Bari Weiss proposes ending DEI

November 9, 2023 • 12:38 pm

Bari Weiss, head of the Free Press, just published this article on her website, but it appeared in Tablet, in identical form, a few days ago. You can click on the headline below to read it, or go here to see it on her site.

As the subheader on her FP article says, “It’s not about diversity, equity, or inclusion. It is about arrogating power to a movement that threatens not just Jews—but America itself.”

Some excerpts:

Twenty years ago, when I was a college student, I started writing about a then-nameless, niche ideology that seemed to contradict everything I had been taught since I was a child.

It is possible I would not have perceived the nature of this ideology—or rather, I would have been able to avoid seeing its true nature—had I not been a Jew. But I was. I am. And in noticing the way I had been written out of the equation, I started to notice that it wasn’t just me, but that the whole system rested on an illusion.

What I saw was a worldview that replaced basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Colorblindness with race-obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.

People were to be given authority in this new order not in recognition of their gifts, hard work, accomplishments, or contributions to society, but in inverse proportion to the disadvantages their group had suffered, as defined by radical ideologues. According to them, as Jamie Kirchick concisely put it in these pages: “Muslim > gay, Black > female, and everybody > the Jews.”

. . . Over the past two decades, I saw this inverting worldview swallow all of the crucial sense-making institutions of American life. It started with the universities. Then it moved on to cultural institutions—including some I knew well, like The New York Times—as well as every major museumphilanthropy, and media company. Then on to our medical schools and our law schools. It’s taken root at nearly every major corporation. It’s inside our high schools and even our elementary schools. The takeover is so comprehensive that it’s now almost hard to notice it—because it is everywhere.

Including in the Jewish community.

Weiss sees DEI as especially dangerous to the small community of Jews because although they’ve achieved a great deal despite historical persecution, they’re now perceived, courtesy of the DEI philosophy, as white oppressors, and thus are fair game (indeed, the fairest game) for hatred. Their Jewishness not only trumps that merit, but puts them, as noted above, at the very bottom of humanity’s heap.


But “DEI” is not about the words it uses as camouflage. DEI is about arrogating power.

And the movement that is gathering all this power does not like America or liberalism. It does not believe that America is a good country—at least no better than China or Iran. It calls itself progressive, but it does not believe in progress; it is explicitly anti-growth. It claims to promote “equity,” but its answer to the challenge of teaching math or reading to disadvantaged children is to eliminate math and reading tests. It demonizes hard work, merit, family, and the dignity of the individual.

An ideology that pathologizes these fundamental human virtues is one that seeks to undermine what makes America exceptional.

It is time to end DEI for good. No more standing by as people are encouraged to segregate themselves. No more forced declarations that you will prioritize identity over excellence. No more compelled speech. No more going along with little lies for the sake of being polite.

The Jewish people have outlived every single regime and ideology that has sought our elimination. We will persist, one way or another. But DEI is undermining America, and that for which it stands—including the principles that have made it a place of unparalleled opportunity, safety, and freedom for so many. Fighting it is the least we owe this country.

I wonder if this piece could have been written as effectively without the concentration on Judaism, which smacks a bit of special pleading. After all, halfway through the article she says this:

It isn’t only Jews who suffer from the suggestion that merit and excellence are dirty words. It is strivers of every race, ethnicity, and class. That is why Asian American success, for example, is suspicious. The percentages are off. The scores are too high. From whom did you steal all that success?

It is the denigration of merit in favor of identity that is the most destructive aspect of DEI.  That is one reason that a number of us, concerned with the erosion of merit in our own fields of science, cowrote a paper called “In Defense of Merit in Science,” Of course we had trouble publishing it, and of course it was widely attacked. Merit is going out of style.

I still believe that some form of reparations are due those who have been held back by bigotry, but I am still unable to specify what kind of reparations.  Weiss would probably not agree with me there, but I am with her in suspecting that the DEI movement, and its partner “identity politics”, are warping American society in many ways. It is not getting more unified, but more fragmented, with groups competing for hegemony. And I have no confidence that this trend will be reversed.

35 thoughts on “Bari Weiss proposes ending DEI

  1. Thanks for that! I remember the good old days, when Jews were a minority group. Now, “intersectionality” is a term that seems to mean “everybody except the Jews.” The coming wave of anti-Semitism may change all that, but I will be damned if it will make me a conservative.

  2. Trojan Horse words.

    It’d be good to know what the DEI wizards’ unspecified ideology actually “Includes” for “Diversity” in its long march to colonize the institution. I’m guessing if anyone disapproves there’ll be some struggling.

  3. A current article in Tablet [] concisely summarizes the DEI doctrine and technique, as follows.

    “While a therapeutic, feelings-over-facts approach—a focus on safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings, and so forth—is certainly one of the favored methods of America’s new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy, it’s clearly not an inherent part of the woke gestalt. Rather, proclaiming one’s personal or group hypersensitivity and fragility is a technique to gain control of particular spaces by hijacking the language of America’s preexisting therapeutic culture, with the goal of forcing opponents into silence. ”

    DEI’s trick of “hijacking the language of America’s preexisting therapeutic culture” is undoubtedly the way it has infiltrated STEM by way of medical schools and related departments, such as Public Health, Global Health, etc. etc.

  4. The goal of reparations should be the equality of opportunity. To me that means universal QUALITY pre-K, universal/affordable healthcare, paid parental leave, hiring more and better teachers, improving the quality of public schools, etc..

    1. Any evidence that those would work? Or are they just as ideologically founded as DEI? You already spend a lot of money on those good things as it is.

    2. I agree that we should aim for equal opportunity, but policy also should be evidence based and Leslie is right to ask. If we’re talking about academic outcomes up to age 18, then most of the above factors are far less important than people generally think. Or, putting that another way, nowadays most kids’ environments in Western countries are good enough, and improving them has only minor effects on academic outcomes. We know this from twin studies and adoption studies and such. These consistently find (and have done so for decades now), that “shared environment” (that is, environmental factors that siblings living in the same house would share) have only a minor effect on outcomes.

      Regarding schools, all the evidence is that what makes a school “good” is not the funding levels or the teachers (overall they’re good enough) but simply the intake of kids.

      As for parents, the tendency is to think that a parent reading bed-time stories to their young child then leads to academic success as a teenager. Again, the evidence from twin and adoption studies is against this idea (however counter-intuitive that might seem); instead, parents who love reading pass on genes for loving reading. Twenty years after Judith Rich Harris wrote The Nurture Assumption, and with all the evidence since then only adding support, this message is still widely ignored.

      1. Having a father in the house is important, too. There was a large study that linked census and IRS data (anonymized to the researchers of course) and found that boys benefited from moving to neighbourhoods where the norm was to have fathers present and accounted for, even if they themselves were being brought up by Mom alone. Neighbourhoods where few kids have present fathers are, of course, vastly different from ones where most do.

        But there is something else going on here. (Unless, of course, this was just another one of those pieces of research that would fail replication if it were to be attempted.) The study was looking at mobility, hence the variable of interest was moving, not being. A single mother who can afford to move (with her kids) to a neighbourhood where most families are intact has succeeded in some important way and it’s not likely from giving more money to teachers unions.

          1. The study from Harvard is “The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility by Chetty and Hendren, 2015.” If you Google that string between the quotation marks you will get a 143-page paper in pdf. It is a draft of a study eventually published in 2018, abstract here:

            The study was covered in the Atlantic which gave emphasis to the neighbourhood mobility effect. I think this is the story:
   I confess I read the Atlantic story, not the 143 pages of the draft paper!

            The authors point out that very few black single-mother families are able to move to better neighbourhoods but for those that do, their children do better than those whose mothers stay behind, and much better than those whose mothers move the other way.

      2. “… reading bed-time stories to their young child ..”

        And, it’s a great way to make some kids dependent on hearing stories in order to get to sleep – or perhaps even “audiobooks” to do anything (which I loathed then loved but now loathe again) – don’t ask me how I know this!

    3. I don’t know why the US public opinion is so lukewarm (or outright hostile) to paid parental leave. It is so important for children and families, poor as well as affluent ones.

  5. I think a dialectical trap – intended by dialectical political warfare (exemplified by Mao Zedong) is laid with [A] equality of opportunity and [B] equality of outcome as the opposing pair. The perceived conflict is valuable politically.

    The trick is to find how that contradiction is intended to be resolved by dialectical synthesis to a sublated higher entity.

    I don’t know the answer to that.

    But nothing says there are only A and B or their dialectical synthesis.

  6. Bari Weiss is correct. DEI bureaucracies need to go away, but so does the victim/oppressor dichotomy that spawned it. The ideology has so polluted the minds of so many that it will be much harder to eliminate than the DEI industry itself.

    1. Well said, Norman. DEI gives large organizations a way to virtue signal to their peers and younger customers their concern for societal acceptance of historically disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, it ends up simply creating new internal power centers that have no established norms or boundaries so quickly fall into the “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” trap. To the extent that DEI efforts are based on an oppressor/oppressed framework, the efforts trigger the “us versus them” response in human nature. Usually, that response doesn’t lead to feelings of compassion, tolerance, or acceptance of anyone in the “them” category. Which then leads to new oppressor/oppressed groupings and more societal unrest. Historians will have some great material to unpack when explaining our historical era.

  7. While probably childish, I confess I think it’s funny — and telling — how incensed the DEI crowd gets if one does a simple switcheroo that changes nothing but their acronym and refers to it as DIE. (After all, diversity+equity+inclusion=diversity+inclusion+equity, does it not?)

    This sensitivity, to me, is a kind of tell, a bellwether indicating that a key component of the “movement” is extreme hypersensitivity to sleight, real or imagined.

    Anyway, perhaps Weiss’ piece can be summed up as, “DEI should DIE”…? No? Yes?

  8. Diversity, Equ(al)ity and Inclusion all too often seem to turn out to mean Conformity, Heirarchy and Exclusion (or CHE, for short).

    Conformity and Exclusion go hand in hand: if you don’t adhere to the deeds, words and thoughts that are required by the priests of the DEI religion, you are beyond the pale, and they will do their best to destroy your reputation and your livelihood. As for the Heirarchy: you can make up your own combination of alleged disadvantages that automatically put certain individuals at the top of the tree, and beyond all criticism. And at the bottom: white, heterosexual, older, educated white men. Sorry, we’re second to bottom. Below us are the Jews. As usual.

    Apologies for being so bitter and cynical. Maybe as an older, educated white man I can’t help it.

  9. If reparations may have been a reasonable idea at one time, I suspect that time has gone. Given the current climate fostering resentment and entitlement, they’d probably be counterproductive.

    “White People, I need you to know that your money cannot assuage you from your guilt. If you think you can pay your way out of this, there aren’t enough reparations in the worldyou can pay us… we’re still going to tell you you’re racist.”(Angry black woman on TikTok)

    The philosophy that creates DEI departments creates a perpetual need for a call out culture coming from the eternally oppressed. It does not improve.

      1. Jerry, is there a way to create opportunities for some while denying those opportunities to others? I’m unaware of higher ed affirmative efforts in highly competitive institutions that didn’t end up helping some students of color while deliberately excluding other students from equally challenging circumstances. Think Asian Americans, for example. Thanks for any thoughts you have on the issue of how to create fair affirmative action efforts for highly desirable opportunities.

    1. I’m going to guess that the angry black woman on TikTok was never herself a slave, wasn’t even alive during Jim Crow, and has been treated reasonably equally over her own life, and thus does not have a genuine grievance.

    2. I feel that it is sheer unadulterated arrogance to assume that “white people” just because of birth should feel guilty, about what? This version of racism by “an angry black woman on Tik Tok,”whatever that is?
      I do not feel guilty about anything possibly with some exception of minor personal events. I am definitely not responsible or guilty about anything done by my ancestors or even close relatives, friends or anyone else. They were or are masters of their own destinies. I am also unashamedly “white people” of Scandinavian descent and it is quite feasible that some or many of my ancestors could have been violent not unlike many peoples ancestors regardless of their skin colour.
      I really struggle to understand how we have arrived at this state in our societies, this legion of the self claimed perpetual oppressed especially when at present we see the approbation heaped against the Jews who if anyone have a real claim to generational oppression. I am not denying that many humans and other animals live unpleasant lives but also many live very good lives improved significantly in my own life time.
      Am I missing something? Where is all this leading to?

        1. Thanks for the link.
          Does not make for particularly cheerful reading.

          Communist Utopia, somewhat a contradiction based on previous and current communist “utopias” or even Putins Russia.

  10. Arguably Wokism (including DEI as its shock troops) is the instantiation of emotions and passions – and reason is particularly useless against this instance of emotion.

    Arguments about objective truth and merit are weak before the stampede of emotions whipped up by those with an agenda or a worldview based on group identities and oppression.

    To repurpose an old quote:

    “You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place.”
    ― Jonathan Swift

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