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Janie B. Cheaney: A godlike status

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WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney: A godlike status

The proponents of DEI search for violations and issue harsh punishments


University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ajay_suresh/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday April 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: making an idol of politics. WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney says one idol on the left these days is easy to spot, but folks on the right have their own temptations.

JANIE B. CHEANEY: DEI—shorthand for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, has come a long way. Here’s how the Greenlining Institute, a California-based non-profit, describes its progress: “[T]he focus in the 1960s into the 1970s was on tolerance, meaning the acceptance of integration in workplaces, schools, and communities. From the mid-1970s into the 1990s, the focus was on multiculturalism and being aware of the achievements of various racial and ethnic minorities.”

Today, “there has been an increased emphasis on accountability to ensure that diverse groups are represented at all economic and social levels.

Accountability is important, and DEI could be a means to the end of a just and considerate society. But DEI has become an end in itself: a never-ending, rock-turning search for violations of a shifting ideal. Consider the case of Amy Wax, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law school.

This lady served in the U.S. Department of Justice and argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. She has published widely in law journals, authored books, and won awards for excellence in teaching. She earned tenure in 2001, which is supposed to guarantee her freedom to voice opinions without fear of reprisal. But that was before running into the DEI buzzsaw.

In 2017 students complained about a column in which Professor Wax mourned the “breakdown of bourgeois culture” and its consequences, claiming that “all cultures are not equal.” In 2022 the dean of Carey Law filed a formal complaint asking for an investigation. Wax had allegedly denigrated the intellectual capacity of black students, labeled Asian students as timid and conformist, and invited a self-identified “white advocate” to speak to her class.

It’s true, Wax does sometimes stereotype other cultures and ethnic groups. But DEI is itself built on stereotypes. Last summer the Supreme Court decided against Harvard’s admissions policy because it consistently rated Asian students as “unlikeable” and “lacking courage and kindness.” Who was stereotyping then?

Amy Wax’s case has lumbered through faculty courts, online editorials, and podcasts. Last June, the Carey Law School Hearing Board recommended that she be suspended for one year at half-pay, that her named chair be removed, and that in all her speaking appearances she disassociate herself from Penn Carey. If not for tenure, she would be out of a job.

“Dei” is also the Latin word for “god,” and it’s achieved godlike status in classrooms and boardrooms. But diversity, equity, and inclusion are subordinate goods, not ultimate ones; doors not destinies. When doors become destinies, the Bible calls this idolatry.

In the case of DEI, the left is at fault. But the right is not immune to political idolatry. Capitalism, family values, and so-called Christian nationalism can all become ends-in-themselves. The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, and it applies to all of us.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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