The words “diversity, equity, and inclusion” have positive meanings that solicit broad, generic support for their core definitions. When I first heard them used together, 10 or so years ago, like everyone else, I thought they were a modern-day iteration of Dr. King’s message of bringing all people together and leveling the playing field for the equality of opportunity that underpins the American Dream.

Boy, was I wrong.

I had a front row seat in local government as New Hanover County, UNCW, and the City of Wilmington adopted official DEI policies and hired multiple staff persons for implementation. I recall thinking to myself a few times, “What’s really going on here?” But no one really spoke up because it was hard to get your head around exactly what it was all about during these initial stages of what we now know to be a socially disruptive, deliberate political agenda.

Instead of the generically positive connotations these words suggest, pernicious systems were constructed that imposed extreme ideology and allowed discrimination to occur before our very eyes in hiring practices and higher-education admission policies. The acronym “DEI” has morphed into an unwieldy and un-American construct that teaches that, so long as it has an altruistic purpose, discrimination is acceptable.

It is now embedded in virtually every aspect of government and corporate America, with a fertile root system in higher education. The time has come for it to be uprooted and defunded.

Within the context of America’s troubled past and the progress achieved due to the passage of the 14th Amendment; Supreme Court rulings, such as Brown v. Board of Education; and most notably, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings, the truth is that the enactment of DEI has severely damaged race relations.

Most people, no matter their race or background, like each other, are nice to each other, and look after each other. We greet each other with respect; we pray for one another; we wake up every day pursuing the same goals for our families. In other words, as they go about their day-to-day interactions, most people ascribe to Dr. King’s colorblind teachings (which focused on equality of opportunity instead of equality of outcomes) and are wondering, like I am, how we came so far as a nation only to then take so many steps backwards.

On nearly every campus in the UNC System, complex DEI structures exist that have been used as litmus tests for hiring and admissions decisions. This predictably has resulted in less diversity based on how people think. Self-censorship among faculty and students has sky-rocketed, and campuses have become balkanized, as groups keep to themselves in clubs, study-groups, disciplines, and even in graduation ceremonies.

Now is the time for the UNC System to repeal the DEI policy and regulatory regimen it enacted in 2019 and replace it with a content-neutral statement that firmly protects and upholds equality of opportunity for everyone.

Recently, I was in Jones County at Circle K, wearing a suit and tie and grabbing a pack of nabs and a drink for a quick lunch before a court appearance in New Bern. A black gentleman was standing next to me. He was in his early 40s, dressed in nice black slacks and a black turtleneck. He wore brown-tinted sunglasses, and his hair was neatly cropped, as if he had just exited the barbershop moments before. As I turned to head for the checkout counter, he held out his fist and said, “Hey, brother; you’re looking sharp today!”

Without missing a beat, I fist-bumped him back and said, “Thanks, my man; so do you! I hope you have a great day,” to which he responded, pleasantly, “You too.” We smiled at each other and departed.

As I hopped into my car and got back on the road, I drove in silence and thought about this ordinary personal interaction and how much it defied what the Outrage Industry and the DEI establishment tells us every day about how we all feel about each other. I realized that the sooner our higher-education system and other government institutions reject the toxic structures that seek to divide us, the sooner we will achieve a society where we are judged not by our ancestry, but by the content of our character — Dr. King’s unrealized dream.

Let’s get to it.