Terry Manning

Lazy arguments stymie diversity efforts


I read an article recently that sums up this moment in our nation’s history even if you never get past its headline:

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

Author Susan Colantuano didn’t originate the expression, but she deploys it in responding to a pledge made by a group of corporations to diversify their leadership ranks by including more women. The companies set a deadline of 2030, but Colantuano expected a backlash would arise much sooner.

“(Critics) inevitably raise ‘concerns’ about or objections to these initiatives that sound something like this:

“‘Why not just appoint the best person for the job?’

“‘It should always be about getting “the best person for the job.” …’

“‘We don’t want to threaten/alienate/upset/exclude the men.’”

“At the bottom of all of these comments,” she writes, “lies a discomfort based on the belief that the workplace is a zero-sum game. In other words, if women are advancing, men aren’t. Or if some women are advancing, other women aren’t. But the truth is that when women aren’t in the equation, everyone suffers.”

Those “concerns” sound familiar to anyone following the reactions to President Biden’s pledge to put a Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said Republicans won’t let any nominee sail through without a “thorough” vetting. He told CNN, “I think it sends the wrong signal to say that, ‘Well if a person is of a certain ethnic background, that we don’t care what their record is, we don’t care what their substantive beliefs are.’ That would be extraordinary.”

Who said no one cared about the candidates’ credentials? Certainly not Biden. Before he specified his preference for a Black woman, he detailed his requirements of suitable judicial experience.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is accurate less often than a broken clock, called the president’s promise “offensive,” telling his podcast audience, “Black women are, what, 6 percent of the U.S. population? (The president is) saying to 94 percent of Americans: ‘I don’t give a damn about you. You are ineligible.’”

On Fox News’ website, host Tucker Carlson followed the same line of thought, writing the choice of a Black woman could — and perhaps should — be considered a slap in the face to potential qualified candidates from other minority groups, such as Pacific Island descent or transgender.

“Identity politics always ends with tribal warfare,” Carlson wrote, conveniently overlooking the fact that he, as a straight White conservative male, belongs to the “tribe” that benefits most when the others are quarreling.

But divide and conquer is a time-tested approach, so why should we expect anything less?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cautioned, “The president must not outsource this important decision to the radical left.”

Never mind that the ultra-conservative Federalist Society literally made a list of judicial nominees used by Republican leaders to stock the nation’s judicial system with right-wingers expected to roll back decades of advances in civil liberties.

Six of the current Supreme Court’s roster are current or former members of the group. Small wonder the high court has chosen to let Texas’ anti-choice bounty system stay in place while taking on challenges to Roe v. Wade, gun control, affirmative action and freedom of the press.

But McConnell knows you can never go broke selling the GOP base on anything Democrats do as being “radical.”

Whomever President Biden finally nominates will carry a tremendous burden. The first Black or first woman in any position is always highly scrutinized, open to second-guessing by even the least qualified critics. The first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court? I can’t even imagine.

I trust she understands that burden and will serve in a way that more than validates her selection. In fact, I am certain of it.

We should be so lucky the zero-sum mentality exists solely in the workplace, but it doesn’t. It permeates all areas of our society and is being exploited to convince many of us our country is coming apart at the seams.

Making the highest court of the land more representative of its people is a way to reinforce those seams, not weaken them.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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