There is an iconic scene in the movie “Office Space” in which “the Bobs” are conducting layoffs, and they ask one hapless employee, “What would you say … you do here?” This is the question being asked of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion departments at major corporations these days, and frankly, the answers are wanting.
For more than a decade now, DEI departments have been a regular and controversial feature of American corporate culture. Employees confessing their privilege, filling out little homework forms about their inherent racism, and the officers of these departments raking in the big bucks.
But now, major firms like Target, Capital One and Amazon are cutting the cord on their offices of wokeness, and not a moment too soon.
As Will Hild, of Consumer’s Research put it, he just isn’t “surprised to see corporations finally tire of paying the salaries of woke activists who harass colleagues in the name of social governance.” Ouch.
When it comes time for companies to do a bit of belt tightening, department heads come in and defend their budget line. The marketing team might point to increases in brand awareness, the sales team might flaunt improvement in moving high-end items. What can the DEI department point to? How does it prove it has made the company less racist? Assuming it was ever racist in the first place.
In other words, what exactly does the DEI department do? On some level these managers of progressive race ideology are their own reward. The mere fact of having such departments allows corporations to signal their virtue in a political climate in which White supremacy is supposedly everywhere.
Viewed through another lens, DEI is a form of reparations. It’s a kind of kickback, a non-tax-deductible charity donation to grievance mongers.
It also seems like the easiest job in the world. Just copy and paste a few Slate or Teen Vogue listicles about privilege and pay “experts” like Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo obscene gobs of cash to lecture your employees about their implicit racial bias. Nice work if you can get it.
So, it comes as little wonder that more and more corporations are waking up to this grift and closing up shop on the struggle sessions for their workers. It may be a sign that the rapid rise of wokeness in America has reached its peak and is slumping down the other side of the cultural hill. We can hope, anyway.
But at the same time, what is to become of this industry and the thousands of college students currently cramming curriculums of critical race theory in the hopes of entering it? Can it be that this entire field, one that just a few years ago was as fast-growing as any, just goes belly up? If so – if what went up so swiftly comes crashing down so fast – that may be a development without precedent in the history of capitalism.
Ultimately, the problem with DEI departments, and the cause of their demise, is that they were never based on reason, but always on emotional appeals. American workplaces are not rife with systemic racism, but the purveyors of DEI never had to prove that they were. It was enough to shout baseless statements about “lived truth” for companies to buckle under false allegations of bigotry.
There are currently efforts afoot from political and government actors to curb the use of DEI in private corporations. We can now hope that such legislation or executive actions may not be needed, that companies themselves have reached the sane conclusion that such departments cause more harm than good. That would be a better alternative.
But in the meantime, those political efforts will continue apace, further pressuring companies to cut back on morality enforcement for their employees. After all, going to work isn’t going to church, you go there to earn a paycheck, not to become a better person.
All across America highly paid mid-level managers with master’s degrees in racial grievance are sitting across from a new set of “Bobs” trying to defend the existence of their jobs. But what value can they point to? What do they actually do? What can they say? “Keep paying me to tell your workers how awful and racist they are?” That’s a tough sell.
Thankfully, the age of DEI seems to be coming to a close, and a woeful and misbegotten age it was. Mercifully, it is time to dump DEI in the dustbin of history and let American workers just get back to work. And despite the hue and cry from progressives, the end of DEI is truly progress.