The struggle is on, no
mistake, and I take
the side of life’s history
against the coming of numbers.
— Wendell Berry, “The Clearing,” New Collected Poems
My point is that any attempt to make a specific institution entirely representative of the demographics of its location will founder on the sheer complexity of America’s demographic story and the nature of the institution itself. Journalism, for example, is not a profession sought by most people; it’s self-selecting for curious, trouble-making, querulous assholes who enjoy engaging with others and tracking down the truth (at least it used to be). There’s no reason this skillset or attitude will be spread evenly across populations. It seems, for example, that disproportionate numbers of Jews are drawn to it, from a culture of high literacy, intellectualism, and social activism. So why on earth shouldn’t they be over-represented?
And that’s true of other institutions too: are we to police Broadway to make sure that gays constitute only 4 percent of the employees? Or, say, nursing, to ensure that the sex balance is 50-50? Or a construction company for gender parity? Or a bike messenger company’s staff to be reflective of the age demographics of the city? Just take publishing — an industry not far off what the New York Times does. 74 percent of its employees are women. Should there be a hiring freeze until the men catch up?
Rhetorical questions don’t need to be answered, but since we’re here: No, of course all the mindless chatter about demographic “representation” issuing forth from the diversity-inclusion complex isn’t to be taken seriously. When the irresistible force of elite overproduction meets the immovable object of limited elite employment opportunities, those who are denied entry will try any trick they can to cut to the head of the line. When talent and luck aren’t sufficient to bring you the opportunities you so obviously deserve, maybe accusations of bias will open some doors. If it turned out that trash collection was a field dominated by white men, do you think there would be any anguished op-eds in the New York Times demanding racial and gender parity? Of course not, because there’s no status to be gained in that field, even though trash collectors are far more important to society than pundits, journalists, diversity consultants, MFA grads, and other similar make-work occupations. This is an internecine phenomenon exclusive to cultural elites bewitched by Procrustean fantasies, and the rest of us should only enjoy our popcorn and root for maximum casualties.