The Diversity Fallacy
by Logan Albright
In the latest instance of a “post-racial” presidency proving to be anything but, the Obama Administration has authorized the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to embark on a plan of urban diversification in an effort to reduce racial segregation within cities. Naturally, this has raised eyebrows among those who feel that telling people where they can and cannot live based not only on their own skin color, but that of their neighbors, is well beyond the scope of the federal government’s power.
What the president seems to be unable to comprehend is that we are no longer living in the days of Jim Crow, where government-sponsored policies forced whites and blacks to segregate. As much as the political left loves to push the fairy tale that Jim Crow was a reflection of the deeply racist attitudes of the American public, the truth is that the state, not the people, has always been the engine of racism.
But now there are no more such laws. Jim Crow is dead, and whatever segregation remains is the result of voluntary association and the right to assemble. Shocking and offensive as it may be to some, it is perfectly natural to want to belong to a community of like-minded individuals with similar backgrounds, socio-economic statuses and yes, even racial heritage. The administration has decided that this attitude is wrong, however, and that the onus is on them to fix it, although it remains unclear what such meddling into personal decision-making intends to accomplish.
There has always been an unchallenged assumption in liberalism that diversity is per se good. No one ever explains why. No one is ever asked why. It is simply taken on faith. A little examination, however, will reveal that this is nonsense, a mythology based on political ideology and not on logic or evidence. To see this, I invite the reader to undertake the following thought experiment.
Suppose a community of Christian masons has banded together in an effort to build a cathedral, that they may better worship and praise God. You may disagree with their beliefs, but surely the fact that they are cooperating to achieve a productive goal is a positive thing. If nothing else, it will create income for various artisans and craftsmen, while providing a beautiful addition to the city’s architectural landscape.
Now, suppose that HUD, in its infinite wisdom, deems that there is not enough diversity among the masons. They are all the same color, they all share the same beliefs, they all come from the same geographic area. Surely, such segregation cannot be good for society, and so HUD decrees that the masons must hire a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, a couple of Latin American workers from the other side of the country and a few people who don’t know the first thing about masonry. The community is certainly diverse now, but is this likely to benefit in the construction of the cathedral?
Almost at once, the Jew and the Muslim begin squabbling over whether Israel constitutes a legitimate state. The atheist refuses to participate on the grounds that he views religion as an evil that should not be encouraged, the Latin Americans see no reason why they should toil on a building so far from where they live, and the non-masons either contribute nothing or actively hinder construction with their ineptitude.
This analogy is not intended to be a perfect representation of the housing situation,but rather to show that diversity in itself is not necessarily a desirable quality. This being the case, we must take pains to identify real benefits from diversification before undertaking so invasive and drastic a policy measure. It is not enough simply to cite diversity as an end in itself without evidence to back it up.
While the specifics of HUD’s plan remain vague at best, the proposal raises a number of worrisome questions. To what extent can we expect this diversification to reach? Will it involve breaking up historically rooted communities such as the various Chinatowns in major cities all over the country? Is it not cruel and unjust to thrust these people out of the neighborhoods in which they have built friends, family and businesses all in the name of diversity?
If racial diversity is desirable, surely diversity along other lines must be good as well. Should Republicans and Democrats be forced to mingle? Should neighborhoods be arranged such that there are an even number of tall people and short people, lest one group become overly isolated? This line of reasoning quickly highlights the absurdity of seeking diversity for its own sake.
The bottom line is that the federal government has no business constructing a central plan of where people ought to live based on their skin color. The very suggestion is offensive to all freedom-loving people, as well as carrying the unfortunate racial implication that minorities are incapable of success without the paternalistic hand of government helping them along. The condescension with which this government treats its citizens knows no limits. It is for us to assert our autonomy as adults, or be forever condemned to the cradle of entitlement and dependency.