- - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency were greeted this month with an officewide email containing “Hispanic news you can use!” The message from Susie Goldring, who describes herself as a “management analyst” at the EPA on her LinkedIn profile, was soon leaked to the press. What drew the most immediate denunciation — and not without reason — was the picture featured in the middle of the email: a mural of the Marxist murderer and homophobe Che Guevara. On the wall next to the tyrant’s visage were the words, “Hasta la Victoria siempre” (“Always toward victory”).

Aside from the veneration of the notorious tyrant, critics noted the graphic’s depiction of a horse and buggy passing before the mural — perhaps an implicit suggestion that Latin American countries were technologically backward (or environmentally conscious?). What was most offensive, however, were the sweeping generalizations explicitly made in the email about Hispanics. “Hispanic people are vibrant, socializing and fun-loving people,” one part read. One might hesitate to ask which ethnicities the missive’s author considers to be antisocial or not fun-loving.

Another nugget of information offered to readers: “In most of the families, father acts as a chief of the family while mother works as a housewife.” The email goes on to explain how Hispanics express themselves: “When Hispanics are addressing someone with informal words, generally they are very fast, loud and use a lot of body language gestures to convey their points.”

It turned out that the information presented in the email was sourced verbatim from a Wikipedia-like website called Buzzle.com and not properly attributed. Needless to say, the contents’ provenance does not absolve Ms. Goldring in the least for circulating the stereotypes contained therein.

The EPA bureaucrat’s peculiar, yet true-to-form way of honoring Hispanics was not the first time in recent months that an ostensibly well-intentioned celebration of “diversity” backfired. In June, a public high school in Orange County, Calif., drew unwanted attention for its Senores and Senoritas Day. Like Hispanic Heritage Month, the program was intended to promote “awareness” of Hispanic culture by encouraging students to come to school dressed in Hispanic garb. That high-minded theory hit reality when some students came dressed as gardeners, gang members and pregnant teens.

The irony didn’t end there, however. Because they did not properly police the stereotypical costumes, county officials determined that school administrators needed to undergo “sensitivity training” — the euphemism for forcible re-education in today’s politically correct Newspeak. Instead of acknowledging that the very premise of treating students merely as members of a few ethnic groups was insensitive to their rights as individuals, county officials doubled down on “diversity.” They decreed that the school henceforth would celebrate International Week. Yet one is hard-pressed to understand the moral or practical difference between having discrete days focused on particular ethnic groups versus repackaging those programs into a continuous week focused on particular ethnic groups.

Getting back to our hapless EPA bureaucrat, it is also no coincidence that Ms. Goldring’s email was not properly sourced. Adherents to the temple of “diversity” have convinced themselves that the condescension reflected in the email is actually a form of respect for other cultures. They have deluded themselves into believing that treating people on the basis of the color of their skin or their ancestry is a form of racial enlightenment. The same intellectual sloppiness underpinning “diversity” motivates plagiarism. Indeed, when I worked for four years at a federal agency, much of the “diversity” propaganda circulated in my office was plagiarized in the same manner as the EPA email.

The fact of the matter is, it is simply impossible to present programs emphasizing race and ethnicity in a benign way. Doing so necessarily denigrates the fundamental right that we as Americans hold so dear: to be judged on our individual merits. Encouraging students and employees to look to each other as “your people,” “my people” and “those people” is antithetical to all the courageous struggles that have been waged and advances that have been secured by Americans from all walks of life in the civil rights movement. We must not turn back the clock in the name of a false ideology. We cannot allow our national motto of “e pluribus unum” to be replaced with “e pluribus diversitas.”

Eric Wang is a lawyer in the Washington area.