The essay is the perfect reflection of what our progressives think about diversity. It is all about different ethnic groups or nationalities, and that is all it is about.
But the world is more diverse than Mr. Gup seems to realize, and here are some types of diversity he seems not to have noticed:
1. Diversity of opinion. This is what conservatives commonly complain about, and they have a point. Diversity of opinion is not welcomed in our colleges and universities today, and that is too bad for the students since there are plenty of conservatives in our country. And it is not just Americans who have conservative values because some foreigners have them, too. When I was in college, a fellow leftist told me with some astonishment about an African he had met and how this man was a conservative. Imagine that! A man of color who was also conservative. In my travels abroad, I’ve met a fair number of conservatives. There was the restaurant owner in Italy who wanted the U.S. to take out Gadhafi, there were the people in Taiwan who wanted to take over China, and there were the taxi drivers in Cairo who all loved Rambo movies.
2. Diversity of class. As someone has noted, what seems important today at Harvard is the skin color of the rich kids, and that is exactly right. Not only are we diverse in terms of skin color and ethnic group, but also in terms of class background, yet diversity of class background is not valued by the diversity-is-everything crowd. Mr. Gup makes an attempt to justify ethnic diversity by acknowledging that, yes, some people who are worthy of admission to institutions like Harvard will be denied entrance under the diversity-of-ethnic group policy that he likes, but this is “part of a broader societal mandate.... There is more to admission than grades and test scores. A symphony demands more of an orchestra than a stage full of violins.” But excluding whites, which is what he is talking about even though he never comes right out and says this, assumes that all whites are from the same economic class. What if they aren’t? What if some are dirt poor and from Appalachia? Why don’t they count as part of this wonderful diversity?
3. Diversity of sports. While Mr. Gup was delighted by the fact that his father had an Indian roommate, he doesn’t seem at all interested in making India’s favorite sport of cricket into a varsity sport at Harvard. I’ve been watching people like Mr. Gup for many years, and I’ve noticed that when they encounter the Other’s sports, they run back to the safety and familiarity of our sports. This isn’t very impressive.
4. Diversity of religious views. The number of progressives who understand how diverse our world is in terms of religious views is quite small. What I’m talking about is the number who understand that there are many people in the world who want to dump our Constitution and impose Islamic law on us. That number includes Christopher Hitchens (alas, now deceased), Nick Cohen, Paul Berman, and just a few others. The vast majority are just clueless. Their mottos seem to be “Live and let live” and “Can’t we all just get along?” But you can’t get along with shari‘aphiles. They just aren’t interested in getting along, unless you convert to their religion and their backward way of life. Anything other than that won’t satisfy them. That is why “Live and let live” just isn’t going to work with them.
That leads me to another point: Is diversity in itself wonderful? I don’t think so, unless all share some common core values. Here in the U.S., those core values would begin with freedom of speech and religion, and in spite of some problems (as well as a civil war in the nineteenth century), it has worked remarkably well. Most people who live here like living here, but those who don’t like it want the U.S. to be more like Europe, which culturally is rather similar to our country. The big difference is economic, but even that difference is not as big as it could be.
But now take a look at Egypt. There are no core values, as far as I can see. There is a substantial minority of people there who want Egypt to be like Saudi Arabia, while another substantial minority wants it to be like the United States or Europe. That is a country in which there is way too much diversity. It is impossible for the political class to find a compromise because different sides are too far apart for any compromise to be satisfying.
This reminds me that shortly after 9/11, I happened to see a job application from a woman who wanted to be a professor. She came from Harvard, and in her application she described her research, which was about diversity. She considered two people of different ethnic groups who were neighbors, but the potential conflicts these two neighbors had were truly minor, given what our country had just gone through, and the woman just seemed horribly naive, despite her Harvard degree. It occurred to me that the extreme in diversity would be two neighbors each of whom wants to kill the other because they belong to different religions and because each person’s religion demands that it kill those who won’t convert.
No sensible person wants this, and no one would be the better for it.