Congratulations! You got this job because California progressives demand we have more diversity.”
Sound offensive? It should. Yet here we are, dealing with government-mandated tokenism in the name of social justice and racial equity from the state of California. As is so often the case, this latest move amounts to condescending pandering from politicians who want to be literal white knights coming to the rescue.
Under a newly signed corporate diversity law, California-based corporations are mandated to add a member from an “underrepresented community” to their boards. This includes both self-identified racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community, inadvertently treating every unique person, with their unique background, as equally oppressed, regardless of socio-economic background. The legislation doesn’t bother to explain why diversity serves companies. It simply demands it.
Governor Gavin Newsom is proud of this accomplishment. He shouldn’t be. In the name of diversity and inclusion, the governor isn’t just amplifying an insidious message that minorities can’t earn positions on our own. He’s turning us into props to make white progressives feel good about themselves.
As corporations eagerly adopt social justice causes like Black Lives Matter and promote racial equity training for their employees, the implication that racism is keeping boards white is hard to believe. The very text of the legislation notes only 35 percent of the state’s companies have all-white boards, suggesting corporations are diversifying with qualified candidates without government intervention. There’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue, yet the state compels diversity anyway.
Who would want to be appointed to a board the day after this bill goes into effect? Racial or sexual minorities will go from wondering if they didn’t get a job due to bigotry to wondering if they got the job due to tokenism. What a horrible feeling to have.
I wouldn’t want to be hired for being gay; I would want to earn the job. Would I be expected to declare my sexual orientation to make it easier for the hiring manager to classify me? I’d much rather avoid the awkwardness of trying to casually drop my sexuality during an interview in a way that won’t seem like I’m asking for extra diversity points. Must white men and women wear their LGBTQ status on their sleeves in order to ensure they don’t get tossed aside as a “white candidate” who wouldn’t pass diversity muster?
This is the second law of its kind to be passed in California, and it suggests the next step is to mandate a more diverse workforce beyond management positions. In 2018, the state mandated female representation on boards. Expanding this kind of legislation to include full company staffing seems obvious, if untenable. And it almost certainly will lead to companies passing up the best candidates for the appearance of diversity.
Legislation like this forces employers to focus almost exclusively on superficialities. After decades of progress addressing historical bigotry, California forces one to judge people exclusively on what we previously realized was pernicious. Only now it’s done in the name of correcting past sins. But California just created new ones, leaning on assumptions and stereotypes in hiring decisions.
John and Mike are both 46-year-old graduates from top-tier schools, who come to a hiring manager with equal recommendations. John is white and Mike is black. They’d both be good additions to the board of a company or anywhere in management. California law mandates you go with Mike to even out the all-white board.
But what the law fails to address are the unique journeys John and Mike took to even be considered for a spot on the board. How’d they’d get there? This law wants you to assume that Mike’s road was more difficult. And maybe statistically it would be. But that’s not always the case.
But what if John was a foster child who overcame poverty and a rough childhood to earn a partial scholarship to Cornell? What if he worked a part-time job to pay the tuition he owed, while managing a 3.7 GPA?
On the other hand, imagine Mike actually came from a position of privilege the diversity law assumes didn’t exist for him. His parents were wealthy, he benefited from private tutoring, and a quick phone call to an influential friend earned him a spot at Harvard.
In this scenario, why is giving Mike the job virtuous? Because Mike makes your board look less white? That’s the epitome of tokenism. Both candidates deserve better.
Companies should naturally want to hire the candidates best suited for the job, while striving for organic diversity, as it truly does bring different perspectives and add richness to the workforce. But a law that conditions us to see little beyond race and sexuality sets the stage for shallow, presumptuous judgments. And I’m not entirely sure what cause that advances—beyond making white progressive politicians feel heroic.
Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter @jasonrantz.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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