by John McWhorter

The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality

Michaels condemns the diversity regime for its social calisthenics about our cultural differences while turning a blind eye to class-based inequity. Linguists shake their heads to see tribespeople's children learning big Berlitz languages and leaving their exotic indigenous languages behind--without considering that the Berlitz language gives the "exotic" person access to the material comfort the linguist enjoys. Universities bend over backwards to have a "representative" number of brown students supported in clamoring that their culture be "respected"--with no concern for the legions of brown people whose problem is less cultural validation than that they could never afford the school's tuition. In this, Michaels is dead on, and his point that the diversity fetish leads to excusing other cultures for destructive behaviors we would condemn in our own is especially useful (witness the tendency to designate Osama Bin Laden a "madman," implying that this sane, calculating person is not responsible for his actions, whereas Dick Cheney is afforded no such exemption from sincere, visceral contempt). However, Michaels slips in his dismissal of "diversity" fans' ample addresses of economic inequity. Not that he isn't rhetorically deft on the topic. Here he is on the new fashion at universities of seeking to bring in lower-income students, such as the University of California's refashioning of its admissions procedure to give preference on the basis of "disadvantage" rather than race:

The kind of diversity produced by a larger number of poor students isn't exactly the sort of thing a college can plausibly celebrate--no poor people's history month, no special "theme" dormitories (i.e. no Poor House alongside Latino House and Asia House), and no special reunions for poor alumni. Indeed, the whole point of going to Harvard, from the standpoint of the poor, would be to stop being poor, whereas Asian Americans, African Americans, et cetera, presumably don't want to stop being Asian American, African American, et cetera.
Nickel and Dimed