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It is a commonplace of modern rhetoric to exalt diversity and inclusion as a first step toward racial justice. The standard account, widely accepted in political and business circles, insists their combined benefits are unambiguous: a firm’s performance will improve if its employees, suppliers, and customers are composed of individuals from all races, genders, sexual orientations, and general points of view. These diverse persons are not intended as mere tokens but are respected for offering their distinct and valuable perspectives on vital matters critical to corporate and national welfare.
As an abstract matter, it is hard to oppose an employment strategy that generates higher revenues and superior innovation. But once we get down to brass tacks, the overall picture is far more complex. The massive coercion involved in implementing diversity norms was recently revealed by Coca-Cola, which has gone all-in on diversity and inclusion for its more than 700,000 employees: “We champion diversity by building a workforce as diverse as the consumers we serve. Because the more perspectives we have, the better decisions we make.”
It would, however, be a mistake to assume that Coke thinks that it has made good on its key promise. In January, Coke’s new African-American general counsel, Bradley Gayton, laid down this broadside, “Commitment to Diversity, Belonging, and Outside Counsel Diversity,” in which he describes what he perceives to be the abject failure of prior efforts to reach requisite levels of diversity and inclusion at Coke and in the legal profession more broadly. Without a link to a source or statistic, Gayton lashes into the legal profession for being “too quick to celebrate stagnant progress and reward intentions.” Gayton demands specific actions to meet the “crisis on our hands” engendered by a lack of diversity.