It was December 1, 1955. A tired seamstress was making her way back home on a bus after a long day in Montgomery, Alabama. The bus driver angrily informed the woman that the law required her to sit in the back of the bus. The woman was not just tired from work, she was tired of a law and a system that was just plain wrong. She refused to move to the back of the bus. The name of the woman was Rosa Parks, and she was an African-American.
That iconic incident was one of the seminal moments in the civil rights movement that culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. His dream was of a future where all children could play together without even noticing that they were of different hues.
King’s dream was that race would be an irrelevancy.
Pioneering feminists had the same dream. No longer would artificial obstacles prevent girls and women from aspiring to jobs that had been the exclusive domain of men. The very necessary and legitimate goal of those true feminists was to erase the barriers and open up all those jobs and careers to women. Gender would no longer be a barrier – it would be an irrelevancy.
But that is not how things turned out. Because — just like Rosa Parks when she first boarded that segregated bus — we now find ourselves back on a bus where everyone is expected to know their place.
Welcome aboard the social justice bus.
On this bus, race and gender are not the irrelevancy King and the pioneering feminists dreamed about. Instead, on the social justice bus, race and gender are everything. Social justice ideologues will tell you exactly where you are to sit.
At the back of the bus they will seat the privileged white man. He is told that his days of oppressing others are over. Ahead of him sits the white woman. Her gender gives her a bit of an advantage, but not that much. Then come the various people with the skin in colours that King hoped would be irrelevant. Blacks and Indigenous people sit in those seats. Ahead of them — as a result of the truly bizarre “intersectionality theory”– sit the stars of the show: people who can claim both racial, gender and some other perceived “oppressed” status. Those “intersectionals” are moved to the front of the bus.
This, then, is the new social justice bus. Its mantra of “equality, diversity and inclusion” virtually runs today’s universities. Students are selected not because they are the best qualified, but because they sit in a desired section of this bus. Their teachers are hired not because they are the best qualified applicants but because of their place on the bus. The results show that the Canadian universities that have moved the furthest away from merit are now at the bottom of the pack.
Corporations and law firms are under pressure to play this same game as well- – abandon merit and give in to identity politics. Companies and professional firms that submit and hire by gender, racial preference and quota systems succeed only in achieving mediocrity.
Perhaps the most notorious example of the people seated on the bus was when the Prime Minister was elected to office in 2015. He proudly declared that he was abandoning merit and experience as the criteria for selecting a cabinet and boarded the social justice bus instead. Henceforth, there would be a quota of 50% women in his cabinet regardless of how many women were elected as MPs.
Other institutions, such as the Law Society of Ontario, and indeed many others are showing signs that they too are abandoning merit and get on the social justice bus too. They have decided that instead of common sense, principles like choosing the best and hardest working people, we should now look at where they fit on the intersectionality scale -that is, on the social justice bus.
But here’s the thing:
As our social justice bus bumps along the highway — getting slower by the mile — there is another bus that is catching up to us very quickly. That is the bus on which our competitors are riding. But our competitors are not riding on the social justice bus. They are riding on a bus that recognizes merit and competition as the sole criteria when deciding which students to enroll in their universities and which people to hire as scientists, lawyers, or professors.
And their bus is passing us by.