Heather Mac Donald
The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018
How can a struggle be both righteous and meaningless?
Conservative author Heather Mac Donald shows us exactly how in her latest work, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture.
Let’s be honest. Based on its title and subtitle, who on the Right (Dissident, Alt, civic, or otherwise) would be tempted to purchase such a book? We already know that race- and gender-pandering corrupts the university and undermines our culture. Anyone who tunes into Fox News semi-regularly would have reached this conclusion long ago. Are we going to actually learn something here other than details we missed out on when the events described in Mac Donald’s book took place? From a Rightist perspective, Mac Donald may as well have written a book entitled The Suicide Delusion: How Killing Yourself is Bad and Leads to Declining Longevity in our Culture.
Perhaps I’m not being entirely fair to Mac Donald. The Diversity Delusion is an excellent book. It offers a trove of gems that can provide capital for real (if minimal) change in the real world. Mac Donald’s arguments are persuasive, her logic impeccable, and her pro-Western/anti-Left perspective well-grounded in scrupulous research. If the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and other conservative higher-ups in the educational establishment read this book, they may wish to make changes for the good. Perhaps they will allocate less federal funding for diversity hires and pull back on affirmative action in general—at least until the next Democratic President reverses their efforts. After all, as Mac Donald argues, reducing diversity requirements would be beneficial for all Americans, regardless of race or gender.
Here is a piquant example of the kind of syllogism that Mac Donald employs on almost every page. While debunking the notion that one-fifth to one-quarter of university women become victims of rape, she writes:
If the one-in-five to one-in-four statistic is correct, campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 percent or 25 percent, even over many years. In 2016, the violent crime rate in Detroit, the most violent city in America, was 2,000 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2 percent. The one-in-five to one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, hundreds of thousands of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency—Take Back the Night rallies and twenty-four-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence.
Mac Donald begins her book, fittingly enough, with the most explosive of all topics: race. She not only demonstrates how race-obsessed the campus Left is, she also reveals the bland, Orwellian doublespeak to which campus administrators (or “diversocrats”) resort in order to justify their need for racial diversity. They do so even when forced to sidestep the law, as in the case of California’s Proposition 209, which banned racial and gender discrimination back in 1996. In her chapter “How Identity Politics is Harming the Sciences,” she writes:
A current job listing for a lecturer in biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, announces that because diversity is “critical to the university’s goals of achieving excellence in all areas,” the biology department “holistically” assesses applicants and “favorably considers experiences overcoming barriers”—experiences assumed to be universal among underrepresented minorities.
She begins by discussing her own horrific experiences with the hysterical Left on campus. She’s had to face down heckling, chanting, and hostile students. She’s had to rely upon cowardly, equivocating university administrators for her personal protection. She’s had to be ushered to and from campus talks by police. And she’s been slandered in the student press and beyond.
She also has the sense to make The Diversity Delusion not only about her. The riots protesting the appearances of Milo Yiannapoulos at Berkeley and Charles Murray at Middlebury College in 2017 get the requisite attention. So do lesser-known iconoclasts, such as law professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander. In 2017, these two penned an op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer which called for a “revival of the bourgeois values that characterized mid-century American life, including child-rearing within marriage, hard work, self-discipline on and off the job, and respect for authority.” Unlike other conservative thought-criminals in the book, Wax and Alexander did not back down from the volleys of abuse that were hurled at them by the campus Left. Mac Donald reports how Wax doubled down soon after by stating that she didn’t “shrink from the word ‘superior’” when describing Anglo-Protestant norms.
Affirmative action gets a nice shellacking in The Diversity Delusion, largely because Mac Donald discredits it in a novel way. Of course, she brings up test scores, GPAs, and the obvious aptitude gaps between underrepresented minorities (known almost comically as URMs) and everyone else. She also shows how patently racist and hypocritical these preferential policies are. But the gist of her efforts deal with a 2012 paper by economists Peter Arcidiacono and Esteban Aucejo and sociologist Ken Spenner which effectively debunks a pervasive myth about affirmative action. According to the myth, blacks may have lower SAT scores than whites and have lower first-semester grades, but this means little, since by senior year, the black-white grade gap shrinks by fifty percent. This, seemingly, would vindicate affirmative action. But the Arcidiacono paper shows that black GPAs rise only after black students swap their math and hard science classes for others in the soft sciences or the humanities, where the standards for excellence are notoriously lower.
Mac Donald’s treatment of racial “microaggressions” and the hair-trigger responses that non-whites have towards whites these days is another potent aspect of The Diversity Delusion. Some of these stories will shock anyone who hasn’t experienced campus life in the 2010s first-hand. The most astounding one deals with venerated—and presumably white—UCLA education Professor Val Rust, about whom Mac Donald has nothing but praise. Rust’s sin? He insisted that his students use proper grammar, for instance keeping the word “indigenous” in lower case in student papers. This, of course, was seen as a microaggression by his insane non-white students. Fiery debates ensued; when the well-meaning Rust reached over to touch the arm of his most vehement critic as a friendly, calming gesture, his interlocutor, an obnoxious, pig-headed black named Kenjus Watson, jerked his arm away and accused Rust of – you guessed it – another microaggression.
The campus exploded in protest soon after, and Rust got in serious trouble with the University. Its Dean, one Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, took the protestors’ side and punished Rust, humiliating him by not allowing him to teach the remainder of his course alone. He was required to be accompanied by three other professors, including one Daniel Solórzano, who is an expert in “microaggression theory and critical race theory.” None of Rust’s colleagues defended him during this outrage.
The story does not end there. Weeks later, during a town hall meeting, Rust, still arguing in good faith, made the same mistake of touching one of his critics, this time a “large and robust young man,” according to Mac Donald. This person then filed a criminal charge of battery against the 79-year-old Rust. The story ends with the university booting Rust off campus and “driving him from one makeshift off-campus office to another and filing baseless charges against him,” while rewarding Watson with thanks, praise, and an influential spot on a committee charged with scrutinizing campus race relations. Watson later participated in other acts of “content-free academic fraud” across the country, and has taught “intergroup dialogue” courses at Penn State, St. Louis University, and the University of Michigan.
It’s sort of like how the John Belushi character in Animal House gets rewarded for his cretinous behavior by becoming a Senator—only this time it’s anything but funny.
Mac Donald’s treatment of gender is particularly contemptuous, so much so that her gender chapters might be the most fun to read. She revels in the irony of how the pro-sex, pro-freedom Baby Boomers of the 1960s have now curdled into oppressive schoolmarms who have all but killed the joys of sexual relations with their anti-rape regulations. She also commits the mortal of sin of at least partially blaming many of the so-called victims of these so-called rapes. She recounts lurid stories of horny college girls who drink too much and seduce their (un)lucky male classmates at parties, only to later feel regret or resentment when these boys quite naturally show interest in other horny girls. Rape accusations then fly since, as one girl was told, “regret equals rape.” In the kangaroo courts of anti-male college administrators, many a college man has been expelled as a result. Of course, the horny girls are never blamed for dressing or behaving as if they want to be “raped” in the first place.
Here’s Mac Donald at her best:
But suggest to a rape bureaucrat that female students should behave with greater sexual restraint as a preventive measure, and you might as well be saying that the girls should enter a convent or don the burka. . . . Putting on a tight tank top doesn’t, of course, lead to what the bureaucrats call “rape.” But taking off that tank top does increase the risk of sexual intercourse that will later be regretted, especially when the tank-topper has been intently drinking rum and Cokes all evening.
Mac Donald follows this with the story of how, in February 2018, the federal government recommended that James Madison University reimburse a male student’s legal costs after they unjustly expelled him for sexual assault.
The amount ended up being a jaw-dropping $849,231.25.
Mac Donald employs two main tacks in her dismissal of diversity, both of which, I believe, will prove to be inadequate. The most common is finding inconsistencies in Leftist positions and holding the Left accountable for them. That the free-loving sluts of Woodstock have turned into anti-sex harpies is one example. She disappointingly starts her introduction with another: that early pro-black advocates W. E. B. Dubois and Frederick Douglass actually (gasp!) enjoyed reading literature written by (double-gasp!) white men—dead or otherwise. So, she concludes, it would incongruous for modern pro-black advocates to condemn white literature as racist when their revered predecessors didn’t.
In nearly every chapter, Mac Donald demonstrates how the Left supported one position in the past but now supports the opposite position today. Either that, or she will show how the Left will promote something as true that is indubitably false, and then equivocate like Iago when called out on it. While debunking the famous Implicit Association Test (IAT), which supposedly proved that whites are unconsciously racist against blacks, she writes:
And yet, we are to believe that alleged millisecond associations between blacks and negative terms are a more powerful determinant of who gets admitted, hired, and promoted than these often-explicit and heavy-handed preferences. If a competitively qualified black female PhD in computer engineering walks into Google, say, we are to believe that a recruiter will unconsciously find reasons not to hire her, so as to bring on an inferior white male. The scenario is preposterous on its face—in fact, such a candidate would be snapped up in an instant by every tech firm and academic department across the country.
The problem with this reasoning is that it is too reasonable. The Left prizes power over all else and views itself as a progressive movement. This means that capital-T Truth only matters when it serves to increase the Left’s power. When it doesn’t, it can be safely ignored or subverted. Further, being progressive means that times change. W. E. B. Dubois and Frederick Douglass can be exonerated for liking white literature because such inclinations were expedient at that time. In the same manner, no one on the Left today faults Martin Luther King, Jr. for (at least publically) calling for colorblindness in modern society. During the 1960s, this was the best way to sell the Civil Rights movement to unsuspecting whites. Today’s very color-conscious Left understands this, while Heather Mac Donald clearly does not. As a result, her well-constructed arguments will have no effect on the Left and will only impact society as long as non-whites (i.e., the demographic force behind the Left and its racial identity politics) make up a minority of the populace. As we all know, the day when this will no longer be the case is rapidly coming.
Mac Donald’s other inadequate tack is to go on the defensive, and she does this a lot. Early on, she rebuts the charge that she is a “warhawk” by claiming that she was “an early and documented opponent of the Iraq War.” She writes this as if the Left would care. When a YouTube video entitled Black Bruins blames UCLA for low black graduation and enrollment rates, Mac Donald defends the University by calling attention to the millions it has spent and still spends on “academic support services” and “multicultural programming.” Again, like the Left would care. The point of these attacks is not to prove guilt in a court of law, but to smear, rile up emotions, and stifle and intimidate political opponents. Mac Donald seems to understand this when she writes that the campus rape courts effectively eliminate “the greatest of all Anglo-Saxon truth-finding mechanisms—the right of cross examination.” So then why does she constantly try to cross-examine the Left?
When a black accuses a white of racism and the white responds in typically white fashion by denying the charge and offering evidence to the contrary, that’s going on the defensive. That amounts to ceding the initiative to the enemy, and it will never end in victory. That’s what Mac Donald does far too often in The Diversity Delusion. She fails to adopt a true fighting stance.
Such a stance would inevitably entail taking on the Left at its own game. For example, when Kenjus Watson and other protesters called themselves “Graduate Students of Color,” white students should have accused them of racism and microaggressions. “Students of Color,” after all, is a racist term since it implies that non-whites have some ineffable positive quality (i.e., “color”) that whites lack by virtue of being white. Hence racism. Such a tactic would put the Left on the defensive by forcing them to either cave in or articulate their own blatant hypocrisy and power lust. Win-win for the Right. Unfortunately, like most conservatives, Mac Donald would rather not get her hands dirty fighting the Left at its own game. She fails to realize that the Right will have to do that sooner or later in order to survive, and sooner rather than later given how our population is changing so rapidly.
This is why I characterized The Diversity Delusion as both righteous and meaningless. One day, conservatives, upon being finally crushed by the Left, will look back on dialectically-clever works like this one and lament how feeble they were. We have precedence for this. Over and over in his books, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn looks back on the naïve, good-faith concessions the Tsar had made to the regime-hating Left (and his future assassins) and regrets the man’s weakness and myopia. Where the Tsar preferred to feed the beast rather than fight it, Mac Donald prefers to argue with the beast rather than fight it. Both strategies can only lead to defeat.
Ultimately, The Diversity Delusion is illuminating, but not enlightening. It fails to take on the Left on the most important front of the culture wars: that of racial identity. It serves instead to sharpen the knife that conservatives bring to the gunfight against the Left. Like most conservatives, Mac Donald skirts the issue of race-realism, heavily implying it without bluntly stating it. Either that, or she’ll imply that there are environmental causes for the manifest inferiority of blacks and Hispanic students in comparison to white and Asian ones. She lectures us that:
America has an appalling history of racism and brutal subjugation, and we should always be vigilant against any recurrence of that history. But the most influential sectors of our economy today practice preferences in favor of blacks. The main obstacles to racial equality at present lie not in implicit bias but in culture and behavior.
And how do “culture and behavior,” rather than genetics, lead to race inequality? She never really says.
Conservatives should lead with race-realism when dealing with Left. They should also express a white racial identity while doing so, since this is the only antidote to non-white racial identity politics. If Mac Donald actually wanted to win the culture wars, rather than simply complain, she would have done this. She would have attacked the Left for being anti-white. She would have linked the greatness of Western civilization to the genius that whites and precious few others possess. She would have promoted pro-white interests. She also would have played Name-the-Jew when introducing all the villains in her book who weren’t obviously Hispanic, black, or Asian, and then start connecting rainbow-colored dots. But she did none of this. As a result, The Diversity Delusion will have little impact, and will serve best as a pedagogical pink pill for high school students who are concerned about college.
This is a nice book written by a nice lady. It’s not worthless, but is nevertheless greatly disappointing for what it could have been.
Spencer J. Quinn is a frequent contributor to Counter-Currents and the author of the novel White Like You .