Corporations undermine anti-discrimination efforts by supporting discrimination based on superficial characteristics, writes Scott Shepard. (Commentary)
More than 60 corporations signed on to an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case heard shortly before the midterm elections that will determine whether diversity-excused race discrimination may continue in American higher education. In making their case, these corporations demonstrated the corruption that runs through all their attempts to justify their politically motivated, hard-left “ESG” boosterism: incoherent thinking built on profoundly flawed and goal-sought research.
In doing so, these companies trashed their reputations for objectivity and reliability, all to further their own facially discriminatory hiring and promotion policies.
The corporations claimed that universities must be permitted to discriminate on the basis of race so that the corporations could also continue to discriminate on the basis of race – but without having to be so obvious about it. They asserted that an increasingly diverse population requires them to have an increasingly diverse work force, so that they have employees who can relate to those diverse groups.
But they also argued that diversity in higher education makes all employees able to relate to diverse groups effectively – which would seem to undermine their case for needing that surface-characteristic diversity in their work ranks, so often these days achieved by additional race-based discrimination by the companies themselves.
They also failed to recognize that the fact of falling white majorities and increasing non-white (and non-black) populations of customers also create increasing Hispanic and Asian populations of students, such that there should be more candidates available to fill higher-ed spots without needing to discriminate – assuming that the student applicants are fully qualified. And they failed to consider that accepting underqualified students into schools for which they are not qualified does those students no favors, but sets them up for failure and traps them in unpayable student debt.
If some students are not qualified to attend certain schools, they should attend other schools at which they would be qualified, or do something else with their lives – not be admitted to schools at which they can’t compete and won’t be successful in order to provide a pipeline of potential recruits of the hues that corporate executives most prefer.
Likewise, if universities do accept underqualified students in order to achieve “diversity,” this should reduce the willingness of corporations to rely on those institutions as job-candidate feeders, since they are no longer selecting student on the basis of merit. Though the corporations claimed in their brief that “they rely on the nation’s schools to educate and train their future workers,” that reliance is illegitimate if those schools are selecting students on bases other than merit. The schools are particularly unreliable feeders if they have closed down debate and freedom of thought and expression in order to promulgate this race-based selection process – as virtually all of American higher ed has done.
Corporations should be rejecting these institutions as reliable recruiting grounds for exactly the reasons that they lauded them in their amicus brief.
At base, the corporations’ argument rests on its claim that “[r]esearch and experience demonstrate that racial diversity improves decision-making by increasing creativity, communication, and accuracy within teams.” Even if it were true, that finding would not justify allowing the continuation of racial discrimination against whites, Asians and other disfavored groups any more would the reverse finding justify pro-white or -Asian discrimination.
Unsurprisingly, though, we need not even reach that analysis because the “research and experience” that the corporations rely on is so shoddy as to be meaningless.
The brief authors marshalled six studies in favor of its contention that “racial and ethnic diversity enhances business performance.”None of them does that work.
One study is wholly irrelevant, even on its own terms. The study made no claim to be about the effects of workplace surface-characteristic diversity; rather, it only claimed to establish that “[t]he influence of jury selection questions extended previous findings that blatant racial issues at trial increase leniency toward a Black defendant.”
More concretely, it found that in a jury setting in which there is a black defendant, the jury will deliberate longer and talk about more details more carefully if the jury isn’t all white. But this has no obvious relevance whatever to the classroom or the workplace. This is particularly true given that even this study didn’t find a significant difference in verdicts results arising from that “blatant racial” content. (The study also appears to have “found” that white faux-jurors were less likely to cast a private initial guilty vote before deliberations began simply because there were black members of their faux-juries, which seems unlikely on its face, but especially unlikely to have any meaningful relevance to the business context in which employees seldom find themselves judging the guilt or innocence of anyone, much less a racial minority specifically.)
Another of the studies actively undermined the corporations’ positions as it paid no attention to intra-American surface-characteristic diversity and the effects of that diversity, but instead treated all Americans of all races and sexes as “homogeneous,” with the diverse group being all people of all surface characteristics from southeast Asia. It found that having the two communities (all North America and all southeast Asia) working in concert made them collectively better at predicting prices in both regions. But to the extent that this is relevant, it indicates that what is needed to increase knowledge and accuracy is breadth of viewpoint and knowledgebase, not surface characteristics. (The study also appears to have been unable to control for just providing a group – or tasking it – with getting the additional knowledge provided in the study by the combination of the two groups. This seems like something businesses, as opposed to study designers, would have a vested interest in doing.)
The remainder of the studies did nothing to advance the corporations’ position because they were, as a fundamental matter, unable to distinguish between advantages that came from diversity of viewpoint and advantages that came from surface-characteristic diversity. When we recall that the corporations are using these studies in an attempt to justify otherwise-unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of race, sex and orientation, this failure becomes fatal.
Each also had other fundamental flaws. One confused pro-diversity programs with pro-inclusion ones, and appeared not to have controlled for the possibility that wealthier firms simply paid for better employees who were better able to innovate (which would be a return to merit, not surface diversity). Another only found that test subjects performed better on the test materials after being shown a multi-ethnic slide show than being shown a uni-ethnic slide show, which, whatever its value, doesn’t advance the cause of discrimination on the bases of race, sex and orientation. And more than one of them could not distinguish from result that arose from the diversity of the participants or from a simple admonition to participants to dig deep for ideas or highlight their disagreements, or, in the inevitable business jargon, “think outside of the box.”
Under current constitutional law, race, sex and orientation discrimination may only occur upon a very high showing of necessity. “We could achieve all the benefits we cite as requiring discrimination merely by babbling some of our standard cliches” does not reach that high bar.
And, of course, none of these studies even consider, much less grapple with, the fact that most institutions of higher education have become epistemically closed systems at which almost all of the faculty are hard-left and virtually the only positions taught or permitted to be expressed are hard-left. All the surface-characteristic diversity in the world isn’t going to make a lick of difference if all of a corporation’s employees think in exactly the same way, except that some employees – because of their race (or sex, or orientation) – are empowered to have a chip on their shoulders, while other, non-favored groups are required perpetually to cringe, apologize and be okay with not advancing despite their skills, effort and merit.
Yet this is exactly the system and the setting that these corporations have urged as justifying continuing race, sex and orientation discrimination, and that they celebrate as profit-driving diversity and inclusion.
Note well: This corporate reliance on shoddy, non-objective, bog-standard “research” to justify its staking out a hard-left, pro-discrimination position is not unique to affirmative action or to equity-based discrimination generally. All of the research these companies rely on for their claims that the companies’ financial futures require them to adopt the hard-left political line are junk. The format of their amicus brief just made the fundamental bias and unreliability of the work particularly clear this time.
Shoddiness and bias in the defense of overt bigotry is, needless to say, somewhat inconsistent with corporate executives’ fiduciary duties to act neutrally and objectively to advance the pecuniary best interests of shareholders.