Yoke of anti-woke: Diversity did not cause Boeing plane malfunction

After a door plug on an Alaska Airlines-operated Boeing 737 MAX 9 blew off mid-flight, Elon Musk and other commentators quickly fingered a culprit: wokeness, with several raising that Boeing had made a minor change that added diversity, equity and inclusion as one factor in determining employee executive bonuses.

This is so facially absurd as to be detached from reality. In fact, it is only even fully intelligible to people already enmeshed in a sort anti-woke industrial complex that has developed in the right over the past few years for reasons from political pressure to good old fashioned racism.


Unfortunately, this includes rich and prominent like Musk, Donald Trump and would-be emulators including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Like much dangerous populism, it stems from a seed of legitimate grievance, in this case the reality that dogmatic adherence to these principles can and has gone to ludicrous lengths, for example with some universities placing an undue emphasis on diversity statements when making hiring decisions.

Yoke of anti-woke: Diversity did not cause Boeing plane malfunction. Yet this effort takes these questions and morphs them into a funhouse reality where everything is governed by some shadowy and omnipresent specter of DEI, a reality where it is actually the people who have been historically advantaged that suffer the most.

This requires impressive mental gymnastics and an equally dogmatic commitment to ignoring the evidence, such as the fact that it is anti-woke crusaders like DeSantis and Chris Rufo — who is bizarrely fond of laying out in advance how he intends to weaponize terms like DEI and, earlier, critical race theory, against his political opponents — who have most effectively used state power to wrangle unfriendly academia into submission. On the issue of Boeing, Barron’s — hardly a hub of left-wing feel-goodery — pointed out, Musk’s assertion that safety was no longer used to determine bonuses was flat-out wrong, and the control system malfunctions that led to two 737 MAX crashes and almost 350 deaths in late 2018 and early 2019 preceded the offending DEI changes by a few years.

A much clearer culprit is the aerospace company’s efforts to cut costs and outsource aspects of production. Alaska Airlines had reportedly already barred the plane from long flights over water precisely due to warnings over pressurization failures. Investigative site The Lever reported that former employees of Spirit AeroSystems, the subcontractor that manufactured Boeing’s door plugs, had alleged in court documents that the parts were often defective.

None of this matters to the woke-obsessed, who can hardly find any issue they won’t blame on DEI. Oddly, their push for some imagined ideal of pure meritocracy seems to stop short of criticism of the mechanisms that much more often give people an undeserved leg up — nepotism, legacy admissions, influence-peddling, financial heft and so on. One could even say its contours stretch right up to casting doubt on any person of color’s ability to do anything other than menial labor, without any more rigorous analysis of its shortcomings.

Not every job needs a heavy emphasis on diversity across racial, ethnic, economic and ideological matrices, but there’s good evidence that these considerations, properly applied, can be a boon and not a detriment to all sorts of organizations, from airplane makers to colleges. Those who want to make it a boogeyman have their reasons, but they’re rarely really about meritocracy.