This post is part of a series of posts on Questioning DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). Please see the link for an introduction, a disclaimer, and a list of the initial posts in this series.
The previous post discussed Problems with DEI. Is there a better way? Yes! I believe we can find a better way for our country by recalling our founding principles.
The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…
This noble vision has been with us since 1776. We know that our country was imperfect at its founding because slavery existed in the southern states. Our country is still far from perfect, as evidenced by our current state of unrest. Nothing human will ever be perfect, but we can and should strive for continuous improvement. Indeed, there has been significant progress toward reaching the goal of equality.
It is useful to think of the development of our country in terms of “three foundings”:
- The first founding was the American Revolution. This founding is encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1787-88.
- The second founding was the Civil War and the Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution. The spirit of this founding is captured in the Gettysburg Address.
- The third founding was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech “I Have a Dream” is the essence of this founding.
(For more discussion of the concept of these “three foundings” see Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century by the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.)
Hamilton: An American Musical (2015) tells the story of the first founding of our country through the eyes of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers:
The widely acclaimed musical that draws from the breadth of America’s culture and shows its audience what we share doesn’t just dramatize Hamilton’s revolution: It continues it.
“What we share” are the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the practical government created by the Constitution, the first of its kind in human history.
“The widely acclaimed musical” continues the spirit of “Hamilton’s revolution” because it demonstrates through its mostly non-white cast that:
American history can be told and retold, claimed and reclaimed, even by people who don’t look like George Washington and Betsy Ross.
The two quotes above are from the book Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, published in 2016 to tell the story of making the musical.
Each of the three foundings described above represents a move to a better society. How can we continue to move forward? How can we make further progress on realizing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream?
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
(Martin Luther King, Jr. had two daughters and two sons, so he is implicitly acknowledging that the original ideal of “all men are created equal” has been expanded to include both sexes. At the time of the “I Have a Dream” speech, the 19th Amendment had been in effect for more than 40 years. That was another step in the progress of our country.)
One step we could take to make further progress would be to remove all preferences based on group identity from the domains of government contracting, public education, and employment. The State of California did exactly that, with respect to state government, with Proposition 209 of 1996 and Proposition 16 of 2020. See the link for further information and discussion. The country would do well to follow California’s example in this regard.
There are many organizations that can help our country make further progress toward the goal of equality. One organization that I recommend for consideration is the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR): “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity.” In the previous post, I mentioned John McWhorter and Zaid Jilani. Both are on FAIR’s Board of Advisors.
To sum up this post: I believe that a better alternative to DEI is to continue striving to reach the ideals expressed in our founding principles. A good summary of those principles is the traditional motto of the United States – E pluribus unum – Latin for “Out of many, one.”