti-rape rallies, in the dorm next door, freshmen counselors organize games of Sex Jeopardy and pass out tips for condom use and dental dam use. The academic bureaucracy is roomy enough to include both the dour anti-male feminism of the college rape movement and the promiscuous hookup culture of student life. The only thing that doesn’t fit into the university’s new commitments is serious scholarly purpose. p. 115
Dr. Mac Donald points out that identity politics forbid any mention of classical family values. “Were you planning to instruct your child about the value of hard work and civility? Not so fast! According to a recent uproar at the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of San Diego, advocacy of such bourgeois values is ‘hate speech.’ ” p. 201
On August 9, 2017, Any Wax and Larry Alexander, two professors at Penn Law School, published an op-ed calling for the revival of traditional family values: child rearing within marriage, hard work, self-discipline, and respect for authority. They blasted 1960s liberalism that encouraged an “antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal [of] sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll that are unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society.” p. 201 “All cultures are not equal,” they wrote. “Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.” p. 202
The Penn student paper claimed that students of color were “being attacked and felt attacked,” but Prof. Wax didn’t back down. “I don’t shrink from the word ‘superior’ with regard to Anglo-Protestant cultural norms,” she told the paper. “Everyone wants to come to the countries that exemplify these values.” p. 202 “Bourgeois values aren’t just for white people,” she said. “The irony is: Bourgeois values can help minorities get ahead.” p. 203
This was an outrage. Inside Higher Education headlined a story, “Is Penn Going to Punish Amy Wax?” The dean of law school said she deserved a “major sanction.” A faculty panel studied her statements about Black, Asian, Latino, Jewish, and gay people. The law school finally banned her from teaching first-year law students or any required courses so as to protect “vulnerable” students from her.
Dr. Mac Donald writes:
The Wax-Alexander op-ed’s primary sin was to talk about behavior. The founding idea of contemporary progressivism is that structural and individual racism lies behind socioeconomic inequalities. Discussing bad behavioral choices and maladaptive culture is out of bounds and will be punished mercilessly by slinging at the offender the usual fusillade of ‘-isms’ (to be supplemented, post Charlottesville, with frequent mentions of ‘white supremacy.’)
Prof. Wax has since committed so many other sins — including inviting AmRen editor Jared Taylor to address one of her classes — that Penn Law School has begun formal procedures to strip her of tenure and fire her.
If advocates weren’t so determined to ignore facts, they might wonder why the overall black poverty rate in 2019 was 18.8 percent, while the poverty rate for married blacks was only 6.4 percent. As Prof. Wax noted, “Bourgeois values can help minorities get ahead.” To suggest the people marry before having babies is now “white supremacy.”
Delusion keeps conquering new territory:
Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses, now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — are under attack for being insufficiently ‘diverse.’ The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves. That pressure is changing how science is being taught and how scientific qualifications are evaluated. The results will be disastrous for American competitiveness. p. 189
As usual, the only way to achieve equality is to lower standards. Dr. Mac Donald notes that “The National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency that funds university research, is consumed by diversity ideology,” p. 189 but increasing diversity at the cost of standards is a disastrous solution to a non-problem. Somehow, NSF-backed scientists managed to rack up more than two hundred Nobel Prizes before the agency realized that scientific progress depends on “diversity.” p. 190
Now, an introductory chemistry course at UC Berkeley emphasizes “culturally sensitive pedagogy:”
A primary goal of the course . . . is to disrupt the racialized and gendered construct of scientific brilliance which defines ‘good science’ as getting all the right answers. The course maintains instead that ‘all students are scientifically brilliant.’ Science is a practice of collective sense-making that calls forth ‘inclusive ways’ of being brilliant. p. 196
Dr. Mac Donald writes: “Driven by unapologetic meritocracy, China is catching up fast to the United States in science and technology. Identity politics in American science is a political self-indulgence that we cannot afford.” p. 200
Scientists perform calculations on the ”Taiyuan-1” superconducting quantum computing cloud platform at the Hangzhou International Science and Innovation Center of Zhejiang University in Xiaoshan district of Hangzhou, East China s Zhejiang Province, July 22, 2022. (Credit Image: © Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA Press)
The situation has gotten worse since this book was written. The New York Post just published “We must fight back against health care’s terrifying conquest by the radically woke:”
All Americans should be terrified of what’s about to happen in health care.
The looming threat comes courtesy of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The AAMC, which administers the Medical College Admission Test, is developing standards for the topics and concepts medical students must learn. And what, you ask, are the latest requirements? You guessed it: diversity, equity and inclusion. . . .
[A]council of deans declared that woke identity politics “deserves just as much attention from learners and educators at every stage of their careers as the latest scientific breakthroughs.”
Race preferences in medicine are a sure prescription for bad — even fatal — medicine.
Hillsdale College’s Imprimis warns of “The Rise of Wokeness in the Military,” where ability and competence should be above all else.
Woke ideology undermines military readiness in various ways. It undermines cohesiveness by emphasizing differences based on race, ethnicity, and sex. It undermines leadership authority by introducing questions about whether promotion is based on merit or quota requirements. It leads to military personnel serving in specialties and areas for which they are not qualified or ready. And it takes time and resources away from training activities and weapons development that contribute to readiness. Pitting university students against each other based on race is bad enough, but it’s fatal in the military.
It is hard to think of any nation that has set about destroying itself as the United States is doing. Certainly, no nation has made a fetish of spitting on its own founding stock and worshipping its most unproductive, disloyal, crime-prone groups. If it goes on long enough, this will end only when there is nothing left to destroy. Let us hope that Dr. Mac Donald’s book proves to be a call to arms rather than yet another chronicle of our decline.
 Brimelow, Peter, “When Quotas Replace Merit, Everybody Suffers,” Forbes, February 1993, pp. 80–82.