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Jewish World Review May 19, 2003 / 17 Iyar, 5763

Diana West

Diana West
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A dubious diversity | It's Asian-Pacific American Month at the National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington, D.C. I don't know what that means exactly, but the banner proclaiming this diversity celebration is pretty big, so I'm thinking it must be very important. Not that every celebration of diversity isn't important. An elementary school in Somerset, Md., recently celebrated "Share Our Diversity Night," which reminds us why our Founding Minters thought to label American currency with that inspirational motto, "E unus pluribum" -- Out of one, many.

Maybe that's not exactly what it says, but my ears are still ringing from the medley of diverse songs (Trinidad and Newfoundland's greatest hits) shared on Somerset's Diversity Night. This luscious little town, by the way, is a veritable Olympic village of million-dollar homes flying United Nations flags. Correction: In the interest of reportorial accuracy, it must be said that only one Somerset home flies the robin's-egg blue banner recalling the locale of Dominique de Villepin's grand snits in the Security Council; a human rights commission headed by Libya; and a disarmament conference led by Iraq. The flag on that house, however, makes quite a diverse impression particularly if you don't know that a pair of all-American golden retrievers lives there.

Accuracy and diversity have been in the news a lot lately following revelations that top editors at The New York Times ignored increasingly emphatic warnings about the veracity of national reporter Jayson Blair: accuracy, because Blair was incapable of it (said to be a bad thing); diversity, because in today's climate of multi-culture-consciousness, Blair, a black man, exemplified it (said to be a good thing). As the old Gray Lady seeks to "out, out" this new spot by airing all the dirty linen that's fit to print -- 7,000-plus words on Sunday about Blair's fabrications -- the more interesting questions emerging from the scandal may pertain less to accuracy and more to diversity.

Why? Because there lurks the very, very, strong suspicion that Blair -- whose articles required 50-plus after-publication corrections before a final-straw bit of plagiarism -- was selected for plum beats to serve the cause of diversity. In the color-blinded eyes of The New York Times' top dogs, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd, diversity appears to have come before accuracy.

This is not only bad for the newspaper, it is bad for all the other minority reporters who might or might not have been recruited for this same cause (and these include, in diversity-speak, non-white men and all women). Regardless of excellence or mediocrity, they must all go home at night wondering whether the boss chose them for the color of their skin or the content of their clip file. And that stinks, but it's an old story, and it never has a happy ending. Manipulating human beings to realize any utopian dream, from Marxism to diversity, is always a nightmare on some level. Treating people as symbols, as colors, as trophies, is ultimately dehumanizing. As we examine (via the revelations of the Blair case) the fanaticism of journalism's drive to "diversify," this should become obvious. Which should lead to some tough questions: Exactly what is "diversity," and why has it become an end in itself? One definition of diversity comes from Newsweek's Seth Mnookin, who recently lamented that The New York Times hasn't immediately declared it "will continue its commitment to making the paper's reporters better reflect the world they write about."

Is that what this diversity is about -- reporters who better reflect the world they write about? Such a state of journalistic affairs would relegate middle-aged white women to the Hillary beat, black men to cover the NBA and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Asian reporters to SARS -- and they could all flip for multi-racial Tiger Woods. And what in diversity's name was Jayson Blair doing writing about former POW Jessica Lynch's family (white), anyway? In a word, such "diversity" is absurd. It is also deeply depressing. For its devotion to identity politics, presumes that human beings are incapable of reaching across race and sex -- a fallacy belied, thankfully, by centuries of more expansive hearts and imaginations.

Mnookin also writes of the media's "responsibility to reflect different viewpoints, to report on varied cultures, to shine lights in places we might not tread ourselves." That sounds more like a decent day's work, although I wonder if diversifiers realize it doesn't require anything special -- not race, not sex -- besides shoe leather. And I wonder if they could ever accept "different viewpoints" -- conservatives, say -- in their newsrooms. There's the kind of diversity -- none of this skin-deep stuff -- that has always been too rich for their blood.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

05/09/03: Recalling the man who 'Banned in Boston'
05/02/03: Fellowships and flagellation
04/28/03: What Americans have to learn about cultural education
04/21/03: In Iraq, is democracy is in the eye of the beholder?
04/14/03: The greatest generation gap
03/31/03: The great gap between the West and the Middle East
03/21/03: They just wouldn't shut up!
03/10/03: Sorry apologies for speaking the truth
03/03/03: The Eurabian alliance
02/24/03: Searching for good news
02/18/03: Love and honor -- lost, found and murdered
02/03/03: A calm that causes concern
01/27/03: Playing politics with a T-shirt mentality
01/21/03: When understanding the East means losing the West
01/13/03: Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
01/06/03: Bush must take a stand on affirmative action
12/30/02: Questions for reflection on 2002
12/16/02: The pre-emptive war goes Hollywood
12/09/02: Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan?
11/25/02: Something to contemplate this Ramadan
11/08/02: Does Eminem now fit in?
11/04/02: No time for gloating
11/04/02: What's in a name when the name is Muhammad?
10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West