Diversity is a much-bandied about term these days, but two recent news items demonstrate that the practical application of diversity has its limits.
CBS Sports reported that more than 130,000 pro football fans have signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of NFL sponsors because the petition’s drafters think former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed for his “stand” in support of Black Lives Matter protesters.
Some of Kaepernick’s peers, many football fans and even people who didn’t follow either sports or politics all that closely saw his protest as offensive and disrespectful to our nation and the military veterans who have defended it.
Still, Kaepernick became a national icon for Black Lives Matter activists, and remains so. Now, his supporters believe his limited playing time last season and inability to land a job so far this year, despite being a gifted athlete who once led his team to the Super Bowl, indicate that the NFL has sidelined him as punishment for his politics.
Meanwhile, this week, Google fired James Damore, one of its software engineers.
After attending a company diversity seminar last month, Damore penned a controversial 10-page memo that said men dominate the ranks of Google and other tech giants because of “biological causes.”
By that, he meant that men, by nature, possess a “higher drive” to succeed, and thus were more accepting of the long, grinding hours on the job. Once a doctoral candidate in biology at Harvard, Damore also wrote that women are a distinct minority at such companies because they are not as assertive as men and more drawn to endeavors that are less stressful and more social and artistic.
As Kaepernick has garnered support from liberal thinkers who believe police too easily get away with brutalizing blacks, Damore’s mini-manifesto has drawn support from conservative pundits, who argue his dismissal from Google only validates his point. And somewhat like Kaepernick’s fans seeking to pressure NFL owners to give him a job, Damore has turned to a third party — the federal National Labor Relations Board — to try to get his job back.
Despite some parallels between these two issues, they share one key notion: While we sing hosannas about diversity being a national “strength,” the most prized workplace value is conformity.
The NFL has carefully cultivated its patriotic image, and so Kaepernick is expected to rise for the National Anthem. Similarly Google, located in Silicon Valley, expects its employees to celebrate, not criticize, differences in ethnicity, gender, physical ability, sexuality and any other way we can identify human beings.
The lesson here is that while the First Amendment guarantees both Kaepernick and Damore the right to vent their views, it doesn’t prevent their employers from crushing them professionally for failing to toe the company line.
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