A Simple First Step for Youngkin to Stop Leftist Tyranny:
Prohibit ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ statements at public universities and other institutions.
Glenn Youngkin was elected Virginia’s governor in large part because of the uproar over extremist ideologies that promote racial division under the guise of “antiracism.” But what can he do about the problem? The first step is simple: Prohibit the use of “diversity, equity and inclusion” statements in any state government or government-funded agency.
The anger about critical race theory in schools reflects a larger frustration. In the past two years, the diversity regime has hardened. Its proponents have adopted more-strident rhetoric. Some speak openly of quotas. The range of permitted opinion has narrowed.
Anyone who works in a large bureaucracy knows that DEI has become a powerful tool for cultural radicals. In the hiring process, DEI statements serve as ideological litmus tests. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that we should judge others by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Imagine someone applying for the job of Fairfax County Schools Superintendent and featuring King’s exhortation prominently in his DEI statement. It would almost certainly be considered disqualifying. Today’s radicalism regards colorblind justice as a tool of white supremacy.
DEI statements also function as loyalty oaths. Requiring them sends a message to job applicants and employees who seek promotion: You better be on board—or else. The more widespread their use, the more pervasive the atmosphere of ideological intimidation.
State universities in Virginia make DEI ideology a veritable condition for employment. The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce seeks a professor of organizational behavior. The candidate for this job must submit a “statement highlighting knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences that support excellence through diversity, equity, and inclusion.” The School of Education and Human Development at the same state university is seeking an instructor in athletic training. Among the job requirements: “Explicit evidence of commitment to diversity and of advanced understanding and outcomes for underrepresented groups.”
There should be no illusions about the kind of statements and “evidence of commitment” required. In a 2016 essay for Inside Higher Ed, University of California, Merced sociologist Tanya Golash-Boza gives advice to applicants. Don’t be naive, she says; this is no time to think for yourself: “Write about racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or some other commonly recognized form of oppression.” If you’re a scholar, not a progressive activist, take remedial action: “Sign up to be a tutor at an underperforming school, build a house for Habitat for Humanity or incorporate antiracist pedagogy in your teaching.” And be sure to signal your commitment to serving as a foot soldier: “Mention your willingness to contribute to pre-existing [DEI] programs or you can express your interest in creating new programs.”
Most people want to do their jobs without interference. But those who seek “transformative justice” want to assign everyone to do their bidding. In the Soviet Union, each Red Army military unit had a party commissar who monitored operations to ensure ideological conformity. The same system was in place for industrial and agricultural operations, as well as youth and cultural organizations. In American universities and other institutions, an ad hoc system has evolved with similar qualities. Required DEI statements allow a radical element in every organization to monitor hiring and promotion across entire departments and divisions.
Conservative and moderate Americans may grimace when their neighbors put up “Hate has no home here” yard signs, regretting the implied moral denunciation of anyone who disagrees with progressive politics. But it’s a free country. A live-and-let-live sentiment has long played an important role in the civic culture. Tolerance is hard to sustain, however, when one faction gains control of the institutions and jams its self-righteous programs down everyone’s throats.
If private companies want to empower unpopular radicals to hector their employees, ruin the careers of dissenters, and hire in accord with strict ideological standards, then so be it. If advocates of critical race theory and other unpopular notions want to run for public office, they should by all means do so. But there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that gives radicals a right to capture public and publicly funded institutions. This capture, if unchecked, will undermine freedom.
It is already doing so. DEI statements are a powerful tool for imposing an ideological agenda hostile to the interests and convictions of most Americans.
With victory comes responsibility. Mr. Youngkin was elected with a mandate to stop progressive tyranny. Prohibiting the use of DEI statements is a place to start.