Individualism: The Only Cure for Organizational Racism
Edwin A. Locke
It is now taken as a virtual axiom that the way to cure racism is through the promulgation of racial and ethnic diversity within corporations, universities, government agencies, and other institutions. The diversity movement has many facets: diversity awareness, diversity training, diversity hiring and admissions, diversity promotions, and diversity accommodations (e.g., black student organizations and facilities at universities). The common feature in all these facets is: racial preference.
If diversity is the cure, however, why, instead of promoting racial harmony, has it brought racial division and conflict? The answer is not hard to discover. The unshakable fact is that you cannot cure racism with racism. To accept the diversity premise means to think in racial terms rather than in terms of individual character or merit. Taking jobs away from one group in order to compensate a second group to correct injustices caused by a third group who mistreated a fourth group at an earlier point in history (e.g., 1860) is absurd on the face of it and does not promote justice; rather, it does the opposite. Singling out one group for special favors (e.g., through affirmative action) breeds justified resentment and fuels the prejudices of real racists. People are individuals; they are not interchangeable ciphers in an amorphous collective.
Consider a more concrete, though fictional, example. Suppose that since its creation in 1936, the XYZ Corporation refused to hire redheaded men due to a quirky bias on the part of its founder. The founder now dies and an enlightened Board of Directors decides that something “positive” needs to be done to compensate for past injustices and announces that, henceforth, redheads will be hired on a preferential basis. Observe that: (1) this does not help the real victims-the previously excluded redheads; (2) the newly favored redheads have not been victims of discrimination in hiring, yet unfairly benefit from it; and (3) the non-redheads who are now excluded from jobs due to the redhead preference did not cause the previous discrimination and are now unfairly made victims of it. The proper solution, of course, is simply to stop discriminating based on irrelevant factors. Although redheaded bias is not a social problem, the principle does not change when you replace hair color with skin color.
The traditional and essentially correct solution to the problem of racism has always been color-blindness. But this well-intentioned principle comes at the issue negatively. The correct principle is individuality awareness. In the job sphere there are only three essential things an employer needs to know about an individual applicant: (1) Does the person have the relevant ability and knowledge (or the capacity to learn readily)? (2) Is the person willing to exert the needed effort? and (3) Does the person have good character, for example, honesty, integrity?
It will be argued that the above view is too “idealistic” in that people often make judgments of other people based on non-essential attributes such as skin color, gender, religion, nationality, and so forth. This, of course, does happen. But the solution is not to abandon the ideal but to implement it consistently. Thus, organizational training should focus not on diversity-worship but on how to objectively assess or measure ability, motivation, and character in other people.
The proper alternative to diversity, that is, to focusing on the collective, is to focus on the individual and to treat each individual according to his or her own merits. Americans have always abhorred the concept of royalty, that is, granting status and privilege based on one’s hereditary caste, because it contradicts the principle that what counts are the self-made characteristics possessed by each individual. Americans should abhor racism, in any form, for the same reason.
With a few heroic exceptions, such as Nucor and Cypress Semiconductor, which have defied quota pressures, business leaders (following the intellectuals) have been terror-stricken at the thought that there is any alternative to diversity. Their belief-that you can cure racism with racial quotas-is a hopeless quest with nothing but increased conflict and injustice as the end. It is time that business leaders find the courage to assert and defend the only true antidote to the problem of racism: individualism.
We all come from other human beings – no one has been cloned yet. But how much does that matter as to who we are as human beings? Is it our lineage that defines us or our own individual acts and behaviors? Do we have free will or are we just a determined collection of ancestors DNA? Does it really matter who we came from?
Individualism would argue that each human being is unique and sovereign. They are to be judged by their actions alone, not by their ancestors. Since Individualism denies the existence of collective guilt or pride, each individual is judged by his or her own mistakes and achievements. They should never be judged as part of a group.
This does not deny the influence of genetics, family or culture. There are almost an infinite amount of types of influence which will affect the behavior of individuals. Nonetheless, each individual decides which actions to take and ultimately what their character will be. Since we have free will, these decisions are our own to make and are not forced upon us.
Who we came from is not nearly as important as who we are. In fact, it can be detrimental for any individual to take false pride or feel guilt for their lineage or ancestry. Individuals achieve accomplishments, not groups, and those individuals who have positive contributions to society should take pride in their own achievements. Similarly, those who make mistakes and are a burden to society will bear the blame individually. Neither pride nor guilt is collective.
Be proud of who you are as an individual, not who you came from. You bear no responsibility for the actions of other family members, only yourself. You also don’t merit any pride due to your family’s achievements. It is only your own individual actions which define your character.
Some may say it is human nature or just natural to put people in groups – and it probably is. Nonetheless, there are human behaviors which need to be controlled for the sake of human relations. On the surface there is nothing intrinsically wrong with putting people in groups, but the consequences are generally very negative. It is harmful to human relations, not helpful. It also almost always leads to group judgmentalism.
When anyone assigns people to groups they would be committing at least two wrongs. One, they are taking individuality away from the members of the group. They are denying the group member’s uniqueness as a human being. Two, they are going to assign values to the members of the group. No matter how they do this, they cannot be correct. There is no group of human beings which have exactly the same values. The fact is that people are not groups – they are individuals. When putting people in groups, and making any judgment about the group, one would be committing the same error as those who engage in racism, sexism, and other human behavioral evils.
The cure for this kind of behavior is to not put people in groups to begin with. Treat each individual person as the individual they are, and do not judge them by which group you may arbitrarily put them into. Not only is this more honest and truthful, it is the only way to keep from engaging in group judgmentalism. Group judgmentalism of any kind, even the assignment of positive values to a group, is harmful to human relations.
The human relational philosophy of Individualism is the only human relations theory which is based on viewing all human beings as unique and equally respected individuals. There are no groups in Individualism, there are only individuals, only unique and wonderful human beings.
I understand the desire of human beings to feel that they are better than other human beings. After all, self-interest or self-love is a primary trait for all humans. To be honest, however, there is no human being who is better or no human being who is worse than any other of our species. We all deserve an equal amount of respect for being human no matter who we are.
When we draw the horizontal line of human relations, one will notice that there are no points above the line or below. Every human being, from the perspective of Individualism as a human relational philosophy, is exactly equal to every other human. There are no super-humans, but likewise there are no sub-humans. All humans are deserving of the same amount of respect for being human. There are no distinctions.
Does this mean we are all the same?
Absolutely not, in fact Individualism says that we are all unique, not the same. There will never be another human being exactly like any humans who are existing today, or have existed. This will continue to be true in the future. What is not unique is our entitlement of respect for being human. This respect is the same for every human - but it does not make each human the same.
Does this mean that we are all equally good?
No it does not. Good is a moral term and addresses the character of each individual. Human nature being what it is, we will always have good and evil people in our midst. People need to be judged, but only judged on their own actions and character, not by a collective judging. Whether an individual is moral or immoral is a judgment to be made about the individual alone, not which group or collective they can be put into.
The equality of respect for all human beings is helpful for human relations. Too much harm has been done by groups of individuals placing themselves above others or placing others below themselves. We are all equally deserving of respect no matter where we come from.
In the history of the world, there will never be another person exactly like you. From your birth, through your childhood, and on until your death – no one else will ever duplicate exactly what you have been through and your thoughts about it. Each of us have different memories, different ideas, and different thoughts of the experiences and influences in our lives. There are no two human beings who have ever thought exactly alike and experienced the exact same environment. Every human being is unique.
What makes us unique? It is our minds, not our bodies. Many other individuals may share your skin color, your gender, your ethnicity, and other characteristics of your exterior appearance. They may also share your worldview, religion, or politics. But they will never be exactly like you. No one will. Your mind is unique – which makes you unique. Each human being has the potential to add a unique contribution to the world, whether or not it ever comes to fruition. We are all unique and wonderful individuals who should be treated as individuals, not groups.
Multiculturalism is wrong when it tries to state that because people may share a common culture they are all the same, or think the same way. Americans share a culture, but they are all different. The Japanese share a culture, but they are all different. One could say this about every culture. The fact is that there are no such things as monolithic cultural blocks. These are false abstract constructions. The multicultural concept denies the individuality of each person in such a grouping. It denies the reality that we are all unique regardless of culture.
Therefore, the only human relational philosophy which recognizes the uniqueness of each individual and states that human relations should be based on individuals, not groups, is Individualism. Individualism should replace multiculturalism as the human relational standard or ideal. Only through Individualism will human relations improve based on the reality that each human mind is absolutely unique.
Multiculturalism is not working. In fact, it is making things worse by creating unnecessary tensions between abstract groups. Instead of people thinking of themselves as individuals, people in America are putting themselves into groups based on cultural identifications, and then denigrating or vilifying other individuals who are not in their group. Collective grouping of people historically has always been more harmful than helpful - more divisive than unifying. We need an antidote for society’s poison of grouping by so-called cultures. The antidote is the human relational philosophy of Individualism.
Individualism is a philosophy which addresses only one area of our lives – how we should relate to other human beings. Multiculturalism tries to get people to accept different cultures and treat them with respect. Individualism attempts to get people to understand that people are not groups, even cultural groups, but individuals who deserve equal respect for being a human being. There is no collective thinking with Individualism – it recognizes all individuals as unique. It does not concentrate on exterior appearances which have nothing to do with how a person behaves. It does not assume that all people of any culture think and act alike. It does not treat people as groups – it treats people as individuals – because that is what they are. It deals with reality not abstracts.
All groups, regardless of how the human mind divides them up, are abstract creations. There are no monolithic groups of people of any culture, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other abstract grouping. Inside any group which one can come up with are individuals who think differently about a variety of subjects. Multiculturalism creates myths which simply do not exist. Even people who share a culture may have very different ideas and opinions about a variety of subjects. All people are unique – no one is exactly the same.
Therefore, the basic premise of multiculturalism is wrong. For this reason, and many others, multiculturalism is not the philosophy to use for creating human understanding and improving human relations. Individualism is the human relational philosophy which must be used to improve human relations regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other potential grouping. Individualism deals with reality – that people are unique – not groups. Only if you work with this reality can one ever expect to achieve an improvement in human relations.
There are many different kinds of worldviews which compete on the world stage. Some are based on religion, a few based on politics, and others based on almost any idea one can think of. Your worldview is the lens you see life through, it shapes your view of almost everything around you. Individualism, as a human relational philosophy, is a worldview which is intended for only one part of your life – how you should relate to other human beings. Although narrow in scope, it is broad in implications. Your world will look much differently by adopting Individualism as a part of your total worldview.
Even the Golden Rule will look slightly different to an advocate of Individualism. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It doesn’t say to love people who share your skin color more than others, or people of your own gender more than others. It said to love all other people like you love yourself. Our society, which is breaking up into tribalistic groups based on something as superficial as gender, skin color, sexual orientation, etc., is not the example of the ethics of the Golden Rule. We are not advised to separate people into arbitrary groups and love some more than others.
Racists use grouping or collectivism as their worldview for human relations. They group people by the color of their skin, either dark or light, and assign negative values to them. Sexists do the same thing by putting an entire gender into a group and assigning a negative value to that group. Religious hatred is based on assigning negative values to a whole group of people who happen to believe in a different religion. You have to be a collectivist or tribalist to even create any of these hates. The only counter worldview is to think like an Individualist.
The philosopher Ayn Rand wrote about racism and described it this way:
“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage – the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. This means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character or actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”
An Individualist cannot be a racist, sexist, or hate someone only because of their religion. An Individualist views people as individuals, not groups. They don’t make any pre-judgments about another person until they actually get to know the person. An Individualist does not judge someone based on their ancestry, lineage, who their parents are, or any other factor that does not relate to that person as an individual. They consider each person a sovereign individual who is to be judged based only on his or her own unique character and actions.
An Individualist also does not take pride in the accomplishments of other people who may share their own skin color, gender or religion. They don’t believe in collective pride or guilt. They take pride in their own accomplishments, not another person’s. For example, should a light-skinned male take pride in the fact that Einstein, Beethoven, and Kant were light-skinned males? No. Should a woman take pride in the accomplishments of another woman? No. Should you take pride in your own accomplishments? Absolutely. This is the view of an Individualist.
An Individualist also feels no guilt for the actions of other people who may share their skin color, gender, or religion. This seems obvious, but there are individuals who try to teach other individuals to feel collective guilt. There is no such thing as collective guilt. Since we are sovereign individuals, how can we possibly be guilty for the actions of another individual? We can’t. Even if our family members did something horrible, we are not responsible for their actions. We do not choose who we are related to nor are we responsible for their character or actions.
Ayn Rand goes on to say:
“Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.”
Racism, xenophobia, sexism, religious hatred, and other such collective human evils would be eliminated if everyone practiced Individualism. Without groups to hate each other, the world would be a much better place. Human history has shown us what happens when groups of people think they are better than other groups – and go to war to prove it. It is time for human society to break away from grouping people altogether and adopt Individualism as the optimal human relational philosophy.