It all started out innocuously enough.
In the midst and aftermath of the violent riots of 2020, companies flocked to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultants for guidance. They were under intense pressure to “do something” to demonstrate their commitment to racial justice.
My pharma biotech employer was no different. My boss – an abundantly avuncular, smart, and very woke Oberlin, CIA, and Wall Street alum – was chomping at the bit to make public statements in support of the prevailing “social justice” zeitgeist.
He did, at one point, hold forth on anti-Asian hate – perhaps in a nod to the ethnic composition of our workforce – but that subsided as it became clear that such hate was not emanating principally from white supremacist precincts. Around the same time, there had been a spate of antisemitic violence in the New York area, but no supportive statement was issued in response to that: too complicated, a combination of both Rube and Whoopi Goldbergian elements.
My company was far from the most woke. Indeed, the most progressive thing we did, workplace-wise, was to make our headquarters dog-friendly, largely at the behest of our canine-loving CEO. This had wide support except for in HR – or “People Strategy,” as we called it – which had to deal with both the allergy people and the cat people.
Nevertheless, the company did a number of things to manifest its commitment to DEI. For example, we incentivized the creation of employee affinity groups on the basis of race and ethnicity. After all, nothing fosters racial amity better than segregating employees into groups based upon their DNA!
I was asked to be the executive sponsor for the Hispanic affinity group. This was no doubt because of my well-known devotion to all things Iberian. For starters, my surname is both Spanish and Italian. I am married to a Wise Latina, and my kids are wise Latina guys and girls. If I had married an Italian like me, no doubt they would have been merely wise guys. Indeed, I “identified” as Hispanic before “identifying as something you most definitely are not” was cool.
Anyway, I agreed to be the executive sponsor of the group and met with two fellow employees who had founded the group. While reviewing the charter, I noticed that the verbiage referred to “Latinx this” and “Latinx that.”
I screwed up my courage and said, “Listen, compadres, I am happy to sponsor this group on one condition: we banish any reference to Latinx.” After all, I explained, “Latinx” is a culturally imperialist term that ravishes our beautiful, beloved, gendered Castellano in favor of this monstrosity foisted upon “us” by woke white people.
I held my breath awaiting their reaction. I was relieved when they started chuckling. One said, “I totally agree with you, that term was imposed upon us,” Thereafter, “Latinx” was consigned to the dustbin of history, allowing us to concentrate on pressing cultural matters, like which Hispanic restaurant would be the destination of our first field trip.
I took a mental victory lap after slaying the Latinx dragon. But soon thereafter, I was to face an even more fearsome foe: “People Strategy” had hired DEI consultants, and the Executive Committee, on which I sat, was scheduled for a three-hour session with them.
As preparation, each of us had to complete a statement on what we hoped to accomplish during the session. I hoped to survive the three hours without going insane. I didn’t write that down. Instead, I wrote something gauzy like “I aspire to foster a workplace where people of all backgrounds can thrive.” Who could argue with that?
Well, the two woke white ladies who ran the session could! I had heard tales of woke white people telling other white people they are racist and expected to hear some of that during our DEI session. I was not disappointed.
We went through a battery of exercises and discussions that all basically had the same message. Whether we realized it or not, we were all racist, the woke white ladies darkly implied. Admittedly, we were all white.
One of my colleagues, a whip-smart emigre from Europe, said she aspired to create a color-blind workplace. The gasps of horror escaping from the woke white ladies were immediate, audible, and visible.
Color-blindness is a myth, Woke White Lady Number One soberly informed us. We know that because “experts” have done “studies” that prove that beyond any reasonable, non-racist doubt. Concurrently, Woke White Lady Number Two bombarded us on the Teams Chat screen with links to numerous “studies” buttressing that point. It’s almost as if they were expecting that particular blasphemy.
Things proceeded along a similar path for the entire session. Another bombshell came when one colleague ventured that we should strive for a meritocratic workplace where employees are rewarded for effort and good work, regardless of their race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or weird hobbies.
Gasp! The woke white ladies got the vapors yet again. “Meritocracy” is a myth that “experts have found” is designed to enforce patriarchy and white supremacy, intoned Woke White Lady Number One. Yet again, Woke White Lady Number Two leaped into action, bombarding us with links to “studies” conducted by “experts” that demonstrated beyond all doubt that the “M” word was simply an awful concept whose mere mention constituted a microaggression.
After what seemed like an eternity, the session ended, with the woke white ladies promising to consolidate their findings and advise us on next steps.
I resigned some time thereafter due to the company’s imposition of a “get vaxxed or get fired” mandate. I am not sure whether and to what extent the wit and wisdom of the woke white ladies were incorporated into the corporate ethos. I just hope and pray that the fearsome Latinx beast has not reared zer fearsome head again to terrorize the remaining Wise Latinos and Latinas.