Dizzy Diversity

Ashley Thorne

*NAS has serialized this book on our Books and Reports page.

Our house is upside down.

Last year, Polish businessman and philanthropist Daniel Czapiewski built an upside down house. It took 114 days to complete construction, since the workers would get too disoriented and confused to work more than three hours at a time. Tourists who come to the tiny village of Szymbark, Poland to see the house, also complain of nausea while inside this weirdly angled Alice-in-Wonderland structure. Czapiewski explained that his purpose was to create a symbol of how man spoils the world, especially through the backwardness of Communism. His house, a bizarre reminder of the fantasy world, is unlivable, and sickens everyone inside it.

Today, Larry Purdy—one of the three lawyers from the Minneapolis law firm Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand who represented Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter in the U.S. Supreme Court cases Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger—presents a picture of the upside down house in which we live. His book, Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity", shows how racial preferences have engendered an upside down view of race, racism, affirmative action, diversity, and justice.

The National Association of Scholars is privileged to present, beginning today, an advanced look at Purdy’s book. A printed version of Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity" will be available later this year. In the days and weeks to come, however, we will serialize this important book on our website. We will post new chapters (in PDF form) on Mondays and Thursdays until the whole book is present. We do this with the author’s permission. Mr. Purdy retains the copyright to Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity" and all legal claims to his intellectual property. 

In the preface, Purdy names the three purposes of his book: First, he sets out to refute another book, The Shape of the River (1998) by William Bowen and Derek Bok, former presidents of Princeton and Harvard.  Bowen and Bok’s book strenuously argued that racial preferences in elite colleges work as advertised: the minority students who receive the preferences thrive; the colleges benefit; and society is better off. In her majority opinion, Justice O’Connor relied heavily on the arguments put forth by Bowen and Bok in The Shape of the River, and yet, until now, no one has systematically examined their arguments and so-called “evidence.”

Second, Purdy critiques Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Grutter. Purdy is certainly not the first to do this. Grutter is notorious for its loose reasoning and selective use of evidence, but there is probably no one better equipped than Purdy to demonstrate the waywardness of O’Connor’s judgment in this case.

Purdy’s third object in this book is to discuss the continued use of racial preferences in higher education and the injustices those preferences propagate.  Ultimately, Purdy writes, both the “beneficiaries” and the “victims” are harmed—by condescension and by discrimination.

Purdy begins by reviewing how “affirmative action,” as President Kennedy originally intended it, has been twisted to mean something else. When the term was coined, the executive order mandated that employers “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” Affirmative action, in the original sense, had nothing to do with racial preferences, but was just the opposite, calling for race not to be taken into consideration.

“Diversity” has also been given plastic surgery: “Where previously it was a word with an uncomplicated meaning, ‘diversity’ today in the context of higher education stands mainly for the narrow goal of racially balancing the nation’s colleges and universities.”

Another idea that has been drilled into the heads of Americans everywhere: that racism is such a large barrier to equal opportunity that it is “accurate to label America as a racist society.” It’s a prevalent doctrine, insisted on by the PC university, but simply not true. Bowen and Bok make this argument; Purdy dismantles it: “Americans, black and white, are fundamentally fair people who strongly desire to ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to all matters racial.” Of course, racism will always be around, because the world isn’t perfect. “Yet,” says Purdy, “if our life experience has taught us anything, it is that continuing a pattern of ‘race-consciousness’ does not cure racism. It merely perpetuates it.”

Throughout the book, Purdy affirms the spirit and vocabulary of the Civil Rights movement. He affirms Dr. King’s conviction “that strict adherence to color-blind principles remains the surest antidote to racism wherever it is found.” In fact, Purdy compares contemporary promoters of racial preferences to the white supremacists of the Civil Rights era. Thus, another flip scenario: it used to be that black people wanted equal rights and white people wanted to judge based on skin color. Now, racial preferences help minorities to the detriment of white and Asian people, and those who seek color-blind principles are ridiculed. Some may call this table-turning the just consequences for white supremacists’ previous wrongdoing. But it’s exactly this skewed sense of justice that enables racial preferences to continue on under a false face of piety. 

One judge, when he heard about the decision in the Fifth Circuit Hopwood case (which temporarily ended the use of racial preferences at the University of Texas School of Law), reportedly said, “I sometimes feel as if I am watching justice die.” But your honor, you just witnessed it come alive—how can you take the end of racial preferences to be injustice?

The reason is that this judge and this generation have instilled in themselves and in one another an upside down view of what is just and what is not. Just as that upside down house was built on a slant, perched at an angle and not on a broad-based foundation, so have people planted themselves on slants of their choosing. Without level ground as the base, they lean and lean until they are standing on their heads. And then they build a house to live in. 

Larry Purdy brings the same grit and evidence to his book that he brought to Gratz and Grutter. With abundant data and thoughtful scrutiny, he breaches the (downward) spiraling towers of the diversity manor. Purdy exposes the ridiculousness of the racial preferences chimney stuck in the ground, and the whizzing ceiling fan blades that spin ominously from the floor. We’ve been stumblingly dizzy for too long, he says. It’s time we flipped right-side up. 

We encourage you to read Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity." And visit Szymbark, Poland.

*To read Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity," visit our Books and Reports page.

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