New Report Argues DEI Does Not Promote True Diversity in Philanthropy

A new report out of The Heritage Foundation, “The Radicalization of Race: Philanthropy and DEI,” traces current pressures to meet prescribed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics back to their source. This comprehensive look at what has become a dominant approach, and in some cases, organizational policy, for grantmakers and nonprofits seeks to shed light on what is driving philanthropy’s focus on DEI and what the millions of dollars invested in DEI programs have accomplished.

Authors Katharine C. Gorka and Mike Gonzalez analyze the historical underpinnings of separating individuals into groups by race and other physical characteristics, setting out to “understand the assumptions that underlie DEI, the problems that funders are working to solve and whether the DEI approach that many mainstream philanthropies are advocating and funding is achieving the desired results.” The study finds the resulting policies fall short of the goal of promoting and fostering holistic, true diversity in our society, which values everything that makes us unique and special as individuals, not just our physical traits. As the report notes, “Quotas, government race-conscious policies and speech codes do nothing to close the real disparities of achievement, because they do not address the root causes.”

This rigorous analysis adds much to the current debate. With context for the changes in definitions of the words “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion” themselves and a robust research review of the historical path of DEI through the private sector, the government and philanthropy, this study is a compelling read for those interested in DEI efforts within philanthropy and beyond. Crucially, the authors present a proposed path to respond to these pressures.

They ask:

What can one do to preserve the principles of limited government, individual freedom and equality under the law—on which this country was founded and which have led to the freedom and prosperity for so many—while acknowledging that problems do endure, whether racism, poverty, inequality, underrepresentation or any number of other issues that plague all societies?

And subsequently argue:

First, Americans must begin in a spirit of optimism, knowing that the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, with their unequivocal assertion that all men are created equal, provides the surest path to true equality.

Gorka and Gonzalez conclude DEI is incorrectly premised on the notion that American laws and institutions are systemically racist and must be dismantled. They write, “DEI eradicates the best aspects of the American experiment, which have brought prosperity and opportunity to so many—the rule of law, respect for individual rights and equal treatment under the law.” They end with a list of concrete actions that those within philanthropy can take. These include having the courage to vocalize dissenting opinions, helping to educate the public on the consequences of divisive practices, supporting further research on the impact of DEI on our communities and backing those taking a stand for the American principles that provide “the best possible path to true equality and opportunity.”

As Philanthropy Roundtable continues to promote the values of True Diversity, this report adds important ideas to the current debate over DEI in philanthropy. We appreciate the authors’ examination of this issue and thank them for sharing their perspective on it.

Philanthropy Roundtable’s True Diversity initiative is an equality-based, holistic framework for embracing diversity. It values every person as a unique individual and empowers charitable organizations with the freedom and flexibility to advance their missions and help those in need. Learn more here.

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