Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Woke Patronage Program

Mandatory diversity trainings aren't just unnecessary, they're incredibly counterproductive.
(By fizkes / Shutterstock)

Capitalism is getting all sorts of makeovers these days. There’s woke capitalism, crony capitalism and now there’s also the burgeoning industry of woke crony capitalism. Basically it’s a nexus of corporations, government bureaucrats, public universities, and lawyers working to push expensive mandated diversity and anti-racism training on as many workers and students as possible. With President Donald Trump recently calling critical race theory training “un-American propaganda” and blocking funding for it at any federal agency, the subject is more topical than ever. 

Anti-racist training generally consists of a day-long or multi-day session and focuses on combating implicit and explicit racial (and sometimes gender and sexual-orientation) bias at an organization. Themes like white privilege, unconscious bias, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and systemic racism loom large as topics for presentation and discussion. Much of the training rests on now scientifically discredited ideas such as “implicit bias,” developed decades ago by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji. The theory argues that 90 to 95 percent of people are subconsciously biased and must be disentangled from the “unconscious roots of prejudice.” 

Although anti-racism training has rocketed to national prominence following the death of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, it had already been surging for decades. The current moment is simply an intensification of what’s already been going on: the basic teaching that white people are inherent vessels of racial prejudice and oppression and that minority individuals are an inherent victim class. 

It’s no big impediment to the financial gold rush that diversity training doesn’t really work. After all, the most successful business model is one where demand only increases with time. Costs are high. A one-day diversity and anti-racism course and speaking engagement costs from $2,000 to $6,000, and it costs much more for a prominent speaker. This is in addition to the lost hours of job productivity spent talking about microaggressions or the tone of voice the boss uses when he talks to various employees or why someone didn’t smile at another colleague last Thursday. 

Anti-racism and diversity seminars are mandated in many cases, particularly where states have expanded the categories of protected persons beyond the federal definitions. Universities routinely spend tens of millions of dollars a year on diversity and inclusion initiatives. It’s no coincidence that tuition keeps going up as the pricey diversity bureaucracy comes in to “help.”  Vice-chancellorships in diversity and equity at public universities regularly pay upwards of $250,000 per year. 

One reason diversity training has prospered is that it is sometimes written into professional requirements. Some states require anti-bias classes before lawyers can be licensed to practice. The trend is growing, with 150 prominent law school deans recently requesting the American Bar Association to mandate anti-racist and anti-prejudice training at all law schools. 

In the process of fulfilling lucrative contracts, diversity missionaries and their many backers often over-exaggerate and worsen the very racial tensions and problems they claim to be solving, creating more business for each other and perpetuating the furnishing of highly profitable contracts through their well-connected network of similarly minded organizations and receiving favorable and gullible media coverage from friendly left-leaning outlets.

The Racial Equity Institute is one example of an anti-racism trainer. It offers phased seminars on racial equity that include the statement, “No one alive today has ever lived a moment of their lives in an equitable world.” They get even more specific with their “Latino Challenges Workshop,” where they judge who has what position on the racial victimization totem pole. 

The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) includes such partners as the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California Berkeley, under the umbrella of the Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society. Fully 14 percent of Berkeley’s $3 billion annual budget comes from California taxpayers. Numerous public universities receiving federal and state funds and grants push wokeism through such pop-up intersectional institutes. 

Another example of taxpayer money funding intersectional initiatives is the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, which has received funding from the Governing for Racial Equity Network as well as GARE, including significant funding for extended “listening sessions.” 

In addition to federal and state taxpayer money, anti-racist training is funded under a vast umbrella of local and activist state groups by organizations like the Ford Foundation, Borealis Philanthropy, and more such as the vast array of groups associated with the Democracy Alliance organization, the largest progressive donor network in America, forking out over $80 million per year to advance far-left causes and deeply enmeshed with organizations like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress.

Perusing lists of anti-racism speakers, it is immediately clear that many are intersectional cultists whose work is bundled with speaking and consultancy on “queer activism,” feminism, “LGBTQ family caregivers” and other progressive nomenclature. 

Kimya Nuru Dennis of 365 Diversity offer a range of services including a focus on how to push back against the “pro-natal” beliefs of those who have children. Dennis also teaches that having children is a racialized subject. The wide “intersectional” range of diversity training encompasses many far-left progressive beliefs that are anathema to socially conservative black Americans and people of color whom these diversity trainers claim to speak on behalf of.

Even many of those supportive of the general concept of anti-racist educating have called into question the efficacy of workplace anti-racism seminars and the practice of hiring people of color as “props” to fulfill white progressive notions of “diversity.” 

In fact, there’s extensive and documented evidence that diversity training often increases prejudice and inflames or creates tensions at workplaces. Indeed, as Alexandra Kalev and Frank Dobbin noted in Harvard Business Review, many of those coming out of anti-racism seminars “actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.” Instead of leading to inclusion and togetherness, diversity training often implicitly boosts “us vs. them” thinking of exactly the kind it claims to be overcoming.

Books like 2018’s resurgent White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo are actually full of dehumanizing condescension towards black people. DiAngelo, whose book is full of absurd and unhinged statements that insult people’s intelligence under the guise of undoing racial prejudice, charges between $30,000 to $40,000 for a few hours of training that basically amounts to lectures on racial essentialism and anti-white critical race theory packaged for a bourgeois corporate environment.  

There are already laws protecting employees from workplace discrimination and racial harassment. As The Diversity Delusion author Heather Mac Donald puts it, “Diversity consulting is a solution to a non-existent problem.” Nevertheless, the diversity racket keeps ballooning as it finds ways to vacuum up public funds. The more that companies and academia mandate diversity training, the more profitable it will become and the more intersectional progressive dogma will be enforced on everyone. 

Paul Brian is a freelance journalist. He has reported for the BBC, Reuters, and Foreign Policy, and contributed to The Week, The Federalist, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian or visit his website www.paulrbrian.com.