Already a member? Log In

The D.E.I. Blame Game

Elon Musk
In making D.E.I. a boogeyman, critics have created a universal scapegoat that offers a cheap and reliable means of stoking fear and agitating the Republican base. Photo: Patrick Pleul/Getty
Baratunde Thurston
April 21, 2024

Just over a year ago, in March 2023, Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in spectacular fashion. The flurry of official postmortems—the Barr report, the O.I.G. report, and the Bair report—all found that the bank’s board of directors had egregiously failed to consider that, in a rising interest rate environment, the bank’s billions in assets (held in long-dated treasuries and bonds) could not cover the bank’s short-dated liabilities during a mass withdrawal event. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Alarmed depositors rushed to get their money out, and boom, the third-largest bank run in U.S. history was on. 

But by the time these official reports came out, a far more inane theory had taken hold in certain quarters of the culture: that the bank’s D.E.I. initiatives were to blame. In an interview with Fox News, Republican Rep. James Comer called SVB “one of the most woke banks.” Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler speculated that SVB’s (basically negligible) boardroom diversity may have “distracted” the bank. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus also told Fox that “these banks are badly run because everybody is focused on diversity and all of the ‘woke’ issues.” And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed that SVB was “so concerned with D.E.I. and politics and all kinds of stuff” that it was diverted from its “core mission.” (DeSantis would know a thing or two about failing a core mission…)