The White House issued an executive order on Thursday titled “Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce.” The purpose of the order is “to promote the federal workplace as a model of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion.” In other words, it would be better for the government if public-spirited white workers sought employment elsewhere. Lost amid all the politically correct box-checking is the principle that the most qualified person should be hired for a job.
President Obama’s new order instructs federal agencies to design new strategies for hiring, promoting and keeping workers of “diverse” backgrounds. The diversity the government is seeking is not diversity of ideas, outlooks or work experiences. In contemporary political parlance, “diversity” refers primarily to the color of one’s skin and not the content of one’s character. The executive order says the federal government “must create a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility and fairness to enable individuals to participate to their full potential.” In the name of “fairness,” however, the government will intensify programs that discriminate against white Americans by extending special privileges to everyone else. The order also says that “attaining a diverse, qualified workforce is one of the cornerstones of the merit-based civil service,” though merit and ability are not the metrics of choice when measuring success in diversity-driven career programs.
The order states that by law, the federal government’s recruitment policies should “endeavor to achieve a workforce from all segments of society” and that “as the nation’s largest employer, the federal government has a special obligation to lead by example.” In that respect, the government could largely declare mission accomplished. A quick look at the demographic breakdown of the federal payroll shows that “diversity” goals have been more than met. According to the Office of Personnel Management, federal employees in fiscal 2010 were 66.2 percent white, 17.7 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent Asian and Pacific Islander and 1.8 percent American Indian. Compared to the general U.S. population, the federal force is a bit too diverse. Blacks are overrepresented by 6.9 percent compared to the civilian work force, Asians and Pacific Islanders by 1.2 percent, and American Indians are more than double their proportion of the population at large. White Americans, who make up about 70 percent of the work force, are underrepresented by around 4 percent. Hispanics are also underrepresented despite the Clinton-era executive order 13171, “Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign and in the initial months of the Obama presidency, there was great enthusiasm for the concept of post-racial America. Mr. Obama’s historic election was viewed as a watershed for the issue of race relations. People thought that finally a national dialogue could be commenced on the issue free of guilt and recriminations. This promise stumbled with the July 2009 Rose Garden “beer summit” between Mr. Obama, black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and white Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley, who had arrested Mr. Gates for disorderly conduct. At the time, Mr. Obama called it a “teachable moment,” but that White House photo-op was the last anyone heard about the national dialogue on race. Mr. Obama has squandered his chance to lead America away from the divisive racial politics of the past. This executive order tells America that in the Obama administration, race-based preferences are still business as usual.