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The fantasy life of DEI administrators

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Tirien Steinbach, the Stanford Law School DEI administrator who has become the focus of one the right wing’s endless Two Minute Hate extravaganzas after she tried to mediate a rhetorical brawl between SLS students a Nexus 6 Federalist Society Advanced Trolling Model in the form of a federal judge, has been given space on the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page to explain what happened. While doing so, she reveals the incoherence at the heart of DEI ideology, which itself is a reflection of the paradox of liberalism in an increasingly illiberal society:

I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak. . . .

What happened in that room is a microcosm of how polarized our society has become, and it raises important questions: How do we listen and talk to each other as people, not with partisan talking points? How might we start to hear the name-calling, anger, frustration and fury for what it is—people who are unhappy about the way things are and are looking for someone to be held accountable? Is there a way that we can stop blaming and start to talk and listen to each other?

Whenever and wherever we can, we must de-escalate the divisive discourse to have thoughtful conversations and find common ground. Free speech, academic freedom and work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion must coexist in a diverse, democratic society.

Diversity, equity and inclusion plans must have clear goals that lead to greater inclusion and belonging for all community members. How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion. Free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion are means to an end, and one that I think many people can actually agree on: to live in a country with liberty and justice for all its people.

Kyle Duncan is a representative of a political movement — Donald Trump’s Republican party — that does not in fact believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion. That party has become the incarnation of an authoritarian ethno-nationalist theocratic project that believes in the precise opposite: in homogeneity, hierarchy, and exclusion.

That party is so committed to that project that it rejects at the most fundamental level the very concept of democracy, even in the very limited sense that democracy is a value of the formal American constitutional order.

When Donald Trump and his supporters say the 2020 presidential election was rigged, what they’re really saying is that real Americans — that is, the supporters of an authoritarian ethno-nationalist theocratic political order that maintains the true essence of the nation against contamination — cannot have their right to live in such a nation abridged via the ballot box.

Donald Trump is not a democrat, any more than Vladimir Putin or Victor Orban or Xi Jingping or a member of the Taliban or an integralist Catholic or a fundamentalist Protestant or a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi are democrats. Failing to grasp this is a fundamental failure of imagination that actual democrats can’t afford at this moment.

Would you expect, at this particular historical moment, Ukrainians to engage in “respectful dialogue” with Vladimir Putin? Would you expect Afghani women who have been barred from sending their daughters to school to engage in “respectful dialogue” with the Taliban? Would you expect Jewish persons to engage in “respectful dialogue with a neo-Nazis?

You would not expect this. But you expect people who are opposing the political movement that is trying to transform this nation into an authoritarian ethno-nationalist theocratic state, and who will be the precise victims of that transformation should it happen, to engage in “respectful dialogue” with the instruments of that attempt.

Now why is that? I submit it’s because you (we) don’t really believe that what is actually happening in this country is actually happening.

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