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Questioning Creative Diversity

Corporate America has a problem. It wants to diversify its work force, but, according to an article in the Star Tribune (February 16, 2005), “can’t consider diversity when they hire ... Not to worry. The marketplace has gotten creative with the diversity dilemma over the years.” For $125, a conference sponsored by the St. Thomas College of Business (which gives business education an ethical twist) and the Twin Cities Chapter of the National Black MBA Association can provide some useful tips.

Suppose the employer can’t tell whether the job applicant is a person of color? Check the person’s resume. If it shows membership in the “National Association of Asian American Professionals” or the “Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement”, chances are that this applicant will contribute to the employer’s diversity goals without the interviewer having to ask.

“Suppose that only middle-aged white men will apply?” The solution: “Peruse the resumes on DiversityInc.com or HireDiversity.com.”

Suppose that two equally qualified persons apply, one who advances the goal of diversity and another who does not? The diversity counselors suggest saying “’While this person has similar skills, what makes this other person more optimal to me is he has used more software', or something like that.” The clueless white guy will never be the wiser.

So there it is, right out in the open. America’s leading corporations are being advised to look for legal ways to discriminate with respect to gender or race, so long as the discrimination runs a certain way. To my way of thinking, this is unethical. But, of course, we can’t have an open discussion of it.

To me the situation is reminiscent of that in the stereotypical segregationist South - a combination of open discrimination and deceptive moves by powerful bureaucrats, whether small-town Sheriffs’ deputies or Human Resource managers, to keep people uninformed and in their place.

Apart from the racial reversal, the difference between fifty years ago and the corporate situation today is that, whereas white society then discriminated against blacks, corporations headed mostly by white males are discriminating against other, mostly younger white males.

Some say this shows progress toward a meritocratic system. Presumably the white males applying for jobs must be dolts; otherwise they would be holding the good jobs already.

All I can say is that in the bad old unmeritocratic days, our industries invented such things as jet aircraft and computers; while today we’re inventing Post-it notes, supersized burgers, variable-interest mortgages, and FDA-approved pain-killing pills.

I think that those mostly white-male CEO’s who are pushing for diversity are not so much ‘broad minded” as they are reptilian in their lack of sympathy for their own kind. To my “diverse” friends, I say: If they can do this to white males, they can also do it to you - and probably will.

We need a paradigm shift away from “meritocratic” selection for a shrinking number of good jobs to a system of employment that utilizes the skills of the less qualified among us as well as the ones with impressive credentials. Those gatekeepers in Human Resource departments and colleges of business should try to find a more productive use of their time.

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