Monday, September 26, 2005

SCOTUS: The Diversity Shibboleth

The Associated Press tonight is reading Pres. Bush's tea leaves and finding signs that "diversity" will influence the president's nomination, expected as soon as this week, of Sandra Day O'Connor's successor on the Supreme Court of the United States. Here's the AP lede:

WASHINGTON - John Roberts, hailed by supporters as "the brightest of the bright," cruised Monday toward easy confirmation as chief justice while President Bush hinted that his next pick to the Supreme Court could be a minority or a woman.

"Diversity is one of the strengths of the country," the president said.

Here's the full exchange per the White House transcript:

Q Mr. President, now that Judge Roberts is heading for confirmation, how close are you to choosing your second nominee for the Supreme Court? And how much of a factor is diversity going to be?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I will -- I'm cautiously optimistic about Judge Roberts' vote in the Senate. I will -- he's done a fantastic job of showing the Senate and the American people he's not only a brilliant person, but a decent person with a great heart. And so I await confirmation and I hope it goes well. It looks like it might.

Your question indicated that it looked like it was headed in the right direction. I will withhold judgment until the Senate exercises their consent part of the advice and consent relationship with the White House.

I have interviewed people in the past, and thought about people from all walks of life. And I will put the person in to do the job. But I am mindful that diversity is one of the strengths of the country.

Any other questions?

Yeah, you could say that. One question would be, where does AP get off seeing Bush's minimal acknowledgment of the reporter's question as a tea leaf worth reading? But the real question at issue with this nomination should be posed at this point to Democrats and it is: Why does diversity matter?

Because if diversity matters for the sake of diversity then Democrats should be thrilled if Pres. Bush were to nominate a gay black Latina, regardless of her political views. But as we saw with Clarence Thomas, that won't be the case.

It's time for Democrats to remember why they initially championed diversity and then, once they've rediscovered those goals, dump the concept that diversity in and of itself has value.

Democrats, and the left in general, have been pushed, particularly since September 11th, to address the question of whether every culture is of equal value. The answer is no. Virgin-worshipping cultures merit neither celebration nor salvation. The Sicilian Mafia culture of omerta deserves the fate it seeks for its enemies. The macho, anti-women, anti-gay cultures of barracks and dorms and locker-rooms have earned the same disinfectant their host environs so often desperately need.

Put another way: Valuing diversity ought not mean declaring English cuisine the moral or asthetic equivalent of French cuisine. If we could save only one, we would be wrong to submit it to a coin toss. Why? Because some cultures are better than others. The culture of western-civilization's centers of learnings is demonstrably better than the culture of the madrassas. And that should be a liberal position, rather than a conservative one.

Why? Because liberals championed diversity originally for one reason -- fairness -- but with an understanding of why diversity gives us strength: It's our societal equivalent of genetic mutation.

Nominating blacks to the high court is a noble goal not just as part of a striving toward equality, but also as a way of introducing new genetic material into our cultural and national makeup. That's why liberals were flummoxed by the nomination of Thomas: Their focus on the former had made them lose sight of the latter.

Thomas satisfied the notion of pursuing racial equality. So why were liberals so pissed by it? And why were they unable to articulate a coherent reason for their rage? It's because they had lost sight of the fact that diversity is not the goal. It's a tool we have for strengthening our society. Thomas fell short of that goal because he didn't bring actual diversity to the court.

In genetic terms, again, the American society needs the constant infusion of new genetic material (the ideas, perspectives and opinions of minorities, immigrants, the disenfranchised, the outcasts, the mutants) in order to continue evolving. When I started working at one big American media company, I was impressed to see the wide-ranging diversity among the desk assistants in its news room. I was disheartened, soon after, to discover that the pay scale was so low that only rich minority students could be found among their ranks. These students represented the status quo and so would be hard pressed to know how to question it, let alone find the motive to do so. They offered the company no new intellectual mutations that could improve its survival ability.

If diversity for the sake of diversity were truly a liberal goal, the left would demand the nomination of a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, or an Orthodox Jew whose religious beliefs forbade him to shake Ginsburg's hand, or an anti-Semitic Imam. Hell, if anyone on the left had any real courage, they'd nominate someone from the most politically under-represented religious minority in America: the non-religious. But what the left really values is not diversity of race or even of opinion, but diversity of ways to pursue certain goals which the left values more than diversity.

Goals like: Human rights, freedom of expression, social justice, economic justice and government accountability. Until the left learns to rank diversity appropriately, and to recall why diversity is of value, the right will continue to distract the media with its diversity shell-game, and confound the left by appeasing its calls for superficial diversity, while killing its hopes for meaningful diversity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Black people are often lazy.

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