Diversity is not a delusion, but colleges have it all wrong: Let’s talk about the (D)-word 

Trey Gaither, BIPP Intern

Conversations about diversity require knowledge about not only your identity, but the ways in which your identity influences other identities. It is hard to have a conversation about diversity when we leave out the main arguments which we oppose, in hopes of not “triggering” others. Heather Mac Donald’s “diversity delusion” theory explains how diversity negatively affects college campuses, particularly students of color.

“Affirmative Disaster,” the third chapter of Mac Donald’s book “The Diversity Delusion,” presents empirical evidence describing how “racial preferences harm rather than benefit minority students in ‘elite’ academic disciplines.” Furthermore, Mac Donald highlights a study suggesting that admitting aspiring minority scientists to schools where they are less prepared than their peers is counterproductive. Her research argues the theory of the “mismatch effect,” which explains why students of color perform worse than their counterparts due to incapabilities they possess pedagogically, making them unfit for elite collegiate environments. 

While many students here at the University may actively disagree with her assertions, Mac Donald holds a valid argument. In being a minority student at the University, I identify greatly with many of Mac Donald’s claims, especially her claim on elite universities not offering comprehensive nor effective educational support systems for students of color. Moreover, universities use students of color in an attempt to portray a diverse agenda, while actively neglecting the needs of their students. I echo the voices of my fellow Black Student Union, who view the process of gaining a degree here to be a very difficult and daunting task. Mac Donald makes it clear to see how a campus like ours, which strives to project a diverse persona, negatively affects its students of color. Her argument provokes strong push back from “liberal”-minded individuals due to the racialized curriculum instilled in students at the university level. I believe she provides the untold truths, those frequently shunned altogether from the college classroom. One example is how the use of affirmative action instills and perpetuate false ideas of upward mobility, which leaves students ill-prepared for the harsh reality of structural racism after they graduate.

To have conversations about diversity, we must be able to address race. We must realize that race is a social construct that has been codified into our legal structure, sharply abridging the individual freedoms of students of color. However, I believe that no matter how much we talk about racial diversity or possible remedies in public policy, there is still a missing component in the conversation about diversity: economic imposition. Talking about diversity is difficult because its traditional roots are centered around racial “ambiguity,” which holds a monopolizing power over conversations geared toward structural change. Social justice warriors are incapable of seeing past a racialized framework to pinpoint how other oppressors affect students of color. While conversations about race are necessary to successfully create and maintain diversity, it is important to note that by relying on only racial diversity, students of color will experience routine oppression from a number of economic, social and political provenances. 

Mac Donald explains that by studying only racialized ideas of diversity, educational institutions fail to adequately teach students about the reality of socio-economic oppression. Theorizing about only racial diversity causes the erasure of economic pressures as vital obstacles for students of color to overcome. Mac Donald offers suggestions that place economic and academic positioning above racial imposition in a college’s admissions process. Instead of using affirmative action, she suggests an admissions tactic geared towards advancing students of color to higher economic and academic positions.

In conclusion, actively neglecting Mac Donald’s free speech negatively affects students of color because her research provides a counterargument that allows for a deeper understanding of diversity — one that goes further than the tired act of using racism as a scapegoat and remedy. Traditional conversations about diversity fail to acknowledge the multitude of oppressive factors that burden the individual freedoms of students of color. Mac Donald’s “Diversity Delusion” offers an analysis of the ways in which students of color have to negotiate, reinterpret, and assimilate their identity in hopes of gaining success at elite universities. I leave you with one question: if Mac Donald’s arguments work to empower the oppressed, then why do liberal-minded individuals spew hate towards her?

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