Conference at St. Kate’s Canceled for Lack of Diversity

Mitchell Rolling

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This year’s 2nd annual Leadership Imperative Conference was supposed to be held on January 19th at St. Catherine University. This event was intended to be an “interactive leadership conference for emerging and current women leaders across industries.” 

For reasons not indicated on their website, the conference was canceled in early December — after thirty speakers were already picked to attend.

Upon obtaining an email sent out to the speakers, the University stated that the conference was called off because they did “not reflect the diverse St. Kate’s community of today nor the world of tomorrow we are committed to creating.” 

According to the author of the email, the cancellation was not due to “the quality of [the speaker’s] presentation material or credentials.” Rather, the organizers of this event insisted on “modeling the ideal state today in everything we do.”

The blind process used to pick the speakers was based solely on the themes of the conference – “Explore your purpose, Ignite your passion, and Inspire excellence.” This was designed to eliminate over-representing certain industries over others.

Apparently, this process yielded results that “led to a racial and ethnic blind outcome.”

This suggests that most, if not all the scheduled speakers ended up being white. Consequently, the speakers were determined to be an unacceptable representation of their “ideal state.”

This event was an opportunity for thirty qualified women with diverse upbringings and areas of expertise to advance their careers and that of others by meeting new contacts and networking. If not for the color of their skin – which became an issue only after the blind selection process – they would have gotten the chance to do so.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in Minnesota. 

As the Star Tribune reported last August, the “Loft Literary Center’s conference on writing for children and young adults” was also canceled after complaints that 21 of 22 speakers were white. This was not an intentional outcome and only occurred because many of the “writers of color” could not make it during MEA weekend.

Minnesotan Shannon Gibney, the author of the Minnesota award-winning book “See No Color,” discussed her take on this issue with the Star Tribune. 

“The times I’ve been to that conference it has felt stiflingly white, definitely stiflingly older white woman, stiflingly suburban,” she said. “Because of that, it hasn’t been a space where, as a newer writer of color, it is really useful for me.”

Evidently, because they were white they had nothing to offer Shannon. It’s as though she sees only color. Gibney continued, venting her frustration over the lack of current black authors of children’s books, which in 2016 totaled only 90 out of 3,200 books published. 

Canceling an event such as this seems counter-productive. This conference could have easily inspired other black writers – and writers of all ethnicities – who do not think along racial lines and who may have been fans of these authors. 

Instead of discouraging minorities and telling them the lack of diversity in certain professions is the fault of a racist society working against them, we should be encouraging more to enter these fields. This begins with two essential ingredients — a good education in reading and writing and a healthy environment that fosters an interest in those subjects.

The speakers scheduled at these conferences lost out on an opportunity to grow and help others for simply being the best in their given fields.

The assault on success and experience in favor of forced diversity is part of a greater theme in liberal and left-wing politics, which asserts the existence of a societal “white privilege” holding minorities back. It’s a theme that produces groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, whose violent efforts have only harmed chances of racial unity. And it leads to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi calling out Trump’s immigration proposal as “making America white again.”

To promote a diverse future where professions are employed by competent Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, we need to value expertise. Misrepresenting diversity for ideological purposes only keeps hidden the real challenges standing in the way of success for many Americans.

America is a democratic-republican nation whose populace is continually striving to blindly reward hard work and integrity. Although our system is not perfect, forcing diversity in the name of building an “ideal state” is not a democratic solution; it is an authoritarian one.