‘Sometimes the facts don’t matter’: DEI attacks are an anti-capitalist war on American prosperity

Few three-letter words have polarized our country more than DEI, formerly known as diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI has embroiled the United States in a ruinous rhetorical civil war and is tearing our nation apart. Fiercely devoted warriors on both sides of the debate passionately state their case, willing to sacrifice time and effort to preserve or suppress the cause of DEI, which in many minds is to advance the representation of black Americans.

Since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, several phrases associated with helping Black people have come under heavy criticism, such as: “Woke” and “Black Lives Matter.” “DEI” is no different, although statistics in many areas show that non-Black people have benefited more from DEI programs than Black people. Sometimes the facts don’t matter. Research shows that the United States would be much better off economically if racial barriers against blacks were abolished. Sometimes money doesn’t even matter.

But words matter. Words trigger emotional meaning based on their associations. Consider the individual who hates “Obamacare” but loves the Affordable Care Act or admonishes the government not to touch his money but accepts his monthly Social Security check.

It has been said that if you want people to listen to you, you must speak their language. The language of American business leadership and national prosperity is capitalism. DEI is a capitalist tool to increase income and wealth through justice. Greater equity results in greater employee engagement. Greater employee engagement leads to greater innovation, productivity and profitability.

Unfortunately, for the United States, DEI attackers have fallen victim to the paradoxically seductive and anxiety-provoking power of the psychology of oppression, tactics designed to protect superiority by erecting and maintaining racial barriers to opportunity under the mistaken assumption of a world of zero sum. Dehumanization is one of the first racial tactics that was effectively applied to this end.

The dehumanization inherent in slavery was necessary to rationalize its oppression and brutality for those who benefited from it. Although slavery was abolished, the goals of black dehumanization endured through Jim Crow laws and government-sponsored domestic terrorism.

Dehumanization is a cunning, persuasive, and polarizing tool because it confers racial pride that can provide a powerful boost to self-esteem, even for non-elite members of a racial group. At the same time, as research by Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker suggests, the tendency of non-elite white individuals to internalize this superiority means that they will become defensive if threatened. This defensiveness breeds resentment and hatred so strong that people are willing to give up their own economic interests to defend racial oppression against black people.

Paradoxically, non-elite whites and blacks have more in common with each other than non-elite whites have with their elite. They face many of the same socioeconomic challenges, except race.

The idea that Black people could benefit from DEI programs has caused anxiety, controversy, conflict, fear, and resentment. When one is used to and feels deserving of the whole pie, even a crumb given to the hungry can evoke the pain of loss.

The word “equity” has never been associated with black people in America. Corporate America has a self-serving opportunity for redemption by moving from demonized “DEI” to fundamental justice for all humanity, not just an isolated group. Instead of gutting DEI departments due to the false narrative that DEI only helps Black people, corporate America should demonstrate leadership and fiduciary duty to stakeholders by explaining that DEI is a framework intended to help move the concept forward. , often elusive, justice that will improve business engagement, productivity, profitability, and American economic prosperity.

Racial barriers to opportunity have cost the U.S. economy more than $50 trillion since 1990. Breaking them down can generate $5 trillion in just a few years. Improving employee engagement unleashes innovation and productivity that can generate corporate profits of $550 billion a year. The gains that equity can bring to corporations and America’s GDP should receive the full attention of corporate boards, CEOs, CFOs, elected officials, and policymakers.

Justice is a matter of wealth and national security that cannot and should not be ignored. It is the most patriotic form of capitalism, but it is being obscured by semantic and linguistic nuances. If we are able to speak the same language and be on the same page, the way forward is ahead.

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