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  • Reverend James Squire

Born On Third Base

Photo by Antoine Schibler


One of the things that I enjoyed teaching and leading was the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Classes. I co-talk courses with two different DEI experts. I have been to several different diversity workshops where there was always an enlightening experiment because it confirmed everything I believe about classism.


The exercise goes something like this. Everyone begins by standing next to one another in the back of the room. We are instructed then to take a step forward when you answer “yes” to certain questions. Did your mother and father graduate from high school? If “yes” take a step forward. Did your father work in an office? If “yes” take a step forward. Did you go on family vacations for longer than a week? If “yes” take a step forward. Were your parents ever concerned about money? If “yes,” take a step forward. Was it assumed that you would go on to college? If “yes” take a step forward. About twenty questions were like these.


When we finished, we were asked to look at where various people were in the room. Some of us had our backs to the back wall and made little or no way forward. Others made it across the room to the far wall and others everything in between.


What DEI teaches you is that your progress in life can be at times determined by where you started.


There have been some outrageous anti DEI statements made recently. When the plane door blew off the Boeing passenger jet, the first response was that it was a result of too many diversity hires that reduced the quality of the work at Boeing. This is categorically not true. Leon Musk replied to a post about the Boeing situation with these words. “It will take an airplane crashing and killing hundreds of people for them to change this crazy policy of DIE deliberately dispelled the DEI acronym. He went on to indicate that “pilots hired out of black colleges have a lower IQ than air force trained pilots. Boeing is putting DEI over safety.”


What the facts show is that Boeing hires candidates from a pool of highly competitive people that reflect their DEI statement to “attract the world’s top talent and aspires for every teammate to do their very best work.” In diversity work, we call this kind of statement that Musk made which is not true that “the black man did it.” Black people have faced that scapegoating since the dawn of time since slavery and before.


I included, in a blog a few weeks ago, the DEI statement that Bill Ackman wrote as a reaction to get Presidents Gay and Magill of Harvard and Penn removed from their positions.

I wanted you to see the conservative argument. In essence, he was calling for people hired for positions or those applying to colleges should come with great credentials of considerable merit. I assumed he was a bully by his style with Harvard and Penn, but I also learned that he is “an investor activist” which means he gets people on boards of companies and ruins them so that he can make a bigger profit. You may recall that Jack Welch made IBM profitable for his stockholders by firing 72,000 workers and shutting down a dozen factories right off the bat.


HERE IS WHERE MUSK AND ACKMAN ARE WRONG ABOUT DEI and meritocracy. Recall that the heart of ethics and one of its pillars is Justice or Fairness. Ackman and Musk forgot that you arrive at success many times based on where you start. That is what the exercise was about that I described at the beginning, but you can’t or shouldn’t use where you start as an excuse for achieving success in whatever way you define it. Musk and Eckman have a flawed argument. They forgot about classism. My favorite quotation about classism that describes Musk and Eckman was stated by Bud Wilkinson, legendary coach of the University of Oklahoma. He said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”


Let’s see how that quotation relates to Musk and Eckman and how Musk and Ackman were born on third base. They are fake self-made men.


Musk’s mother was a successful model and dietician. His father, Errol Musk, was an engineer and real estate developer. “He benefitted from his family’s substantial wealth, privilege, and resources,” was the way that one source described him.


Eckman’s father, Lawrence Eckman, is the former Chairman of a New York Real Estate Firm. Eckman started Pershing Capital Hedge Fund funded by Ackman personally, i.e., family money and some other donors. He started his career in real estate banking at Eckman Brothers and Singer, Inc. His fund basically takes care of a few stocks. He is not an investing genius. Musk and Eckman would be against the wall as an example of the most help one could get.


Does this mean that people who have lots of success whatever way you define it, money, influence, fame, etc. are not good people? Absolutely not. The difference is in your attitude if you are successful by your standard? I am blessed to have close friends in every layer of classism, lower, middle, and upper class. You can find the answer to this difference in classism and Eckman and Musk right in our EA School motto, Esse Quam Videri, to be and not to seem to be. Be authentic or real is the usual interpretation of the motto, but there is something else. Become the best version of yourself. Going from nobody to somebody, as Jesse Jackson expressed it, “You are somebody!” But there is more. It is found in a simple statement that no matter what class or level of success you have achieved. “A person never stands so tall as when he or she stoops to help a child (or others) in need.”


An EA parent who knew my back story sent his son to see me. His son said, “My dad says I should be just like you.” I know the father was well intentioned, but I said, “Your father is wrong. Don’t be like me. Be the best version of you.” That lifted a burden off this student. I could tell by his smile. His dad called me and said, “Thanks, I never saw the school motto that way!”


Nobody as far as I can tell ever corrected Musk or Eckman from their illusions of grandeur. They cling close to “you were born on third base and have gone through life thinking that you hit a triple.” It’s a mindset that has no Justice. Be aware of their self-deception and this self-deception when seen in others.

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