Diversity All Around Us

In my recent post, I noted the absurdity of Nexdoor CEO Nirav Tolia’s claiming to hire H-1Bs on “diversity” grounds:

The notion that Nextdoor, located in San Francisco, has to resort to hire foreign workers because the locals lack diversity is laughable.

I’d like to illustrate that with an incident that occurred in my office a few days later. There were four students in my office, all  undergraduates and all Americans except one. One was ethnic Chinese; one has Russian parents; one is a foreign grad student from India; and the fourth was your typical white girl.

Or so I thought. The “typical white girl’s” mom turned out to be Filipino. (Other than this student’s dark hair, her Asian background was invisible, so I was fooled.)

The Chinese guy speaks Cantonese, and he and I briefly chatted in that language. The Russian woman speaks Russian and has studied Korean and Japanese; the Anglo-Filipino girl understands Tagalog, and has picked up a fair amount of Chinese from her friends.

A few years ago, our then-chancellor (white) had the “brilliant” idea that all UC Davis students should be required to spend a quarter abroad, so as to broaden their cultural horizons. Well, he may have grown up in White Bread America but most UCD students did NOT.

Diversity is a great concept, and maybe we need more of it in some venues. (Social class is a separate issue.) But here in California we are ALREADY quite diverse. The misapplication of the Diversity Card, whether deliberate deception as in Tolia’s case or arising from just plain ignorance as in the chancellor’s case, is A Good Concept Gone Wild.

And by the way, when the chancellor presented his idea to a group of us campus committee chairs, an African-American professor in one of the social science departments said to the chancellor, in an irritated and not very polite tone, “I write and teach about the U.S. You are demeaning my work.” Indeed.

In discussions about H-1B, defenders of the program imply that those complaining are white males who don’t have a high degree of tolerance to those of other races. Again, this is playing the Race Card, whether deliberately or out of ignorance. Look at the picture of H-1B victims in the New York Times article the other day — how many white males do you see? Look in any undergraduate computer science classroom at a California university; how many white males do you see there? And no, the vast majority at the undergrad level are Americans, not foreign students.

And though Silicon Valley firms say they would love to hire more African-Americans, but they are nowhere to be found, this claim also sounds disingenuous. I’ve mentioned before the case of a young black man from a Top-5 university whom I know to be very talented. He actually was hired as an intern by Google when he was a student, but only for a management training program, not as an engineer.

As Senator Grassley once said, “No one should be fooled.”

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6 thoughts on “Diversity All Around Us

  1. Even middle America has a lot of “diversity”. Land grant colleges have been getting lots of foreign students from Third World countries for 40 and more years, including Muslims. The Islamic Society of North America was based in OHIO, and the Michigan-Indiana-Ohio area has lots of Muslims and Arabs. Not to mention assorted immigrant groups who moved there around 1920, attracted by the auto industry and Henry Ford’s $5 day.

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  2. I recommend that all college students in America spend a quarter in Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, or Alabama — not in classrooms, but doing regular jobs with regular Southerners. I suspect the culture clash would be not only very enlightening, but would be the best way to refute long-enduring stereotypes of Southerners.

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  3. The whole original idea of diversity has devolved into divisive identity politics. When the whole notion began several decades ago, it was a message of tolerance, inclusion, and unity. In pop music you get sappy but nice songs like the Ojay’s Love train re-enforcing these ideas. No more. Now diversity defines people as nothing but a proscribed set of differences based on for the lack of a better term, “political correctness”. People are reduced to a set of political cliches. So, yes, the defenders of H1bs go the well of identity politics where some CEO uses “diversity” as a racial dog whistle to mean white males in a pejorative way.

    And yup, the use of H1Bs is absolutely shutting the door to high tech employment to American women and minorities as the door is being shut for any and all Americans regardless of their backgrounds. I suspect companies will start using H1B workers to pad their numbers to show they are “diverse”: for example, counting female H1Bs to show companies are committed to hiring women.

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  4. Diversity is just a different banner for divide and conquer that politicians have used for decades to further their agendas. Whatever happened to the “melting pot?”

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    • Good question. I think the high-level powers still believe in the Melting Pot, as does most of the populace, but the ethnic activists to a large extent do not. I was quite surprised (and disappointed), by the way, that last November California voters chose to repeal the English-only requirement for K-12 education.

      In Canada, the semi-official metaphor is the Mosaic or Salad Bowl, no real mixing.

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