What is the Critical Social Justice-DEI Movement?


America’s colleges and universities have become increasingly radical over the past 50 years.[1] USD has succumbed more recently. Academics and administrators are no longer merely pushing progressive politics on campus but also transforming universities into institutions dedicated to political activism and indoctrinating students into a hateful ideology.  This ideological bent is Critical Social Justice (CSJ).[2]

Many today are worried about critical race theory (CRT),[3] critical theory, cultural Marxism,[4] identity politics, or multiculturalism.[5]  These are all basically the same ways of thinking as CSJ.  They all represent what is commonly called woke culture. They all adopt our reigning civil rights ideology, which, generally, holds that all disparities in group outcomes are traceable to discrimination.[6]

CSJ begins with a moment of criticism or critical analysis, where activists unmask the supposed hidden realities of the world. America seems to be a place of equal opportunity or fair admissions. It is really, however, activists’ assert:

·         made up of various structures of oppression built by the privileged to keep victim groups weak and unequal.

·         Under this critical ideology being taught, America is said to have a patriarchal, racist, Christian, homophobic, cisgendered, and ableist culture.

The “advantaged” in America tries to impose its ways on supposedly disadvantaged Americans.  America and all the West are everywhere and always racist, sexist, etc.—that is the conclusion of the CSJ activists. 

But activists promise a CSJ remedy to this problem. Victims should be elevated and the supposedly privileged pushed down. This remedy is realized differently in different institutional settings.  At universities specifically, students’ minds will need to be retrained.  They will be taught to identify, shame, and destroy “oppressors.” Activists will teach oppressors to feel shame for their “whiteness” or “toxic masculinity.” Two sets of standards — one for the supposed oppressors and one for the supposed victims — emerge.

We are told the result of such training will be a happier, more diverse student and an environment defined by perceived inclusion. But this happy vision never comes about.  Why?  Because America and the West have built a great civilization, not an oppressive one.  Because the remedy CSJ activists would have us embrace leads to an endless treadmill of accusation and reaction.  It sets about a rolling revolution in university life, where one reform always demands another. In the meantime, resentment, hatred, and self-hatred reign.  

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the mechanism whereby CSJ is applied to institutions like universities.  DEI is CSJ made more palatable using sweet-sounding civic language, but they represent the same critical analysis and remedy. Both CSJ and DEI falsely emphasize how institutions like universities are irredeemably racist or sexist.  Both CSJ and DEI hope for policies that might overturn the old victim-oppressor framework, making the former victims the new rulers and the former oppressors the new victims. 

 As famous Critical Race Theorist Ibram X. Kendi writes, “The only remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination.[7] The only remedy for present discrimination is future discrimination.”  DEI is that present and future discrimination.   CSJ adherents have hijacked and repurposed words like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for their purposes:

  • Diversity: Diversity used to mean difference or plurality but not anymore. Diversity means more members of victim groups and fewer members of the supposedly oppressive groups. When men make up 80% of engineering students, that is a lack of diversity that must be remedied. When women make up more than 80% of elementary education majors, that is diversity that should be celebrated. And in curriculum, diversity means replacing books written by white males with authors from “historically underrepresented” groups. The achievement of diversity requires retribution be taken against former oppressors. It requires that aggrieved minorities be held to lower standards than those who are privileged. The formerly marginalized get privilege and the formerly privileged get marginalized. 
  • quity: Equity used to mean fairness before the law but not anymore. Equity stands for the idea that universities must aim at something like statistical group parity (e.g., since blacks make up 13% of the population, they should be 13% of engineers). Failure to achieve parity is sufficient evidence of systematic discrimination. Therefore, we must dismantle the old culture (no matter how well it seemed to work) and build a new one that will achieve parity. In short, equity is equal group outcomes. 
  • Inclusion: Inclusion used to mean everyone was welcome but not anymore. Today’s inclusion demands an institutional climate that elevates and supports the well-being of aggrieved minorities instead or at the expense of the supposedly privileged. Sometimes that means special tutoring for their supposedly unique needs like a women’s center or excluding ideas and things that some members of underrepresented groups find objectionable like thin blue line flags). LGBT- or Blacks-only graduations are done in the name of inclusion. Speech codes and cancel culture arise to accomplish this new inclusion. In short, inclusion means excluding all that makes supposedly aggrieved minorities uncomfortable.

The ideas behind DEI require people to believe that America is on an endless treadmill of oppression and victimhood. Accordingly, all efforts to transcend group identity are thought to be lies that rationalize “privilege.” Advocates for CSJ demand ideological conformity — victims can only be seen as members of an oppressed class rather than individuals, and non-victims are stigmatized and blamed for the evils that victims suffer. The individual is eliminated from American society.  The group identity becomes one’s label.  Self-awareness becomes group awareness.


CSJ is false and pernicious. 

·         It is inconsistent with the idea of meritocracy and the development of real intellectual achievement.

·         It is inconsistent with a dedication to scientific inquiry.

·         There is no way to get from CSJ to a tolerant and peaceful, unified, and happy nation.

·         It also can compromise family life.

·         It promises to tarnish and alienate productive, law-abiding citizens.

·         It denies there is a standard outside of group identity to which groups can be held.

·         It denies the reality that inequality and privilege are complex social phenomena that come about in many ways, not just from oppression.

·         Rather than appreciating the melting pot of America, CSJ pits one group against another.


Others have expanded eloquently about problems endemic to CSJ. This report is based on the idea that CSJ undermines the advancement of knowledge and the achievement of a common good. It asks:

How far has CSJ advanced at USD?

Through an investigation of the strategic plans, the ad hoc task force reports, and the policies adopted to further the CSJ/DEI mission at USD, we found that CSJ has advanced to maturity at USD.   USD seems proud of their advances in this regard, so it openly celebrates them.  This report thus collects much evidence from publicly available sources, while presenting them in links in footnotes.

[1] Sam Abrams and Amna Khalid, “Are Colleges and Universities Too Liberal? What the Research Says about the Political Composition of Campuses and Campus Climate” Heterodox: The Blog. https://heterodoxacademy.org/blog/are-colleges-and-universitiestoo-liberal-what-the-research-says-about-the-political-composition-of-campuses-and-campus-climate/  (accessed December 2, 2020).

[2] For example, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York: Penguin Press, 2018); Heather MacDonald, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018); and David Randall, Social Justice Education in America (New York: National Association of Scholars, 2019).

[3] See James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2020).

[4] Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism | Jordan B Peterson - YouTube

[5] See Donald Forbes, Multiculturalism in Canada: Constructing a Model Multiculture with Multicultural Values (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and Scott Yenor, “Lament of the Nations,” in First Things, accessed June 28, 2021 at https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/06/lament-for-the-nations 

[6]  See National Education Association, “Education & Racism: An Action Manual,” p. 13: “Our institutional and cultural processes are so arranged as to automatically benefit whites, just because they are whites.” The United States Commission on Civil Rights, “Statement on Affirmative Action” (Clearinghouse Publication 54, October 1977), cf. p. 2, begins with a modest statement that “racial disparities in job and economic status may stem from a web of causes … they provide strong evidence of the persistence of discriminatory practices” which leads to “practices that are not racially motivated may nonetheless operate to the disadvantage of minority workers unfairly.”

[7] Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: Random House, 2019), p. 19.