Does DHH understand what DEI is?

Every once in awhile I will mistakenly head over to David Heinemeier Hansson’s blog and read what he has to say. Usually I am dismayed by what I’m reading. Today was no exception.

DHH seems to really love the topic of DEI as he’s written about it multiple times, and even has some experience in losing employees and customers over his illogical hang-ups over DEI. First in November of 2022 in The waning days of DEIs dominance”, next in January of this year in Where next for DEI?”, where Hansson shares bits of irrelevant news along with a pile of misunderstanding about what the point of DEI is.

(No I am not going to share the articles and give them any more air than I already am writing this post. They are easy to find if you want to read them.)

For instance, he shares an article on Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Research Center at Boston University and how it fell apart in scandal”. Reading portions of that piece just shows that incompetence in management knows no racial bounds. The failure of the Center had zero to do with DEI and everything to do with incompetent management and, well, people being people. DHH and Jason Fried know a little about that too.

He then spends quite a few words talking about how hiring based on protected status is illegal (duh?).


Which is all really very sensible! You can’t hire people on the basis of race, not even if that consideration is only part of the equation”. That’s exactly as it should be.

Again this is duh but I hate when guys like Hansson use the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a justification of their idiocy, if not outright racism. I’m pretty sure that Hansson knows that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t written to protect white people in the hiring process. It’s a convenient aspect of the law for him given that race can’t be a determining factor but the purpose of the law was/is to prevent discrimination in hiring for minority groups.


But it’s also in direct opposition to the DEI mantra of yesterday. That companies needed to explicitly consider race in their hiring practice in order to correct for historical inequities”.


You can’t both follow the law, and not consider race in your hiring decisions, while somehow actively correcting for real or perceived disparities in the racial makeup of a company during that same process.

Was that the DEI mantra” of yesterday? The company I work for has had DEI initiatives for several years now and explicitly considering race” in hiring has never been what those initiatives have been about.

Of course Hansson then shows that he isn’t this stupid. He knows exactly what the point of the Civil Rights Act was and the point of DEI:

What you’re allowed to do, of course, is things like the Rooney Rule. Where you seek to broaden the pool of applicants through targeted outreach. But when it comes down to hiring candidate A or B, it’s illegal to let race enter the equation.

None of this is new, of course. The Civil Rights Act is from 1964. It was passed to address the explicit and discriminatory use of race in hiring practices. Not to apply discrimination in the opposite direction to get desirable statistical outcomes.

Thanks David, it’s great to know the truth of your character, thanks for all your help protecting white people. Only one problem, we don’t need protection. Stop acting like we do:

In 2021, the S&P 100 — the cream of Corporate America — added 300,000 jobs. 94% of these positions went to people of color, 6% to white applicants. This was antiracism in action. And, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, plainly illegal.

Woe is us! In one year, for once in history, more jobs went to people of color! Call the lawyers! How can this be?!?

What is DEI really about? Certainly not about the BS he’s serving up in these articles. It’s about making sure the pool of potential employees is more diverse. It’s about making sure people from various groups and backgrounds feel welcome in a company and fostering communication, education, and understanding among everyone. It’s about a lot of things but not hiring explicitly about race” and shame on him for spreading these ideas.

Good article to read (linked to earlier): Why We’re Dropping Basecamp from the Duke University Libraries. They stopped using one of 37 Signal’s products over these issues.

February 12, 2024