Heather Mac Donald joins the podcast to talk about why she thinks America is in a crisis. She discusses her new book “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture” and shares the backlash she’s received by speaking against the belief that human beings should be defined by their skin color, gender, and sexual preferences. 

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a New York Times bestselling author. Mac Donald’s work at City Journal has covered a range of topics, including higher education, immigration, and race relations. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, among others and her newest book, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (2018).


Beverly:            Welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think yourself. I’m your host Beverly Hallberg and on today’s episode Heather McDonald joins us to talk about why she thinks America is in a crisis. She’s going to discuss her newest book, The Diversity Delusion: how race and gender pandering corrupt the university and undermine our culture, and also talk about the backlash she’s received by speaking against the belief that human beings should be defined by their skin color, gender, and sexual preferences. Before we bring Heather on a little bit more about her. She is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal and a New York Times best selling author. Her work at city journal has covered a wide range of topics including higher education, immigration and race relations, and her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post among others. Heather, a pleasure to have you on the podcast today.

Heather:           Well, Beverly, it’s an honor to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Beverly:            I want to start first with your most recent book, The Diversity Delusion. This book has received a lot of attention. You argue in the book that they ideas spread by higher education have actually led to intolerance and polarization. I was hoping we could just start there with you breaking down the ideas that you think have been destructive.

Heather:           Well, I define the diversity dilution, Beverly, by three propositions first that the most important thing about any individual is his race and sex. Second, the discrimination based on those characteristics are the defining feature of America in particular, and Western civilization in general. And third that any disparity in an absolute equal proportion of sex representation or color representation in any institution. So in other words, if a high tech firm is not 50/50 male female, that that lack of a exact proportional representation is by definition the result of discrimination against somebody because of his sex or his race. And those propositions I think are all completely wrong, but they are leading to a systematic attack on colorblind and gender blind… standards.

Heather:           There’s not a single mainstream institution today that is not under pressure to cast aside its traditional hiring standards and instead promote people, hire people on the basis of sex and race. But even worse than that, Beverly, I think is the degree of hatred that is being injected into the body politic coming out of the universities that are the primary exponents of this diversity delusion, that is teaching students to hate the monuments of Western civilization because they don’t conform to today’s diversity metrics, and frankly to hate each other.

Beverly:            And do you find that in the university where it seems a lot of these ideas have started and it’s been going on for a while, do you find that a lot of these ideas that are being spread, that it’s pretty universal among all colleges and universities, meaning that it’s prevalent and, and all higher education at the very few places where you don’t find this ideology?

Heather:           Yes. You’re absolutely right to bring that up, Beverly, because for a while people sort of comforted themselves with the belief that this is just a product of the very elite, very exclusive colleges, whether it’s the Ivy leagues or the small radical colleges like Reed College, or Bennington or something. That’s simply not the case. This is now happening in community colleges. There’s a small community college around San Diego that has just gone completely crazy for diversity. It’s got, as usual, the massive expanding diversity bureaucracy devoted to the proposition that students there are the victims of circumambient racism and sexism. It’s in the state schools. In fact are in our entire trans craze today grew out of a conference at the university of Iowa in the 90s about gay politics and that led eventually to trans politics. So sadly there’s very few schools and colleges left that remained committed to the loving, grateful, joyous study of the greatest works of civilization.

Beverly:            And when we think about different degrees that young people get, we typically think that, okay, there’s going to be this type of indoctrination if they’re getting a women’s studies degree or something along those lines. For someone who is going to college to, let’s say, become an accountant or they want to study history, we don’t often think that there is going to be talk about diversity and race, but I’m assuming that’s simply not the case. How are the students hearing about diversity, hearing about these ideas, even if they don’t have a major that would something related to it?

Heather:           Well, it often starts before they even arrive at college. A lot of schools have required summer reading for incoming freshmen, and those books are heavily weighted towards victim identity. Telling white students that they are the source of oppression, most dangerously telling males that they are the bearers of toxic masculinity. And we see today men falling further and further behind, dropping out. I think that is very largely the product of this ideology of hatred against them. They’re getting the message. But let’s say that the students have not been indoctrinated before they get to campus, when they get to campus the freshman orientations will very likely feature seminars in the viciously competitive totem pole of victim hood. Every marginally eligible group is fighting tooth and nail to end up as the top dog on the totem pole of victim hood.

Heather:           Right now that position is occupied by trans students, but their position can’t be secure. There’s somebody else who will come along with an even more preposterous claim to be the top dog victim. And so the freshmen orientations feature these seminars in white privilege, white oppression. The residential advisers, the dorm, the students that work in dorms are often trained by the diversity bureaucracy. So there will be presentations throughout the school year. And I would hope that that accounting major, I just want to put this in as an unrelated aside, Beverly, will study history will study literature and not view college simply as a vocational degree. But you would think that, well, somebody majoring say in physics or chemistry or math would be safely insulated from these politics. That is not true. The thing that Americans should really worry about is that the so-called STEM fields, the science fields, STEM, science, technology, engineering and math, are squarely in the sights of the diversacrats.

Heather:           And, unfortunately, the federal government is pursuing the same idea that the only good science is diverse science. And so every faculty hiring search in an engineering department, in a math department, in a physics department is under enormous pressure to hire on the basis of sex, to a lesser extent on the basis of race because simply there are so few even remotely qualified black or Hispanic PhDs coming out of graduate school with degrees in electrical engineering or physics. With females, there’s a little bit more of an available pool, but whether somebody is male or female should be completely irrelevant. It is not today.

Heather:           China is our biggest tech competitor, is our biggest science competitor. China does not give a damn about diversity metrics, and rightly so. The best thing that Donald Trump could do if he wants to make sure that we can stay ahead of China, would be to dump a few cargo planes of gender theorists on Beijing University in Chinese research labs so that they can get this poison put into their system. Because as long as they remain committed to color and gender-blind meritocratic hiring standards, they will eventually pull out ahead.

Beverly:            So what do you say to … I’m going to play a little devil’s advocate here, but what do you say to individuals who say, “Look, there is no doubt that there has been racism in our country. You can point to slavery. You can point to segregation or that people who’ve identified as gay and transgender over the years received a lot of discrimination.” So what is that balance of realizing, okay, we want to treat people with dignity and respect and everybody deserves that. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean we highlight purely what’s different about us as the only way to identify people. So in your research on this, how do you find what is that right balance of treating people with dignity and respect, but not saying that people are the sum of their gender or sexual preferences?

Heather:           Well, I would frame the question a little differently, Beverly. I think of course we treat everybody … We should treat everybody today with dignity and respect. And there’s no question that our history in this country was a grotesque violation of the stated ideals of equality and respect for basic human rights. But I would say today, A, that we have changed remarkably unpredictably. I don’t think anybody in the 50s could have seen this. My sense is that Americans today are absolutely eager to live in a post racial society, that they want to have race put behind us. I don’t know of a single mainstream institution, whether it’s a bank, a corporation, a law firm, a Fortune 500 business, a school, a government, which is not far from discriminating against minorities or females, is not giving them preferences. But my argument, Beverly, would be, if you want to treat people with dignity and respect, you don’t give them special preferences.

Heather:           Not only is that demeaning, I mean, I can tell I’m quite confident that I have been the alleged beneficiary of gender quotas throughout my life. No female today can ever be confident that she has been chosen as a news source or as a talking head on a TV show or as a op-ed contributor because she is the best, as opposed to because she is the best female. Because again, every publishing house, every newspaper, every single organ is being watched like a hawk by reporters at the New York Times, at the Wall Street Journal at USA Today to write the no-brainers story counting up the number of females in that group, and what is particularly pernicious is when these preferences are granted in such large degrees as they are with minorities today to get them into college, minorities are being catapulted into schools for which they are not at present competitively qualified.

Heather:           This is something known as mismatch. Nobody is saying … Far from saying that minorities should not go to college. What critics of racial preferences like myself are saying is that blacks and Hispanics should go to college under the same conditions as everybody else, that is going to schools for which they are academically prepared. If your SATs qualify you for UMass Amherst, you should go there. You should not go to Amherst College if that is a standard deviation above. Doing so puts you at a competitive disadvantage and what we see with these racial preferences that are granted in the name of dignity or diversity, or rarely today compensation, but overwhelming in terms of diversity. What happens is that the beneficiaries of these very large racial preferences struggle in their classes. They drop behind, they end up at the bottom of their class. They ended up confirming whatever negative racial stereotypes we still have. That is not helping anybody.

Beverly:            I want to talk about what you’ve experienced in talking about these issues. No doubt this is … This topic and diversity topics, it is a hot button issue for so many people and you experienced that firsthand on November 18th when you were invited by one of the school’s newspapers, the conservative newspaper, the Fenwick review to come speak at the College of the Holy Cross and you were shouted down, weren’t you? Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s been like for you to talk about these issues and the animosity? Not that … Not just that you received probably via Twitter, but what you encounter in person when you go across the country and speak?

Heather:           Well I came to Holy Cross to tell students that far from being oppressed, they are among the most privileged individuals in human history, every one of them simply by virtue of having at their fingertips the thing that Faust sold his soul for, which is knowledge. A school like Holy Cross, every other American college today holds out boundless opportunities for learning on an absolutely equal basis. I was there to say, “You are not the victims of bigotry. There are not bigots at Holy Cross. I am absolutely confident that the faculty at Holy Cross, as at every other college today, wants all of their students to succeed and are probably especially eager that females and minority students succeed.” And I urged students to approach their opportunities, the resources, again, with joy and gratitude. Well, about 15 minutes into my talk as I was … And there’d been a lot of organizing beforehand, calls to shut me down.

Heather:           15 minutes into my talk as I was discussing Renaissance humanists and the great French humanist Rabelais Francois, about half of the auditorium stood up and started chanting, my oppression is not a delusion. Your racism is not welcome, your homophobia is not welcome, your sexism is not welcome, you are not welcomed by then. I’d figured that one out and, and they proceeded to chant. I tried to engage with them and, and call on them to tell me why I was wrong to see them as privileged, to perhaps give me some examples of faculty bigots. I don’t believe they could’ve come up with a single one, but they shouted me down. Eventually they left the auditorium. They had hoped to fill the entire auditorium, so no student who was not a protester would be able to hear me talk. As it was, there were dozens if not hundreds of students who had been kept outside cause the seats were full.

Heather:           And even after the students, the protesters had left, the security did not, for some weird reason, allow those students who were still waiting outside to come and hear me. So the real … I’m not going to play a victim card here. This is simply what happens. It doesn’t bother me that much one way or another. But the victims were those students who wanted to come in and who were deliberately kept out from hearing me by their fellow students, and whether they were there to support me or agree with me or to disagree with me and ask me questions, they were not allowed to do so.

Beverly:            And I’d just like to point out, you mentioned whether or not these students are oppressed, they are going to a college where the annual price tag is $70,000 a year. So these are students who have the money to pay for it or will be paying for it. So just an interesting side note on that, but I want to pick up just this idea of silencing speech and what we refer to now as the cancel culture. When people have been counseled, they’re no longer allowed to be viewed as somebody who can speak that there’s public shame with this cancel culture. Not only are these ideas, as you’ve pointed out, concerning, but then there’s also anybody who wants to speak about it in a different way and have a different perspective that then their speech is no longer allowed. What do you make of not just these ideas, but then what we see on college campuses, which of course is filtering into the workplace, just like you said, it all trickles out, of silencing people who have a different opinion. What are your fears as far as where that leads to in this country?

Heather:           We are really seriously putting at risk what makes American exceptional. There’s not any other countries that are as protective of free speech, that have had as vibrant a marketplace of ideas. We see north of our border, Canada has very strict hate crime legislation. Britain does. It’s common throughout Europe to punish people for speaking against reigning orthodoxies. That is a step towards totalitarianism, a very large step. It’s amazing to me that the so-called Antifa, the anti-fascist movement, gets away with calling itself antifascist when they are overwhelmingly the ones who are bludgeoning opponents, who are breaking windows, who were setting fires to try to silence speech with which they disagree and what you have, not only is it just a violation of principle and of the ability of society to correct itself, and, frankly, a pathetic admission of impotence because if you feel compelled silence your ideological opponent, it means that you do not have confidence in your own ability to meet that person’s arguments head on, and to persuade audiences that you, not he, are correct.

Heather:           But the problem as well is the left right now dominates, I think, Trump not withstanding, the explanations in this country, the standard narratives about what America’s main problems are and how they can be solved, and the absolute foundational assumption of liberalism, progressivism, leftism, you name it, is that socioeconomic disparities are the product exclusively of systemic bias, racism, oppression, bigotry, and that the solution is evermore government spending. Well, if that explanation is wrong, and conservatives tend to see much more that their explanation for socioeconomic disparities, our behavioral choices, personal responsibility, individual decisions that people make that are not optimal, such as having children out of wedlock.

Heather:           These are things that, if that’s the case, the solutions look very different. They look like some revascularizing marriage, talking about the utter necessity of a marriage culture for society. The need that children have for both parents ideally. If that explanation is rendered unfit for public discourse, but if it happens to be right, it means that with only one side allowed into the public square, there’s no possibility of society correcting whatever errors it may have in its current policy and getting things right. We become frozen in a state of uncorrectness, of misperception, and of falsehood.

Beverly:            Final question for you, Heather. You talked about what it may mean, let’s say, for a female wondering if she has the position she has because she was just the best female, best woman, not because she was the best qualified. I’m wondering what victim mentality also does to people individually. If they view themselves as a victim, does that change how they view life? If it’s through the lens of victim hood, what do you think are some of the negative aspects psychologically for someone, if that is their preconceived notion?

Heather:           I think it’s absolutely negative. It means that they go through life with a chip on their shoulder, feeling resentment, feeling hostility, lacking gratitude, which is one of the most profound and important human sentiments. Seeing barriers where none exist. The other thing, it’s bad for the individual, but also, it would be very difficult to come out of this campus brainwashing and not feel a lot of hatred. Because the narrative about the evils of white heterosexual males is so extreme and it is so incessant that you would have to really be a saint to process that and still treat people with … View them with an open mind.

Heather:           So I think that not only is this victim mentality a handicap for the individual, and it’s teaching students to regard the greatest works of Western civilization, things that they should be down on their knees in gratitude for, that they have the privilege of reading the terrifying Greek tragedies, of reading Milton of reading Wordsworth, of studying, listening to Mozart. If they have four precious years to immerse themselves in beauty, they’re not going to do that. They’re going to look for reasons to be angry. But the other problem is, it is making civil society potentially unlivable because it is introducing so much tension and so much resentment that it’s going to become very hard to ever move towards a post racial society where people can really just treat each other as equals.

Beverly:            Well, we at IWF appreciate your work on this and your bravery in going to college campus and speaking about it. And of course, thank you so much for joining us today and talking about your latest book.

Heather:           Thank you so much Beverly. I always appreciate talking with you.

Beverly:            And thank you all for joining us. Before you go, I wanted to let you know of a great podcast you should subscribe to in addition to She Thinks. It’s called Problematic Women, and it’s hosted by Kelsey Bowler and Lauren Evans, where they both sort through the news to bring stories and interviews that are of particular interest to conservative leaning or problematic women. That is women whose views and opinions are often excluded or mocked by those on the so-called feminist left. Every Thursday, hear them talk about everything from pop culture to policy and politics by searching for Problematic Women wherever you get your podcasts. Last, if you enjoyed this episode, of She Thinks, do leave us a rating or review, it does help, and we’d love it if you share this episode. Let your friends know where they can find more She Thinks episodes from all of us here at Independent Women’s Forum, thanks for listening.