A recent string of plane safety incidents has made many more concerned about flying.
Right-wing commentators including Elon Musk have baselessly decided that DEI initiatives are to blame.
One expert said the attacks on DEI seem like a "last-ditch effort to preserve a more white-centered United States culture."
Right-wing commentators have a new theory to explain the recent series of high-profile plane-safety incidents — and they are claiming that diversity initiatives are to blame.
Recent incidents, including a runway collision in Japan, a giant blowout in the side of a plane, the discovery of loose bolts in several planes, and a fallen nose wheel have led to increased scrutiny on the aviation industry and fears about plane safety.
Conservative commentators have converged around the idea that diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, initiatives are jeopardizing plane safety, baselessly claiming that underqualified employees belonging to minority groups have been promoted in the industry.
Elon Musk reshared a post about Boeing diversity policies on X, adding: "Do you want to fly in an airplane where they prioritized DEI hiring over your safety? That is actually happening."
Matt Walsh, a conservative commentator, took to X to make the unsubstantiated claim: "DEI is destroying the airline industry and lots of people will die because of it."
Others have been more literal in their scapegoating: The right-wing commentator Ian Miles Cheong claimed that the Boeing plane that lost part of its fuselage mid-flight was made by a team of "diverse" engineers, and the right-wing activist Charlie Kirk said that if he saw a Black pilot he would question their qualifications.
— Marc Xavier Adams (@thegoodfello) January 24, 2024
Candance Owens said she would be "terrified" if she was on a plane with a female pilot.
The anti-LGBTQ+ account Libs of TikTok also complained that Alaska Airlines has been focusing on "making their planes gay" rather than ensuring customer safety.
The actor and comedian Rob Schneider went as far as to say he will boycott United Airlines over their diversity practices — echoing other conservative boycotts of companies perceived to be "woke," such as Bud Light, which came under conservative fire last year when it partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer.
Aviation experts have never cited DEI initiatives as a cause or contributor to air-safety problems.
In particular, Boeing's planes — specifically the 737 Max line — have come under scrutiny, and experts have been pointing to quality-control issues, workforce shortages, and cost-cutting measures that might have come at the expense of safety.
Boeing did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
'DEI is widespread. It's an easier, closer target'
Conservatives have long taken issue with DEI initiatives, which aim to increase representation among underrepresented groups in workplaces, and it has largely become a catch-all bogeyman to blame for various problems.
It is true that airlines and plane manufacturers have made attempts to increase diversity in recent years because white men have historically dominated the aviation industry.
Companies such as Delta Air Lines and United didn't hire their first Black pilots until after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
But these initiatives have not dramatically changed the workforce demographics, and there is no evidence to suggest that people getting promotions lack the proper qualifications and credentials.
Experts say that it is not just misguided to blame DEI initiatives for a reduction in the quality of workers but that it is also less entrenched than its critics imagine.
"The newer attacks on DEI seem, to me, to be more in line with attacks on diversity in general, from the attacks on diversity in college admissions to the attacks on university presidents to the general whining about white men, in particular, not being hired, to the attacks around immigration," Matthew Florence, a DEI consultant, told Rolling Stone.
"It feels like an overall last-ditch effort to preserve a more white-centered United States culture."
The attacks on diversity are ramping up ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with conservative media outlets pointing to the likely GOP candidate Donald Trump's pledges to eradicate federal DEI programs.
Rachel Décoste, a social-policy expert from Canada, told Rolling Stone that DEI is a more effective bogeyman than critical race theory, which has been a focus of conservatives in recent years.
"They were losing a lot of people with CRT. If you ask Joe Blow on the street, 'What does it mean?' — they usually weren't able to define it. DEI is widespread, it's the subtitle of somebody at your workplace, and it's an easier, closer target," she said.
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