Diversity not always the issue

Phil Schurrer and Phil Schurrer

A week ago, I went online to order furnace filters for my home. I finally located a company that had the proper size in stock and at a price I felt reasonable. Its Web site noted that the business was ‘woman-owned.’

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t care if a woman, a homosexual, a Martian or a two-headed unicorn owned the business. My sole purpose was to obtain the proper furnace filters at an acceptable price.

I’m becoming rather upset at having ethnic/gender identification or a justification for diversity shoved at me every time I complete a form, read the paper or view a mission statement for any organization.

The social engineers and other non-productive busybodies in our society seem to be in the driver’s seat and have decreed that our courts, businesses, faculties, managements or any other gathering of humans must be a demographic mirror of the population at large. Failure to achieve these magical ratios could possibly bring to scrutiny any number of groups, including the Department of Justice, liberals, commentators, certain academics, or the media.

Frankly, there is no logical or rational reason why we should expect any group of humans to be reflective of the population at large if the individuals select themselves for membership in a particular group.

Two examples come to mind: the NBA and the NHL. Both groups are comprised of athletes who volunteered, rather than being randomly selected from the general population, for membership. Moreover, the level of play in each sport would be arguably diminished if the membership of each group were demographically representative of the population at large. Diversity does not automatically lead to better outcomes. The quality of the individuals involved does.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint on the fitness of Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court, we should give her and Barack Obama credit for bringing the issue of identity politics to the forefront of our national discussion. Perhaps we can have a rational debate about it and put it to rest.

The critical point is not that, at one time in the past Sotomayor felt more qualified due to her gender and ethnic background. The larger issue is that a white male uttering the same phrase but substituting his race and gender could measure the remainder of his career with an egg timer. She, on the other hand, seems to be given a free pass. We need to discuss this anomaly separately from her qualifications to sit on the high court.

Addressing the Knights of Columbus in New York City in 1915, Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism ‘hellip; A hyphenated American is not an American at all ‘hellip; This is just as true of the man who puts ‘native’ before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.’

More recently, Chief Justice Roberts spoke to this point. He noted that the way to end discrimination in this county is – to end discrimination in this country. He received a barrage of grief, but he’s correct. Continual picking at a scab does not promote the healing of a wound.

Don’t look for it to come anytime soon, however. There’s a whole industry and series of career paths based on identifying and measuring how different we are from one another based on artificial and needless criteria such as gender, race, religion, politics, etc.

Affirmative action programs and set-aside quotas would become extinct, and diversity managers and statement writers would have to find something more productive to do. Since so much emphasis is placed on how different we are from one another, any attempt to treat people merely as people seems doomed from the start.

And yet, we can’t give up the fight of trying to rid our nation and culture of the curse of identity identification. Every human is entitled to respect and dignity and deserves to be judged on his/her merits, abilities and accomplishments, not what ethnic group he/she belongs to. Period. No more. No less.

One instrument for achieving this is the free market. When people are attracted to a business by the quality of the goods or services rather than color of skin or the genitalia or orientation or politics of those providing the goods or services, we will have made major strides. The ‘invisible hand’ is alive and well. Enlightened self-interest can do wonders.

In my own case, I didn’t seek a women-owned business to take care of my needs. I didn’t seek to change society or give a women- or minority-owned businesses preferential treatment through my transaction.

I merely wanted furnace filters.