Last fall, the UA Diversity Action Council produced an academic-year calendar for distribution on campus. It features artwork from local elementary-school students and quotes from their teachers. Some of the themes are laudable: eliminate prejudice, live in racial harmony, learn about other cultures. Indeed, prejudice (judging someone without knowing his views, beliefs, or actions) is wrong, and travel does broaden the mind, lending the traveler new ideas to consider. So far, so good.
Nonetheless, the calendar continues. Here are quotes from two different student teachers: "I like the word 'diversity' ... other terms such as 'cultural acceptance' or 'racial tolerance' do not stress the equality or the importance of all different types of cultures [emphasis added]." "[Diversity] is looking at an individual and developing self-esteem about his/her [sic] culture, family, and attitudes ... [emphasis added]."
These quotes are variations on the same incredible theme: that no culture or even attitude is any better than any other. Not only should we learn about other cultures and beliefs, we should accept all of them, no matter what their nature, as equal (all cultures are equally important) and good (all attitudes should cause self-esteem).
Am I extrapolating too far? Am I being foolishly literal-minded? Here is a gem from another student teacher, a paean to mindless blanket approval: "Diversity is the smile on a grandmother's face ... Diversity looks at all the many qualities and does not favor one over another, but only looks and smiles [emphasis added]." (Where's a 9mm when you need one?) And, the kicker, from the official policy statement by the DAC: "It is the goal of this institution that all persons believe that their individual characteristics, talents, and contributions are valued."
"All persons." That means everyone. "Individual characteristics." That means just about anything. "Valued." That means considered good and worthy. Thus, what we have is a policy statement of total abandonment of any kind of judgment or standards, a statement of automatic universal approval (as long as a view is held by at least one person).
Let's apply this to the real world. Persecution of gays? The Cuna Indians of Panama do it, so it's OK. Removal of the clitoris in baby girls? A staple of many African nations; no problem. White supremacy? Wouldn't want to hurt Aryan Nation's collective self-esteem. Women as property? They are, say, in Iran. The death penalty? The Cunas (I lived in Panama and have good Cuna friends Ÿ see how travel broadens the mind?) bury murderers alive with their victims. Needless to say, their murder rate is remarkably low, but that's beside the point. Their policy is A-OK, no matter what Amnesty International says.
Ridiculous? Absolutely. Yet it follows directly from the DAC policy statement and the quotes I mentioned. Moreover, those premises instantly lead to contradictions. (For example, black supremacy must also be right, since Black Panthers must feel self-esteem about their attitudes.) Such impossibilities are hardly surprising, since the entire concept of diversity-as-good is a contradiction. The statement, "We should tolerate everyone" is intolerant of those who don't tolerate everyone. It's like the old example, "This sentence is false." (Think about it.)
At this point, I will be accused of a straw-man argument, since the DAC specifically opposes racism and sexism and supports gay rights elsewhere in the same calendar. But the point is that such goals completely contradict the DAC's other stated goal of having all "individual characteristics" Ÿ therefore including racism, sexism, and opposition to homosexuality Ÿ valued.
At best, then, the DAC goals reflect extremely poor thinking about an important social and moral issue. However, I personally doubt the DAC is that stupid. I am more inclined to believe that the "all cultures and beliefs are equal" rhetoric is a tool to allow the DAC and other members of the Left to remake American values in the Left's image. By preaching suspension of judgment, the multiculturalists can paint their opponents as bigots while imposing their own values (such as affirmative action, redistribution of wealth, abortion rights, gay rights, no official English, etc.) on everyone.
Of course, in a lawful society, imposition of certain basic values has to occur, since the law puts limits on behavior. America is now engaged in a debate (if not a bloodless war) over which ones to adopt. But the DAC's self-contradicting rhetoric only obscures the true question of which moral values are good, even as it promotes the DAC's own answer. I'd say the new diversity calendar is due for a rewrite.
John Keisling can say "hello" in Cuna. He is a math Ph.D. candidate whose column appears Wednesdays.
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