Friday, February 26, 2021

My Thoughts on "The Marxism In Your Diversity Training"

This isn't the post I had planned to write. In fact, I had two other ideas. But I feel compelled to write this, knowing that it may cause more controversy than it's worth. 

My colleague Stefan Padfield wrote a post called "The Marxism In Your Diversity Training" that some would call provocative. Others would call it offensive. I had planned to comment on it, but he's taken it down. Did I agree with everything he said? No. Did I disagree with everything he said? Also no. 

I have a unique perspective. I'm a Black female. I protested about race and gender issues in college and law school. I've been a management-side employment lawyer for 25 years both as outside counsel and in house. I still consult with companies, deliver training on EEO laws and polices, conduct discrimination investigations, and advise plaintiffs. I work hard to make sure that companies do the right thing. I've posted here before about my skepticism about certain diversity mandates. Not that we don't need MUCH more work in this area, but I'm not sure the approaches that some states and companies are taking will have long-term benefits.

My law school, like all others, is trying to figure out how to deal with race and social justice in the classroom. My conversations with some students and certain faculty members have been painful, draining, and exhausting. Closer to home, I have a 25-year old Black son. He's a gifted artist, has gone to school in Paris, has visited almost 20 countries, and wouldn't hurt a fly, but he's more likely to get stopped, frisked, arrested, or shot by police than his friends because of his skin color and hair style. If I don't hear from in within a 24-hour period, I panic. 

So I have lots of thoughts about Stefan's post. Right or wrong, Stefan said what a lot of people that our students will encounter think. We owe it to them and each other to use our analytical skills and face volatile issues. 

I've listened to presentations by outside speakers at my law school in the face of protests by some of our students because I believe in teaching and learning through reasoned debate, when possible. But I can't comment on Stefan's post because he took it down in the face of criticism. So I'm sad, but not for the reason that most would think. I'm sad because I think we could have had a thoughtful dialogue on some uncomfortable topics and been an example on how to disagree without being disagreeable. And that's a loss for everyone.

Current Affairs, Law School, Marcia Narine Weldon, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink


Thanks for this post, Marcia. I also welcome difficult conversations on diversity training and other issues that may divide our society (as well as the law academy), with the hope that those dialogues will lead to greater understanding and respect. Each of us is a person of difference in some aspect. That fact should motivate all of us to listen harder and use our freedom to speak wisely and sensitively, especially on issues about which we are passionate. I appreciate you doing all that here.

Posted by: joanheminway | Feb 27, 2021 10:09:58 AM

Thanks for posting. These are discussions that are going to "have to be had." If not in the academy, where? The extremes are becoming more so. Without a forum for resolution and blunt but civil discussion, I am greatly concerned.

Posted by: Tom N. | Feb 27, 2021 10:36:24 AM

Thanks so much for posting that, Marcia. I assume we will have many more opportunities to discuss these issues, and I look forward to continuing to gain more perspective from those conversations. As for taking down the post, I’d describe the criticism I was responding to as obviously not remotely approaching the career-ending de-platforming I routinely read about, but also in some meaningful sense more aggressive than I’ve encountered previously in connection with my scholarly writing. But I want to be clear that I could have relatively easily kept the post up. As I said to our group of co-bloggers internally, it was new territory for me and I acted out of an abundance of caution, and I’m fine with that (next time I’ll likely have thicker skin). One of my goals now is to get as much clarity on the precise substance of the criticisms as I can (the post is saved in draft form so I can refer to it / share it as needed) – and I remain willing to be convinced that what I said in that post was wrong in whole or part. I’ve also particularly appreciated the support from people like you who are clear about not agreeing with everything I wrote in that post – perhaps even offended by some of it – but who still think there’s something worth discussing there, and who would prefer to engage in that dialogue rather than just have me shut up. Again, thank you.

Posted by: Stefan Padfield | Feb 28, 2021 11:00:56 AM

I did not have a chance to review the post, but I agree, thoughtful discussion on this subject is better than none at all.

Posted by: Marcos Mendoza | Mar 2, 2021 9:55:09 AM

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