On DEI, it’s OK for conservatives to say, ‘I told you so’

Last week, Charlamagne tha God, the influential black comedian and radio host, did a spot on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show that skewered the diversity, equity, and inclusion industry. The segment seemed to stun the studio audience silent and caused a fierce backlash on social media from DEI proponents. 

Four years removed from the near total adoption of DEI principles across every major cultural institution in the United States, from the news media to corporate America to academia and beyond, Charlamagne’s stinging critique felt like a watershed moment.

“The truth about DEI, however well intentioned, is that it’s mostly garbage,” he said. “And you know I’m right because every one of you sat through one of those diversity training sessions and thought, ‘This is some bulls***.’”

It’s incredible it took so long for someone, anyone, to state the obvious to a large liberal audience: that DEI, typified by the deluge of corporate “diversity” commercials that flooded the airwaves in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the expansion of DEI departments across academia, was only ever meant to help white liberals cling to their cultural power.

And DEI consulting firms were more than happy to oblige. Like the corrupt, medieval Catholic Church that exchanged a shorter stay in Purgatory for monetary payments, DEI firms sold their seal of moral approval to the highest bidders, resulting in a multibillion-dollar expansion of the industry. As a result, not a single white executive or academic administrator had to relinquish their position so that a minority might take their place, and DEI consulting firms, staffed by diversity studies majors unqualified to do anything else in the professional sphere, swam in cash.

According to Charlamagne, this arrangement didn’t improve the workplace conditions of minorities. Indeed, it probably did the opposite.

“Over 900 studies have shown that DEI programs don’t make the workplace better for minorities,” he said. “In fact, it can actually make things worse because of the backlash effect. Remember D.A.R.E. from school? DEI training was like D.A.R.E. for racism. And you all know how effective that was. I was sitting there going, ‘Oh s***! There’s a ton of fun drugs I should try!’”

This is, of course, exactly what conservative critics of DEI have been saying the whole time. The progressive insistence on “seeing race” and adjusting accordingly was only ever going to fuel racial disharmony. This neoracist approach, popularized by corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo and academic lightweight Ibram X. Kendi, fostered an atmosphere of paranoia, bafflement, and hostility in which black people were infantilized by white liberals and no tangible progress was made. 

Meanwhile, the imperfect approach of treating people equally regardless of race, otherwise known as the “colorblindness approach,” appears to have been the best option all along. While it is crucial to acknowledge America’s dark racial history, radical social engineering based on skin color is both unworkable and morally dubious. And yet, conservatives have been reflexively blasted as “white supremacists” for daring to suggest this since the summer of 2020. 

Charlamagne’s admission should encourage conservatives to make a strong, affirmative case that their approach to race relations is the most effective and morally justifiable. Indeed, the dramatic swing in voter preferences among minorities away from Democrats and toward Republicans in numerous recent polls suggests an opening for conservatives on this issue unseen in decades. Scholar Coleman Hughes’s calm dismantling of The View’s Sunny Hostin on the topic last week offers a strong model to emulate going forward. 

Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to say “I told you so” on the DEI disaster. The public has soured on the Kendian, neoracist approach to race relations. It’s time that proponents of the failed cultural phenomenon suffer political consequences. It’s time for conservatives to boldly make their case on race.

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Peter Laffin is a contributor at the Washington Examiner. His work has also appeared in RealClearPolitics, the Catholic Thing, and the National Catholic Register.

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