Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
DEI is a disaster for our culture, but it must be fixed locally, scholar and senator argue

‘The way we beat this discriminatory and divisive ideology back is in communities. Do something locally about it among real people.’

The Cato Institute hosted a policy forum on diversity, equity and inclusion on Wednesday during which Republican U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Erec Smith, a professor of rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania, laid out the case against DEI and how to fix it.

Schmitt argued DEI is pure cultural Marxism, an ideology planted by the hard left in universities and K-12 schools, but also in corporations and the military, to deconstruct all of the parts of American culture that bring us together. 

In particular, he was clear that understanding what the Constitution offers, and believing in the God-granted rights specified in the Declaration of Independence, bring us together as Americans. Reducing us to our racial characteristics – blackness or whiteness – undermines that.

“We believe in an idea, if you accept that you’re an American,” Schmitt said. “If they undermine that they will create unrest and instability and remake it in this Marxist image.”

Smith, who is black, co-founded Free Black Thought, which is dedicated to “highlighting viewpoint diversity in the black community.” 

He told a story about being at a conference in which an academic argued that teaching standard English to black students is inherently racist. Better to let them use Ebonics, or black nonstandard English, the woke academic had said.

“I pushed back a little on that, “Smith said. “After all, it (standard English) could come in handy later on. The same speaker lamented the fact that his black students didn’t want to write in black English.” Smith’s colleague said it was “selfish and immature” of the students, because “if they do learn standard English, they’ll just go out and be successful and maintain the status quo.” 

Smith said the incident is an alarming illustration of anti-intellectualism: “So, destabilization is a primary goal. That is why I’m here.” 

Smith argued that the point of DEI, which he also called “Critical Social Justice,” is “splitting society into oppressor and oppressed. As if the entire American way exists to protect whiteness.” 

He raised the concept of “repressive tolerance,” in which you don’t allow your group to agree with the other side, no matter what.

Smith mentioned Derrick Bell, the Harvard law professor who is the leading CSJ theorist in the country. In Bell’s view, “racial realism” says that racism won’t go away, “so the best we can do is to constantly make white people uncomfortable.”  

Schmitt said what makes him uncomfortable is being reduced to whiteness alone. In a riff on Alexis de Tocqueville, whose big insight, he claimed, was not some bureaucratic finesse out of Washington, but rather that Americans are “joiners,” Schmitt noted that by dint of his heritage, “I’m of German descent; I’m of Italian descent; I’m of Catholic descent. DEI wipes all of that away. Only white. This makes ‘othering’ easier.” 

Schmitt, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worked this year to remove DEI funding from the National Defense Authorization Act. 

“There is a reason why people in the military wear a uniform. You’re building commonality. The armed services is a meritocracy. They’re using cultural Marxism to divide recruits. There are better ways to bring people in and give them opportunities,” he said.

Smith made the point that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Audits are good. He too supported pushing meritocracy, and outreach programs. 

“Merit seems like an inherently racist thing under DEI because it hides racial bias. If we have outreach and mentorship, we can ensure that merit is acquired. So they have the requisite skills to succeed when they apply to colleges or for jobs,” he said.

Smith said he thinks mentorship programs should start young – like in middle school — so minority kids are culturally comfortable with colleges and other institutions they will need to navigate. 

In the end, both men said they feel strongly that, as Schmitt put it, “the way we beat this discriminatory and divisive ideology back is in communities. Do something locally about it among real people.”  

Said Smith: “Things should happen at the local level. Lots of nonprofits are out there trying to do the right thing in a classical liberal way. “

“People working together helps people get along. We need constant contact at the local level. We can do this ourselves. No one is coming to save us. We can do this.”

 MORE: UT-Austin defunds all DEI programs, reportedly fires 60 DEI employees

IMAGE: CATO screenshot

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.