Many of you are asking yourselves right now, “What is he doing up there? Who invited him to speak at a diversity rally?” And now some of you are probably thinking to yourselves, “Is he gay? Is he handicapped? What is it?”
Well I have to disappoint you. I belong to none of the standard diversity categories. I am not a racial or gender minority, that is, I don’t look Black or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or anything but a White European Male. And I’m not a hidden minority either, at least not at this Law School. I’m not gay. I’m not physically handicapped. I’m not poor. In short, I am what everybody is not referring to when they say that we need more diversity.
But I would like to speak if I may, on the dangers of diversity rhetoric. Diversity proponents like easy classifications. Are you a different color? A woman? Then it’s easy to say you are different. It starts to get more difficult when less identifiable groups demand inclusion. Are you gay or lesbian? Are you dyslexic or deaf? Okay, then join the diversity club? But, no matter how inclusive it gets, I am not invited.
The goal of many diversity proponents at this law school is not just tolerance of difference, but a restructuring of the whole student body and faculty. They want more Blacks and more Hispanics and more Women and more this and more that. What they don’t want is more of me. And so, let me tell you how I feel about that.
Let me help you classify me some more. I belong to a large subgroup of the white male population on campus: I am Jewish. Jews on the whole are what you might call “overrepresented.” That is, there are far more Jewish students and professors at USC than one would expect based on our population in general. Although you probably won’t say it outright, many of you see that as a problem. Why aren’t they proportional, you ask. What advantage do they have? Whatever it is we must counterbalance it with a diversity criteria so that Jews don’t have a disproportionate representation at our law school.
Am I wrong to perceive this as a threat? If diversity had been the guiding principle of faculty selection, Erwin Chemerinsky would not have been hired. Neither would Scott Altman. Nor many other professors, good or bad. And let me tell you right here, if diversity had been the main principle in admissions, I would not be here either.
Proponents of diversity criteria claim that we should counteract the history of racism and oppression that minorities have faced in this country. I agree. But let me talk once again as a Jew. My parents are first generation Americans. My grandparents were forced to flee from Hitler only fifty years ago. My great-grandfather was murdered at Auschwitz. Most Jews can tell you similar stories, some also of murderous pogroms a generation earlier. Is my family history really so much better than the diverse people you would favor over me?
But my point is not that Jews should be considered one of the diversity groups. We would still be overrepresented and need to reduce our population. My point is that there are many factors that go into every person’s life. And to privilege one person over another, merely because of their race or gender or sexual orientation or class or religion, is wrong. It defies the principles of equality, and it defies the very dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, that people would some day be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.