How’Social Justice’ Undermines True Diversity

While one kind of diversity is mandated by our governments, educational and scientific agencies, colleges and universities, and industries, three other kinds of diversity are forbidden.

The mandated diversity is defined in “social justice” ideology as the diversities of race, gender, sexuality, economic class, and ethnicity. “Social justice” is alleged to be equal representation of participants according to representation in the general population, distinguished according to  census categories: gender (male, female, trans); race (black, white, Asian, indigenous native, other); sexuality (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc.); ethnicity and religion (Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc.); class (homeless, working, middle, upper); and disability (able, differently able). The argument is that “social justice” requires diversity, and thus the presence in every group or organization all varieties of race, sexuality, gender, class, ethnicity, and disability.

This idea behind this is the neo-Marxist class theory that members of some categories—men, whites, Christians, heterosexuals, middle and upper class, abled—use their power to oppress members of other categories—females, people of color, homosexuals, Muslims, the workers and homeless, and the disabled—who are deemed to be the “victims” of the oppressors. If members of some categories are “underrepresented” in prestigious fields and organizations, the “social justice” explanation is that they have been held down and marginalized by their oppressors.

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This is the famous “structural racism” and “structural sexism” that sociologists and “social justice” advocates are constantly invoking. The invention of “diversity” as our most important value is a “social justice” strategy to “raise” the underrepresented and ensure their presence in all fields and organizations. An unhappy corollary of the championing of “victim” categories, is the denunciation of “oppressor” categories, thus generating increasing popular anti-white, anti-male, anti-heterosexual, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish campaigns.

Individual diversity

The “social justice” definition of justice in terms of collective categories rejects the individual as the subject of justice. In “social justice” theory, individuals are reduced to the general categories in which he or belongs, or to which he or she is assigned. What is most important about people is which categories they fall into. Above all, each person is defined by his or her race, genders, ethnicity, sexuality, ethnicity, and disability.

What is forbidden is the diversity of individuals beyond census categories. One is no longer allowed to consider qualities beyond gender, racial, etc. categories. This seems peculiar because it implies that all people in a given category are the same, for example, that all females are the same, interchangeable, that all people of color are interchangeably the same, etc., and this is absurd. “Social justice” advocates, for whom collective categories are the most important consideration, deny the importance of individual differences.

But everyone knows that individual people differ from one another in many qualities that have nothing to do with gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. For example, rationality, the ability to think through issues and problems, to consider in a disinterested fashion the available evidence, and to draw conclusions based on a careful consideration of logic and evidence. Some people of every category are more rational, and others are less rational. Another quality is responsibleness, an individual’s capacity to undertake needed tasks and to accomplish them as required. A third quality is character, which includes steadiness of emotions, accounting for ideals and rules, and treating other people as one would wish to be treated.

It would be absurd to say that all members of the categories women, men, whites, people of color, Christians, Sikhs, wealthy or workers had the same level of rationality, responsibleness, or character. Yet “social justice” measures ignore these individual qualities, advancing only the importance of identity categories. In saying that people should be admitted or hired or appointed or promoted according to general census categories, “social justice” advocates disregard competence, the ability to carry out the assigned tasks, to do the job correctly. Terms that traditionally have been used to refer to competence, such as “merit” and “excellence” are now dismissed as white male supremacism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. Today, people are admitted to universities, to law schools, medical schools, engineering schools, hired as professors or administrators, nominated as members of Parliament, appointed ministers of the government, because of their “victim” census category, not because of competence.

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One of the things that this means—other than that we are hoping that our accountant, doctor, and airline pilot was promoted on the basis of more than “victim” status—is that individuals who are more competent, who are more rational, steady, and responsible, are excluded from government, industry, and education. Candidates with better credentials—whether grades, exam scores, awards, testimonials, publications, prizes, etc.—are rejected in favor of individuals with weaker credentials who are members of “victim” categories. Is not rejecting men because they are men reverse sexism, whites because of their color reverse racism, heterosexuals because they are not homosexuals bigotry? The alleged “social justice” for some is clearly injustice for others.

Collective Diversity

The only diversity recognized among collective categories by “social justice” ideology is those with the power to provide themselves advantages, the “oppressors,” and those without power who are oppressed and marginalized by those with power, the “victims.” No other distinctions between categories are allowed, lest a distinction is used invidiously against a “victim” category.

Yet while distributions of characteristics of members of categories overlap on most if not all characteristics, central tendencies, and extreme tails will vary. Here are some examples:

In both female and male categories, some individuals are aggressive, but males on average and at the extreme tails are more aggressive than females. Pointing to male aggression is part of the “social justice” narrative; but speaking about female aggression, and the high level of domestic violence by females, is forbidden. Because “social justice” advocates view females as “victims,” only the “oppressor” males can be seen to be aggressive.

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Some men and some women are interested in people, and some men and some women are interested in things. But many more men than women are interested in things, and this is reflected by the heavy predominance of females in the social sciences, humanities, education, and social work, and the major predominance of males in engineering, the natural sciences, and mathematics.

The differential distribution of males and females in fields of study is due to their different preferences and choices, rather than to discrimination against females, as feminists and other “social justice” advocates have falsely claimed. Although female applicants are favored in STEM fields, they prefer not to enter them. The more a society exhibits gender equality, the more this is true.

Although both Asians and Jews have a long history of suffering bigotry and discrimination, Asian American and Jewish Americans are highly overrepresented in academia and other professions. This is not because they are “privileged,” as “social justice” theory proclaims, or because there has been discrimination in their favor. Rather, it is because members of these categories are highly motivated to pursue education and because they have performed at a high level.

Members of other categories, particularly Hispanic Americans and African Americans, have proven less successful in education, in spite of vigorous efforts on the part of educational institutions, associations, and governments to increase their participation. Far from being discriminated against in higher education, these minorities have, for decades, been favored.

Today, following “social justice” logic, Hispanic Americans and African Americans are admitted and hired with credentials vastly lower than those of Asian Americans, while white male Christian applicants, i.e., members of the majority, with the same scores as Hispanics and African Americans, are not admitted or hired.

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Recognition and discussion of the differences between groups are forbidden. This is a kind of diversity that must be silenced. We love “social justice” diversity, but we hate substantive differences between different categories, and may not refer to them.


However unpopular diversity among individuals and among categories of individuals are in “social justice” ideology, nothing is more forbidden than diversity of opinion. For “social justice” advocates, the precepts of “social justice” ideology are not open to question. Open discussion and debate of “social justice” ideology is forbidden. Anyone who questions “social justice” precepts is dismissed as a “racist,” “sexist,” “transphobe,” “Islamophobe,” in short, a “deplorable.” Classical liberal views such as preferences for “color-blind” treatment of people, or statements such as “all lives matter” are deemed racist by “social justice” advocates. Other classical liberal views such as basing assessment, admission, and hiring on merit are rejected by “social justice” advocates as “white supremacism.”

The enforcement of “social justice” ideology and practice have been put in the hands of “inclusion and diversity” offices and officers, now the fastest growing component of colleges and universities. “Inclusion and diversity” commissars can invoke a range of punishments on deviants from “social justice” right-think, including black marks on employees’ records, to “re-education courses,” to refusal to promote, to outright dismissal. But these “social justice” officials do not have to do all of the work, because they are aided by feminist, race-based, sexuality-based student and professor militia groups who engage in surveillance of all activities, and who mobilize at a hint of deviation. “Social justice” agencies have learned much from the totalitarian communist societies.

Here are a few of the deviations from “social justice” ideology that results in attack and punishment:

Discussing the biological basis of sex, which contradicts the “social justice” fantasy that someone is whatever sex they say they are. Likewise, exploration of the biological differences of males and females is forbidden and results in an attack by feminist groups and in institutional sanctions. But when social rather than biological influences on another “social justice” sacred cow are explored, for example, the impact of peer pressure on transgenderism, “social justice” advocates go apoplectic, and demand censorship.

Wave four feminism’s desperate plea for female solidarity on the basis of a pervasive (if imaginary) “rape culture” may not be questioned. And we are forbidden to discuss the many cases of false rape accusations. Rather, we must “believe women.”

It is forbidden to say that traditional middle-class values are the key to success in society and to a successful society. Those who have said this are denounced as racists, and punishments visited upon them.

Advocates of free speech are called “alt-right” and “fascists,” and university students have claimed the right to shut down speakers to deviate from “social justice” ideology through disruption or violence. University administrations have de facto granted students these rights.

“Social justice” policies of racial and gender admissions and hiring may not be challenged by those advocating merit-based personnel decisions, which are rejected by “social justice” and race advocates as “white supremacy” and “male supremacy.”

No one is allowed to question the validity and desirability of “multiculturalism,” and the corollary assertion that “all cultures are equally good and beneficial.”

In all of these examples, facts do not matter; evidence does not matter; truth does not matter — only politically correct “social justice” ideology matters.


Illiberal “social justice” ideology advocates only one, narrow kind of “diversity”: the diversity of gross gender, racial, sexual, ethnic and religious categories. But it rejects the more meaningful types of diversity, those advocated by classical liberals: the diversity of individuals; the diversity among categories, which is often a diversity of culture; and diversity of thought, belief, and opinion. “Social justice” ideology is thus more similar to totalitarian communist ideology than to classical liberal philosophy.

Philip Carl Salzman

Philip Carl Salzman

Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

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