The Omaha World-Herald guest editorial — “University plans are not against America, Dec. 13 — was a historical, condescending and obscurantist. To wit: There is a real conflict over first principles and visions raised by UNL’s new “Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity” program. If philosophy is indeed a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language, we should clarify what we’re squabbling about.
Our Founding Fathers deployed the advantages of an 18th century education well. They were steeped in classical learning, natural law theory, British empiricism and Scottish common-sense philosophy. They adhered to the liberal creed that equal opportunity in a meritocratic society is equity instantiated. Aristotle — “The worst form of inequality is to make unequal things equal.” — and Seneca — “The fairness of a law does not consist in its effect being felt by all alike, but in its having been laid down for all alike.” — inspired the Founders to establish a republic of virtue. African-Americans from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King Jr. to the sizable number of African-Americans who voted against reinstituting race based affirmative action in California in 2020, subscribed to our founding principles. Dr. King used the word equality once and freedom 20 times in his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Our Founders inherited the epitome of rank injustice, chattel slavery, from the British, French and Spanish empires. The founders signed “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” God only knows the sum of the miseries that accreted from justice delayed. It was fitting for President Lincoln, and is fitting for us, to contemplate how a just God would requite “every drop of blood drawn with the lash.”
Critical race theory plausibly links racism with unequal outcomes in America. Unequal outcomes among ethnic groups clearly persist half a century after de jure segregation was tossed in the wastebasket. Hence the illiberal “successor ideology” — diversity, equity and inclusion.
Many questions naturally arise. Would NU President Ted Carter, Chancellor Ronnie Green and the OWH editor privilege certain skin pigments over objective merit to achieve “diversity”? If 95% of the humanities faculty are progressives and 5% classical liberals will the distinguished gentleman promote “intellectual diversity”? Do the powers that be think unequal outcomes among racial groups are always inequitable? Aren’t unequal outcomes inevitable in a just society? Would the administrators rebalance the NBA? Given scarce resources, don’t choices sometimes need to be made between inclusion of marginal students or academic excellence?
Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, was invited to lecture on his climate change research at MIT. He was disinvited when he advocated for merit, fairness and equality in lieu of diversity, Equity and inclusion. Similar examples abound and multiply. So, will faculty and staff at UNL be required to rubber stamp the provisions of the anti-racism and equity program? Or, may scholars engage in “difficult conversations,” without fear of retribution, about the demerits as well as the merits, of the illiberal ideology into which diversity, equity and inclusion has morphed?