What happens in a world in which white people begin to make dubious claims about how diversity initiatives disadvantage them and take away positions that they are qualified for and entitled to? You have a generation of white men who engage in grievance politics subjecting us all to their rage and their Trump. What happens if these same arguments undergird claims to the presidency on the left? Unfortunately, Sanders’ progressivism does not keep him or his supporters from making the same kinds of problematic merit-based claims to presidential employment that white men in every other industry make.
These voters also choose never to think about the ways that merit-based arguments of the same sort are deployed by corporate America or the halls of academia to wall women and racial minorities out of access to great jobs and organizational leadership opportunities. Anyone who has ever served on a committee charged with hiring candidates who bring some diversity to a place understands how things go when the white guy who meets all the criteria (because he has had structural access to all the privileges that would help him meet all the criteria) is up against a promising woman or person of color who is very good but falls down in a few categories. Or conversely she’s the best, but the standards as written and understood make hiring her seem like too much of a risk. Hiring committees often struggle with what feels to them like the fundamental unfairness of allowing a candidate’s diversity to put them over the top. Many (white) members of these committees see this as a sullying of (a mythic) meritocracy in a way that disadvantages white men. But first, they have to believe that the man in question received all his qualifications on the merits and not because of structural privileges. I expect people on the progressive and radical left, those who claim to understand how intersectionality works, to know better, but they aren’t acting like they do.
The experiences one gains from being marginalized because of racism and sexism offer invaluable perspectives that often make candidates inclined to be more egalitarian and inclusive, precisely because they know intimately what exclusion feels like.
The meritocracy myth and the “lowering the bar” narrative are big barriers to inclusion. This study frames the struggle as “merit vs. the diversity imperative” and identifies it as one of four primary organizational challenges to D&I.