Sometimes it seems like Elon Musk might have paid $44bn for Twitter just for the privilege of having his very own platform from which to shout into the void.

In truth, it takes very little for Musk to go viral.

Quite why the world should hang with such anticipation on his opinion remains a mystery to me: his views seem to be unwaveringly and often unnecessarily provocative and antagonistic, regularly rooted in fake news (as demonstrated by the reinstatement on X of accounts even the uber-liberal Twitter deemed too unsavoury to permit), and designed solely to promote division.

Generally speaking, I tend to ignore much of what Elon Musk has to say. Like the ramblings of many famous personalities (I’ll let you play choose-your-own-adventure here!), his views are typically self-serving, self-aggrandising and undeservingly self-important.

But recently an X post by the world’s wealthiest human being gave me pause for thought.

“DEI must DIE,” wrote Musk, adding: “The point was to end discrimination, not replace it with a different discrimination.”

And you know what? He has a point.

Don’t shoot me, please keep reading.

Notwithstanding the fact that the societal cultures of the UK and the US are markedly different, and therefore the conversations around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI – or DEI, as some would have it) are very different, it’s a topic that is in danger of becoming a victim of itself.

The reason for this is that the key themes that underpin EDI are, by their very nature, rooted in emotion. And when emotions run high, dogma prevails – to the extent that we risk losing sight of the core values and beliefs on which the original good intention was founded.

We see this in all walks of life, from politics to sport to the workplace.

Ultimately, emotion becomes an obstacle to getting good work done. It precludes rational debate and rational decisions as the real issues at hand become blurred by misinterpretation.

The point Elon Musk was making in his X post was that in trying to ensure the modern workplace is inclusive, diverse and equitable, we have become predisposed to instead discriminate against the ‘majority’ – for which, in the case of EDI, we should read white people (and particularly white men).

Again, don’t shoot me, discomfort is ok. I’m uncomfortable right now, not because of what I’m saying, but because of how you might be responding to it.

He’s not the only person who’s critical of EDI initiatives on the basis they unduly disadvantage white men, a group not typically thought of as being vulnerable to exclusion and/or systemic discrimination.

But that’s because everyone loves to think of white men as some sort of evil monolith:

– intersectionality gets forgotten

– people throw around the words pale, male and stale.

I’ve seen EDI professionals say it online and in real life. Imagine if a similarly disparaging moniker was used for any other group by EDI professionals!

If we can’t be consistent then we shouldn’t be in EDI.

It’s important, though, that we have a clear line of separation between the point he is making and his well-documented anti-woke ideology.

In a world in which Musk’s right-wing opinion lacks logic and is fundamentally at odds with the global shift towards greater acceptance, his (and others’) assessment of the effectiveness of EDI policy and initiatives is in many ways hard to argue against.

At its core, the issue we in the EDI space have to tackle is that if what we believe in really has started to create division and discrimination of a different sort, then the mechanisms we currently use to deliver our work are broken – and we need to think carefully about how we bring the pendulum back to a place of balance.

And for those reading this who believe, as so many do, that this ‘new’ discrimination is a price worth paying for the inclusion for traditionally and historically excluded groups, I would point at the decline in investment in EDI infrastructure and ask:

Really?

If we accept that the prioritisation of typically underserved minority groups is in fact creating a division of its own – and for many, that’s a big ‘if’ – then it’s hardly surprising that we are seeing a roll-back on investment for EDI work.

A fluctuant economy makes for hard choices, and there is a diminishing appetite to continue funding work or projects that aren’t delivering against their intended objectives.

Have we now reached a point where emotion is a barrier to having the challenging but logical conversations that are the hallmark of progressive EDI strategy?

Have we now found ourselves in a position where we’re spending more and more time identifying how we have those conversations and less time actually having them?

And are we, in the pursuit of creating positive and enriching workplace cultures, actually facilitating the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, or even could be yes, then maybe DEI really does need to die in order for something more fit for purpose to take its place.