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Obama Issues Executive Order on Diversity


President Obama issued an executive order  last week titled, “Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce.” It’s quite vague, extolling the value of diversity without defining it, and setting up a “government-wide initiative” for “all agencies” that will “develop and issue a Government-wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.” Details later, and the devil, of course, will be in the details.

Still, it’s bad enough already. If government personnel are told to strive for diversity, then of course they will be putting their fat thumbs on the scale to ensure a politically correct racial, ethnic, and gender mix, and that means that there will be divisive, unfair, inefficient discrimination, with the best qualified people not getting hired and promoted.

It is good that the order makes a bow towards “equal opportunity” (as opposed to equal results) and to acting “consistent with applicable law” (which does not recognize a diversity exception to the prohibition on employment discrimination), and asks agencies “to identify and remove barriers to equal employment opportunity” (which could and should be done in a way that is actually nondiscriminatory).

But let’s not kid ourselves. Last week’s executive order is another big and unwelcome step—by the federal government generally and this administration in particular—away from the principle of nondiscrimination. In our increasingly multiethnic and multiracial nation, it is untenable for our national government to be classifying people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from, and treating some better and others worse, based on which silly little box they check.

Instead of setting a good example for the private sector, the Obama administration is setting an execrable one. And the administration is at odds not only with the nation’s civil-rights statutes, but with the Constitution itself.

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I don’t accept the executive order’s apparent premise that the federal workforce should mirror the demographics of the country generally. Hire the best qualified, and forget about “underrepresentation” and “overrepresentation” of this or that group. But even if we accept the faulty premise, there is little justification for the president’s action last week, since the federal workforce is plenty diverse.

Consider: The Washington Post’s “Federal Diary” column  a couple of years ago quoted Gilbert Sandate, chairman of the Coalition for Fairness for Hispanics in Government: “Hispanics continue to be the only underrepresented group in the federal workforce.” And, Mr. Sandate and the administration will be happy to learn, it turns out that Hispanics are not underrepresented either. 

True, the Post column said that Hispanics account “for about 8 percent of the total civilian federal workforce, according to the Office of Personnel Management. That’s well below the 13.2 percent of Hispanics in the national civilian labor force, according to Labor Department statistics.”

But wait: With only limited exceptions, you have to be a U.S. citizen  to be a federal civilian employee. And, among adult Latinos in our workforce, a good approximation is that no more than 60 percent are U.S. citizens (this makes the overgenerous assumption that all Latinos over 18 are in the workforce). So instead of 13.2 percent-versus-8 percent, the comparison should be 60 percent of 13.2 percent equals 7.9 percent-versus-8 percent. Which means that Hispanics are actually overrepresented among federal employees.

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One last item: Last week the Obama administration announced not only its execrable executive order but also a dubious “desegregation” decree.

The Justice Department’s civil-rights division made this announcement  in a long-running school-desegregation case in Pickens County, Alabama. In the settlement, the school board and state are required, among other things, to “develop policies and programs to eliminate observed racial disparities in student discipline, grade retention, graduation rates and post-graduate scholarships.”

Now, really:  It just cannot be credibly argued that such disparities are, as the Justice Department’s press release asserts, “the remaining vestiges of [the] formerly segregated school system.” Those disparities have myriad social and economic causes that have much more to do with, for example, family structure than with a school-desegregation case filed in 1963 against a school system that has now been under court order since 1970.

The civil-rights division is using the existence of this case as an excuse to foist its own social-engineering goals—which, inevitably and ironically, will result in similarly situated white and black children being treated unequally in order to ensure that the school system gets its numbers right—on state and local governments. And this announcement is likely to be a harbinger of more such settlements that the division will try to coerce. 

Rest assured, the Center for Equal Opportunity will be there to fight them every step of the way.