Letter: History’s lesson: Our strength lies in diversity

Posted 3/28/24

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI): These ideas are anathema to white Christian nationalists who fear losing their “rightful place” and their power and authority in America. DEI …

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Letter: History’s lesson: Our strength lies in diversity


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI): These ideas are anathema to white Christian nationalists who fear losing their “rightful place” and their power and authority in America. DEI policies, initiatives, and offerings in public colleges are, therefore, to be banned! This fear of losing control seems bolstered and justified by the deep-seated belief that non-whites are not up to the job, any job (Some kinds of entertainment and particular sports are tolerated exceptions). Consider just three examples of outstanding, heroic work in World War II by non-whites. 

Item:  When in the 1940s a highway was built from the US mainland through part of Canada to Alaska, one road sector was assigned to an Army group from the South. They were given a hard sector and received the worst equipment, clothing, and shelter. Those black soldiers who had never even seen snow, completed their sector ahead of schedule and won many accolades. 

Item: FDR ordered the government to intern Japanese-Americans from the West Coast in concentration camps throughout the war. This terrible act did not prevent a Nisei regiment raised from among those internees from fighting so well and bravely as Americans in the European theater.

Item: Even more lauded, and rightly so, were the Tuskegee Airmen, African-Americans all, who distinguished themselves over and over during World War II.

It appears that many Americans have learned little from these exemplary lessons, and countless others since. After the war, non-whites returned to America to face the same discrimination and oppression they and their forebears had long endured. Recall that, thanks to the peaceful bravery of Civil Rights leaders and marchers, it took 20 years after World War II for voting rights and fair housing laws to be passed (Yet, voter suppression is currently a maddening reality, thanks to GOP legislators in many states).

In recent decades, people of good will tried with affirmative action programs to broaden educational and employment opportunities for non-whites. The white power structure fought those programs and prevailed in courts dominated by whites. Now, likewise, DEI in any shape or form, is under constant and sustained right wing attack.

It seems elementary that American citizenship should confer respect, standing, and the right to be heard on everyone. Ironically, it seems that it is after elementary school that our racial divisions crack open and widen. Voluntary DEI initiatives are intended to encourage understanding of race and to open dialogue about more brotherhood with older American students. It is a shame, then, that DEI should be vilified and sidelined by the GOP as a radical, woke, leftist assault on the status quo.

Here’s the truth: Trump or no Trump, billionaires or beggars, the haves or the homeless, America going forward will not be worth two hoots and a holler unless we find ways to care beyond self-interest and to regard one another as worthy of dignity.

Will Newman


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.