Diversity on Campus: The New Racism

by Dr. Michael S. Berliner, The Ayn Rand Institute and Dr. Gary Hull, Wittier College

Racism has come into the universities as official, established policy. It has a new name: "diversity."

Because it is intellectually "correct" and "respectable," the new racism is more widespread and virulent than the more hidden, anti-black racism of the past. In fact, it has become the standard for college entrance, scholarships, course content, and faculty hiring and tenure. The UCLA General Catalog presents the increasingly common, official viewpoint: "The university has no higher priority than to advance the ethnic diversity of its students, faculty, staff and administrators" (emphasis added). Notice that the highest priority is not the development of the individual, not such individually oriented goals as wisdom, knowledge, or preparation for a career--but: ethnic diversity. This is open, aggressive racism.

Many people take a very superficial approach to racism. They see it merely as the belief that one race is superior to another. It is much more than that. It is a fundamental (and fundamentally wrong) view of human nature, a view that leads people to condemn (or praise) others based on racial membership.

Racism is the notion that one's race determines one's identity. It is the belief that one's convictions, values, and character are determined not by the judgment of one's mind but by one's anatomy or "blood."Racism, wrote Ayn Rand, is "the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism," and, like all types of collectivism, it is based on a deterministic view of man: "it invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty" and "negates two aspects of man's life: reason and choice, or mind and morality." (See "Racism" in The Virtue of Selfishness.) Racism means the destruction of individual judgment, i.e., the ability of an individual to think for himself and guide his own life. In all ways-- cognitive, moral, political--it merges the individual into the group.

Examples of official university racism are everywhere: preferential admissions policies, with the preference based on ethnicity, i.e., race; informal (and sometimes open) racial quotas for faculty hiring; racialization of course content: ethnic courses and departments and ethnically "balanced" course content. The traditional academic pursuit of universal truth has given way to immersion in "race, class, and gender."It is the ideas adopted and taught by today's university professors that bear the ultimate responsibility for today's racism. If a student has heeded his professors, he'll be more than willing to relinquish his mind and his personal identity. In hundreds of classes across dozens of subjects, he's been taught that there are no facts or objective truth, that logic and reason are arbitrary conventions, that emotions rule reason, that the opinions of the group are all-important. He's been taught that he has no free will, that he's the product of factors beyond his control, that his own life is insignificant.

Once a student accepts these tenets, he is intellectually helpless. Having abandoned reason, he has no means or motivation to develop an independent identity with his own standards of judgment. But he still needs to know how to act, how to choose, what to value. So he turns to the least demanding alternative to thinking for himself: following the group. Racial and ethnic "solidarity" seems to him to provide a short-cut to the task of achieving knowledge, values, and self-esteem.

Many students, unfortunately, have learned their lessons well. They have accepted the idea that there are no universal, cross-cultural truths. They have accepted the premise that it is proper to evaluate people on the basis of skin color. They have accepted the premise that they are racial "representatives," i.e., not individuals but mere interchangeable parts of a racial whole. They have become truly "color conscious".

The speed of racism requires the destruction of the individual's confidence in his own mind. Such an individual then anxiously seeks a sense of identity by clinging to some group, abandoning his autonomy and his rights, allowing his ethnic group tell him what to think. Because he thinks of himself as a racial entity, he feels "himself" only among others of the same race. He becomes a separatist, choosing his friends--and his enemies--based on ethnicity. This separatism on campus has resulted in the spectacle of segregated dormitories and segregated graduations.

The diversity movement claims that its goal is to extinguish racism and build tolerance of differences. This is a complete sham. One cannot simultaneously teach students that their identity is determined by skin color and expect them to become colorblind. One cannot teach ethnic diversity and expect students to see each other as individual human beings. One cannot preach the need for self-esteem while destroying the faculty which makes it possible: reason. One cannot teach collective identity and expect students to have self-esteem. In fact, one can gain an authentic sense of pride only from one's own achievements, not from inherited characteristics.

Advocates of "diversity" do not consider themselves to be racists, at least not in the pejorative meaning of that term. But they are racists in the basic meaning of that term: they see the world through colored lenses, colored by race and gender. To the multiculturalist, race is what counts--for values, for thinking, for human identity in general. No wonder racism is increasing: colorblindness is now considered evil, if not impossible.

No wonder people don't treat each other as individuals: to the multiculturalist, they aren't.

Advocates of "diversity" claim that it will teach students to tolerate and celebrate their differences. The truth is that we're being urged to celebrate racial differences, which means we're being urged to glorify race, which means we're being asked to institutionalize separatism. This makes any sort of valid cooperation impossible. "Racial identity" erects an unbridgeable gulf between people. If one's values and logic were determined by racial membership, there would be no basis for understanding or cooperation among people of different races.

Advocates of "diversity" claim that because the real world is diverse, the campus should reflect that fact.

But why should a campus population "reflect" the general population (particularly the ethnic population)? No answer. In fact, the purpose of a university is to impart knowledge and develop reasoning, not to be a demographic mirror of society. The entire enterprise of education exists because human knowledge is not automatic; man must work to acquire the knowledge he needs, and, in contrast to the lower animals, he is able to build on earlier knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge--not ethnicity--provides the only proper standard for the educational process--from student admissions, to faculty hiring, to course content.

Racism, not any meaningful sense of diversity, guides these intellectuals. The educationally significant diversity that exists in "the real world" is intellectual diversity, i.e., the diversity of ideas. But such diversity--far from being sought after-- is virtually forbidden on campus. The existence of "political correctness" blasts the academics' pretense at valuing real diversity. What they want is abject conformity.

The only way to eradicate racism on campus is to scrap racist programs and the philosophic ideas that feed racism. Racism will become an ugly memory only when universities teach a valid concept of human nature: one based on the tenets that the individual's mind is competent, that the human intellect is efficacious, that we possess free will, that individuals are to be judged as individuals--and that deriving one's identity from one's race is a corruption--one appropriate to Nazi Germany, not to a nation based on freedom and independence.

Copyright © 1993 The Ayn Rand Institute. All rights reserved.



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