Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Sunday Sermon On Diversity

Ross Douthat's new New York Times file photo.

Ross Douthat doesn't think much of diversity. He feels it's fake; that it's liberal and therefore self-congratulatory and hypocritical. As he described in his book about his Harvard education, he scorned Harvard for promoting diversity when the students really weren't diverse, since even the minority students usually came from money. Douthat sees no benefit in ensuring that the majority can't exclude the minority out of tribal loyalty, since tribal loyalty is what Douthat has depended on for success his entire life. If we genuinely lived in a meritocracy, which Douthat says we do, Douthat would need to be an intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working and talented writer to find success. Obviously that was not going to happen, so  Douthat depended on money and connections instead. There are very few spots at the top and keeping some of them open for someone who is not Ross Douthat is unfair because it reduces his own odds of success. Douthat managed to become successful anyway, thanks be to God, and now puts on his vestments, picks up his Bible, mounts the short staircase up to his pulpit, and begins to sermonize. He comes to us not in anger but in sorrow, to examine the actions of the parishioner Elizabeth Warren, who has sinned against her community in the Eyes of God. Sayeth "Cotton" Douthat. She has made a "clumsy" effort to explain why she believed her family story about Cherokee ancestry.
The whole story has a tragicomic, Nathaniel Hawthorne meets “Curb Your Enthusiasm” feel. It’s easy to imagine Warren originally checking a box more on a whim than out of any deep determination to self-identify as Cherokee. (She didn’t use the minority-applicant program when applying to Rutgers, where she attended law school, and she identified as “white” during an early teaching job at the University of Texas.) Then it’s easy to imagine her embarrassment when the diversity wars of the 1990s made that whimsical choice something from which she couldn’t dissociate herself without intense public awkwardness. Those wars faded, she no longer listed herself as a Native American, she thought the whole thing was behind her ... until she went into politics, where no secret stays buried. The appropriate response to such a tale is probably sympathy rather than scorn. What does deserve scorn, though, is the academic culture in which an extremely distant connection to a Cherokee ancestor ends up being touted by a law school as proof of its commitment to diversity. A diverse faculty and campus can be a laudable goal. But the point is to build academic communities that actually contain a wide variety of experiences and perspectives, not to wax self-congratulatory because you’ve met a set of ethnic quotas. The story of Elizabeth Warren, “woman of color,” represents a reductio ad absurdum of the latter tendency, which has been all too prevalent in elite universities — giving us affirmative-action programs that benefit West Indian immigrants more than the descendants of slaves, and faculties that include a wider range of skin tones than of political and religious views. (my bold)
Amen, Brother Douthat! Why aren't there more conservatives, especially religious conservatives, in elite universities? Why isn't everyone at Harvard just like Rev. Cotton Douthat? Just imagine--a world of Ross Douthats, in which it wouldn't matter that you are awkward and self-conscious, pompous and moralizing, and terminally uncool because everyone else was the same way! All the cool people would look just like you! George Clooney would have facial hair designed to point out that he does, too, have a chin, and the president of the United States would turn red when a good-looking woman looked at him. Dear God in Heaven, would that not be bliss? A Nation Of Douthats!
For many colleges and universities, then, this contretemps represents a timely gift: a chance to think anew about these issues, before the pursuit of a cosmetic diversity leaves them looking as ridiculous as poor Elizabeth Warren does today.
Why have a superficial diversity of race, nationality and gender when you can have real diversity--more fundamentalist Catholic conservatives?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

This post needs a picture of Douthat in clown makeup, for perfection.

Downpuppy said...

West Indian immigrants more than the descendants of slaves

Pretty sure he's wrong about what he thinks he means by this, but also, isn't there an editor somewhere who knows anything about the history of the West Indies?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Jeepers, I hope he remodels his kitchen.

cynic said...

What is it with conservatives and 'imagining' shit about everybody else? From Peggy 'the dolphin' Noonan to Ross 'Chunky Witherspoon' Douthat - why do they build cases out of what they imagine?

'It is easy to imagine' this and 'it is irresponsible not to speculate ' that...

Are these fellows really that moronic or are their readers / employers? It has to be one or the other (or sadly, both...)

Marci Kiser said...

I never understood the brouhaha over this. If Elizabeth Warren is anything like me, she learned most of her 'family heritage' from senile great-aunts at family reunions and some old Bible that survived the house that Uncle Charlie burnt down when he was drunk.

Short of paying's usurious rates, most of us believe whatever the least reliable members of our family tell us.

Downpuppy said...

I had a really smart aunt who did the research & found a bunch of Cherokees.

Then her house blew up & she died of cancer.

Now that it's on the internet it turns out that g-g-Grandad was in the Confederate Army for 4 months then hightailed it to Alabama.

On the other side, the Oliver Hazard Perry connection is looking a little tenuous.

Whatever happened to Bridey Murphy?

Susan of Texas said...

According to the grannies in my family I'm related to colonial gentry. Or horse thieves.

Mr. Wonderful said...

This is the ur-"conservative" column: acknowledging, and then dismissing, the exigencies of actual life, in favor of theoretically- (let no one say, theocratically-) based moralizing, all in a tone of pedantic finger-wagging.

Plus, with Douthat, you always get a sub-text of self-congratulation. "See how mature I am? See how I actually HAVE triumphed over the cool kids? NOW maybe they'll listen to me..."

Both Sides Do It said...

What would it even fucking mean to have more "religious" diversity among faculty? Does he really think that something you can pick up and drop like a child's toy (which is what Douthat's early religious experiences were like) informs the basis of someone's outlook on the world as much as fucking race or gender?

Does he think that Georgetown, Notre Dame etc can't provide quality education? Do they need religious diversity among the faculty?

I hate being condescended to intellectually. That means I've hated reading everything Douthat has ever written.

Kathy said...

"Liberals are always talking about tolerance and diversity, but they're intolerant of bigots and greedy white billionaires and Rush sLimebag; plus they won't fill their "universities" with religious crackpots to ensure "diversity"! Therefore: liberals are hypocrites!"

zuzu said...

I've sort of lost the thread on the whole Elizabeth Warren story because I, much like the people of Massachusetts if polls are to be believed, don't really care. But here's what I understand from friends who are from Oklahoma/of Native American ancestry:

1) Pretty much everyone in Oklahoma has some quantum of Cherokee or other Native American blood in their veins;

2) Regardless of that ancestry, if you look white, you're pretty much going to go through your life classified that way;

3) Each tribe chooses its own rules for membership. While some have a strict quantum of blood below which you cannot fall if you want to be considered a member of the tribe, others -- particularly Eastern tribes such as the Cherokee or the Pequots who were largely wiped out early in the history of the colonies or forced to relocate and thus are interested in maintaining any ties at all that can be verified -- require only that there be an ancestor who can be traced to the tribe;

4) The current chief of the Cherokees has the exact same quantum of Cherokee blood as Elizabeth Warren; and

5) If you are not a Native American and you find yourself echoing the words of Donald Trump when he opposed the Mashantucket Pequot tribe's effort to open up a casino in Connecticut ("They don't look like Indians to me and they don't look like Indians to Indians,"), you may want to take a hard look at some of your life choices.