“Diversity,” whose implementation requires treating people differently based on their race, sex, or ethnicity, has long since ceased to have any connection to a sensible understanding of civil rights, whose foundational and animating principle is that people should be treated “without regard” to those characteristics. Now, however, it has become a cultural deity of such power that the rhetorical homage it receives has become unhinged from any semblance of the reality even it purports to promote.
Take, for example, Major League Baseball, whose web site virtually glows with self-satisfaction produced by its prideful insistence that “MLB’s commitment to inclusion unwavering.” The original and iconic example of inclusion — Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in 1947 — was in fact momentous enough to fund MLB’s treasury of virtue (I borrow the concept from Robert Penn Warren’s The Legacy of the Civil War) for subsequent generations to draw on at their will, and I have no complaint with MLB’s continuing to draw generously on that account, as it does in the piece that prompted this post:
That’s why baseball honors Jackie Robinson every season and attempts to tell his story of courage and pain….
Robinson changed the world in ways we may still be trying to understand a century from now. He helped open hearts and minds to the notion that black people and white people could work and play together and that they wanted the same things for themselves and their children.
America’s civil rights movement began with Robinson. Had he not been a man of courage and dignity, change almost certainly wouldn’t have come as quickly, and the country would have been diminished.
The problem is not that Robinson’s significance has been exaggerated — it has not — but that it has been misunderstood. His accomplishment, and MLB’s achievement, had nothing whatsoever to do with “diversity.” His hiring was an application and affirmation of the principle that discrimination on the basis of race is wrong. Just as the meaning of Brown v. Board of Education has been distorted in an attempt to justify the very race-based treatment that it rejected, Robinson’s legacy has been diminished by drafting it to march in our obligatory “diversity” parade, as MLB shamelessly does:
But it [Robinson’s legacy] can’t be just about one man, and that’s why Major League Baseball is proud of its initiatives in the areas of affirmative action and diversity. It wants to be a mirror of America — all of America, black and white, male and female.
Major League Baseball as a “mirror of America — all of America, … male and female“? See what I mean about “diversity” rhetoric having become unhinged from reality? This was not a one-time slip of rhetorical excess, since the piece continued:
Baseball has gotten high marks through the years for bringing men and women of color into the game at every level. In his most recent report, Dr. Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, wrote:
“MLB once again recorded an A for racial hiring practices.”
The report, covering the 2011 season, praised baseball for bringing a diverse mixture of people into all levels of the sport. He reported that 38.2 percent of all players are of color, adding, “The playing fields look more like America.”
This isn’t just about front-office executives and minority managers, either. It’s about giving everyone, regardless of color or gender, an opportunity to be part of Major League Baseball.
If Major League Baseball’s “playing fields look more like America,” it’s an odd America I don’t recognize — one without women.