The calls to end DEI have never been louder than over the past few months. The long-overdue opposition makes a morally clear case that DEI is nothing more than a hypocritical progressive tyranny that showed its true colors in the pathetic progressive response to October 7th. Their response to the opposition’s campaign is a familiar one—they charge that DEI’s opponents do not appreciate or respect the value of diversity, and that anyone calling for the end of the DEI regime is simply a racist aiming to marginalize “oppressed peoples” from spaces and keep them from sharing their perspectives.
But this characterization is a childishly reductive strawman argument, which seeks to drown out any concerns about DEI’s destructive tyranny by dismissing even the most reasonable objectors as bigots. Since it apparently needs saying, it is both possible and eminently reasonable to both harbor suspicions about the damaging consequences of DEI and sincerely believe in the value of diverse perspectives in schools, workplaces, and beyond. Many of DEI’s most vocal critics, including myself, make these arguments precisely because we understand the enriching effect of diversity—but diversity in its true form, as a mosaic of varied and unique personal histories from all walks of life, not the DEI form, which diminishes diversity to an “Oppression Olympics” judged only through race and progressive politics.
Let’s call this form of diversity DTALE—short for Diversity of Thought And Life Experience. DTALE is the precise opposite of DEI because it treats people as complex individuals who draw important insights from life experiences, rather than representatives of progressive-determined categories whose opinions must be evaluated according to their proximity to whiteness. It is also the precise opposite of DEI because it emphasizes the value of a wide spectrum of opinions and political persuasions, rather than dictatorially enforcing the value of a single strain of progressive thought and discarding any dissenting beliefs.
In the DTALE framework, everyone is given a fair chance to advocate for their opinions and share how those positions are informed by their relevant life experiences—and this certainly includes the people who don’t look, act, or vote like you. In fact, DTALE is based on the premise that those people might have the most useful things to say, if you’ll only have the humility and openness to let them speak. This is a belief close to my heart—as a brown, Persian Jew whose family was smuggled out of Iran, I have always understood just how important it is to listen to voices you might not agree with and representatives of communities you might not understand.
When I was six years old, I fled Iran in the back of a pickup truck along with my mother and sister, hiding under bushels of corn as we crossed the border into Pakistan. The only reason we made it out of the country alive is because my father, a doctor, received a secret tip from a patient he had treated that he was on a list of government targets and should flee immediately, before our family was killed. By the time we fled what was once our sophisticated, culturally rich homeland, the ayatollahs had already turned it into a repressive theocracy. Decades later, this dystopian regime not only persists, but Iran has also built and funded a powerful empire of jihadist, terrorist militias stretching throughout the Middle East—including the terrorist group that just committed the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
Along with many in my own community of Middle Eastern Jews, I warned of the dangers of this form of Islamist terror for years. But my cries often fell on deaf ears, discarded by people who had never experienced life in the Middle East and knew nothing of its dangers. It is sad that it took a brutal massacre of Jews for these people to start seeing reality clearly—to understand that diverse, unexpected voices often have something important to say, and to listen when we say it.
This is also why I believe in the DTALE model. We’ve seen what happens when society prizes rote, categorical “diversity and inclusion”; we’ve watched how our institutions, workplaces, and schools suffered when we surrender them to unchecked progressivism; and we’ve missed out on a host of opportunities to learn vital lessons that might have made us wiser. Prizing rich life experience and a kaleidoscope of perspectives as a key form of evaluation will help remove some of the hollow oppression narratives, propensity for victimhood, and blatantly hypocritical racism that DEI has injected into our institutions—and it will make us stronger, more politically reasonable, and ultimately safer at a time when safety and reason run in unprecedently short supply.
Dr. Sheila Nazarian is a Los Angeles physician whose family escaped to America from Iran. She stars in the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Skin Decision: Before and After. “