This Is Not Diversity

April 29, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019


In mid-April, Library Journal sent out a tweet steering readers toward a blog post written by a librarian and bearing the title “Whiteness as Collections.”

The tweet, since deleted, was composed of a link to the post and a snippet from it, which read, “Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they …”  To complete the sentence you had to jump to the original post.

There, you could find the root of the problem that the author laments.

“Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten and at the cost of black and brown lives via the prison industrial complex, the spoils of war, etc. Libraries filled with mostly white collections indicates that we don’t care about what POC [people of color] think, we don’t care to hear from POC themselves, we don’t consider POC to be scholars, we don’t think POC are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.”

To put it bluntly: too many white authors, too many white characters, too much Anglo-American and European content, too much whiteness. White people have built their culture of books on exploiting people of color, and it’s time to stop them. It’s that simple.

The author, librarian Sofia Leung, works at MIT and has a full-on identity politics sense of her work. She envisions her life mission as “the struggle against white supremacy, white fragility, structural and systemic racism, and sexism and all the –isms.”

After President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, she wrote a blog post that began: “Dear Well-Intentioned White People, Perhaps the recent election results have you shocked and suddenly aware of how much your privilege has shielded you from the racist audacity of your fellow white people.”

This is the commentator that Library Journal chose to highlight. When the journal’s tweet went out, the reaction was swift and voluminous. Rejections and denunciations poured in, drowning out the relatively few expressions of support.

When she objected in her blog post to the fact that the books in libraries in the United States “are written mostly by straight white men,” one had to wonder about the sanity of someone complaining that most authors are heterosexual, not homosexual. The Centers for Disease Control set the LGBT population at only 3 percent of the population. To regret that LGBT authors are massively outnumbered by straight authors is to lose touch with reality.

Ordinary people hadn’t heard this kind and degree of tribalism from longstanding educational authorities. To go to the library and find volumes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Ernest Hemingway offensive is beyond them. They can’t imagine a librarian looking at those bookshelves and seeing an enemy that must be taken down. It’s unthinkable to them. Even liberals who read the post must have shaken their heads. They all believe in diversity, but this isn’t diversity. It’s race targeting.

To those of us who work in academia, though, this kind of race fixation isn’t unusual at all. We’ve been hearing versions of it for years. In job interviews for faculty positions, hiring committees routinely ask applicants how they will “enhance diversity” at the school, a question that automatically disfavors white candidates. Dozens of schools have developed faculty diversity plans that pledge, in effect, to lower the ratio of white-to-nonwhite professors steadily in the coming years. The Black Lives Matters protests of a few years ago likewise often demanded fewer white professors and more black professors in the classroom.

This is the dark truth of diversity: the promotion of some people can’t proceed without the demotion of others.

It used to be that diversity was spoken of as an entirely affirmative matter, the appreciation of all people of all racial and sexual kinds. More and more, however, activists and social justice types and diversity activists have highlighted the depreciation of whites, especially white men, speaking less about a jovial mixing of identities and more about white privilege, white supremacy, and white nationalism.

The whole vision of happy diversity and joyful tolerance is fading, its place being taken by race competitions and tribal smears.

This was always a potential outcome, no matter how much “diversiphiles” played up the benign, utopian outcomes of a society free of discrimination. Resentment and suspicion underlay diversity rhetoric from the start. Now, those hostilities are coming out into the open here and there, sometimes proudly and righteously.

The old liberal ideals of color-blindness and integration are dying. Identity politicians are playing a different game, a malicious one, and conservatives and libertarians and classical liberals need to understand it. When leftists denounce white privilege, we must not be so gullible as to believe that they have a benevolent aim.

Better to remember what candidate Trump said in one of the debates with candidate Hillary Clinton: “She has tremendous hate in her heart.”

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and senior editor at First Things magazine.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.