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The DEI industry’s most notorious grifters

Former Facebook diversity manager Barbara Furlow-Smiles. Credit: Getty

December 16, 2023 - 3:00pm

In the three years since the explosive growth of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in 2020, numerous high-profile leaders in the field have been exposed as grifters. This stretches from outright fraud — as in a recent Facebook case — to exorbitant charges for lectures and similar services, as in the cases of Robin DiAngelo and Saira Rao. 

Across the US, DEI programmes are being slashed, administrators are being laid off en masse, and state legislatures are restricting the programmes on anti-discrimination grounds. Just this week, Oklahoma’s Republican Governor defunded all DEI programmes within state agencies, including public universities, in an executive order. Below are some of the worst offenders in the industry.

1. Barbara Furlow-Smiles, former lead strategist and global head of employee resource groups and diversity engagement at Facebook, was charged with defrauding her employer of more than $4 million over more than four years by wiring money to her friends and associates under the guise of company expenses as part of a kickback scheme. She pleaded guilty this week. 

2. Ibram X Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University raised $55 million in the years after its establishment in summer 2020. By autumn 2023 the centre was mired in scandal, as it suddenly laid off more than half of its staff. Current and former employees complained of mismanagement of grant funds and a dysfunctional work environment in media interviews, and the project largely failed to produce the research it promised. A Racial Data Tracker, which was central to the centre’s research goals, never came to fruition, nor did a number of other research projects it had advertised. Saida Grundy, a BU professor who formerly worked at the centre, told the Boston Globe, “I don’t know where the money is.” A BU audit ultimately found no evidence of financial mismanagement. 

3. Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Movement, spent millions of dollars on real estate across the country in 2020, though the organisation denies that she used the organisation’s funds to do so. She also funnelled BLMGM business to an art company owned by the father of her child. As of January 2022, there was apparently no one in charge of Black Lives Matter Global Network’s $60 million coffers after co-founder Cullors failed to install a new director following her resignation. The organisation was forced to stop fundraising in several Democrat-run states due to its failure to report on its 2020 finances.

4. Regina Jackson and Saira Rao started Race to Dinner in 2019, charging affluent, liberal white women $5,000 for lectures on racism held during intimate dinner parties. Rao and Jackson lead “very direct, exceedingly difficult conversations” in which they ask white women to name recent instances in which they’ve been racist and request that attendees who cry leave the room. 

5. Robin DiAngelo is estimated to have earned up to $2 million from her book White Fragility. She more than doubled her speaking fees from $6,000 to $14,000 following her surge to prominence in 2020, and the Daily Mail estimated that she made well over $700,000 annually just from speaking engagements. But critics have argued that her writing, which urges white people to evaluate their unconscious racism, is condescending towards black people. 


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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John Murray
John Murray
6 months ago

I certainly think that what Jackson/Rao or DiAngelo charge is exorbitant, but then I would never pay them a red cent if it was my decision. However, if the women or institutions that pay them are willing to pay their baksheesh then that is entirely up to those people. The market decides. And fools are easily parted from their money.
As for Ibram X. Kendi’s project – the man could not be plainer that expectations regarding such things as “work ethic,” “reliability,” “delivering on promises” are white supremacy. So, he can fairly say that he has in fact delivered exactly what he has discussed. Anybody with differing ideas wasn’t paying attention.
The Facebook lady is embezzlement, yeah.

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

“The market decides. And fools are easily parted from their money.”

Fair point, but if a white supremacist group tried to advertise an equivalent service, would the state stand aside and let the market decide?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Yeah, exactly. We don’t quite live in a libertarian free market utopia when it comes to speech matters ….

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

They are called Donald Trump rallies. No doubt you’ve attended a couple or at least wished you could.

Paul T
Paul T
6 months ago

Tuck off you fool.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago

Well, Trump rallies look like a lot more fun than the kind of miserable, self-hating whinefest that guys like you go in for.

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Your statement about the white supremacist group is correct, but it’s a false analogy. You may not like any of the people mentioned in the article, but as far as I know they’re not “black supremacists.”
From my viewpoint, a closer analogy (though admittedly not an exact parallel) to some of the cases quoted above would be: I don’t see why GB News should pay exorbitant sums to third-rate intellects such as Rees-Mogg and Dorries to spout predictable rubbish, but it’s GB News’ money, and the market in terms of the viewers and advertisers will decide.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

But that’s exactly what it is: a black supremacist movement. There is nothing to it except institutionally-approved hatred of white people.

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Even if your comment is true, that would make them morons and racists, not black supremacists.

Gorka Sillero
Gorka Sillero
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

But they are black supremacists. Of course, one would need to actually read and hear what they say instead of coming to non-progressive forums to troll in the most retarded manner

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

DEI is imposed, Geoff. DEI is not a “free market solution.” DEI is one part of a social credit score created by a conglomeration of government and private businesses to “shape behavior.” It’s a religion.

Are you truly this uninformed?

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

DEI measures are indeed often imposed, e.g. by legislation.
But the comment to which you replied referred to the people mentioned in the article, and it’s not clear that any of them were imposed on anyone. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 almost certainly weren’t.
If you reply to this comment, perhaps you could try being polite?

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

So your position is that 3,4 and 5 are just examples of the “free market.”

Let’s take number 4. Are those women willingly demoralizing themselves in a struggle session because they want to or they feel they have to be in compliance with an imposed agenda?

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Consumers who operate in a free market are subject to all kinds of constraints and pressures, e.g. the choice of products available, advertising, fashions, peer pressure.
I don’t (and presumably you don’t) know anything about the people who pay $5000 for 4, beyond the article’s description of them as “affluent, liberal white women.” If they’re affluent, they probably have a lot of autonomy. If they’re liberal, they probably believe current orthodoxies about racism. I don’t think they have had 4 imposed on them, I think that they’re silly virtue signallers.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Advertising, fashion and peer pressure are not EXPLICITLY imposed by a credentialing industry that is itself a creation of government requirements.

Above you acknowledged the Equity agenda is imposed by government policy. So, what you’re saying is that as long as there are proxies (Private actors) implementing a government policy than those who carry it out or purchase the services are completely voluntary actors operating in a free market.

A control and command economy is not a “free market.”

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

If you need me to spell it out, the relevant legislation applies to entities such as government authorities and universities. It doesn’t apply to liberal white women who can pay $5000 for dinner.
Again, neither of us actually knows much about what’s going on in these women’s cases. What precisely is it that you imagine would happen to them if they didn’t stump up the 5K?

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

You’re just doing sophistry. Operationally, Applied Postmodernism is identical to Communism in that it uses provocation and street activism to create fear and shape behavior. This “dinner program” then attached itself to the institutional corporate framework, which itself was also installed due to the fear of corporations having their stores looted. There’s a clear pattern of behavior being shaped by fear not unlike Mao’s Red Guard.

Your point is that the victims are unsympathetic. What’s also true is that there is an obvious pattern of threatening behavior following the “Summer of Love” aka mass Riots.

You’re applying a criminal law standard to a civil issue and requiring direct evidence. I don’t need direct evidence. I can make circumstantial observations. I believe its safe fo assume these women were familiar with the term “racial reckoning” and had witnessed the street provocations, just as I think it’s safe to assume they had all heard of Covid.

If we apply common sense, otherwise known as the reasonable person standard, we can safely assume these unsympathetic rich women were responding to a threat pattern.

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Ah, now I KNOW that you’re nuts.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Right, because you have the Gnosis like all Progressives.

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

It’s more that abusing our opponents is standard operational procedure in The Vast International Post-Mao/Post-Summer-of-Love Applied Postmodernist Conspiracy.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Ah Critical Theory Denier!

First he whines about politeness then he uses mockery to deny the existence of Critical Theory.

You’re so bold!

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

“You may not like any of the people mentioned in the article, but as far as I know they’re not “black supremacists.””

You clearly don’t know much. They are black supremacists and anti-white racists.

starkbreath
starkbreath
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Either Mr W is willfully uninformed about these blatant hustlers or he’s invoking the Black Exemption: the history of slavery and Jim Crow excuses black people from any responsibility for their actions, up to and including murder.

David Weare
David Weare
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Black supremacists.
Aren’t they though?

Last edited 6 months ago by David Weare
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Whenever, in the dying days of Rome, there was a shortage of bread, the patricians would send provocateurs into the forum and the wine shops to drum up tribal and ethnic conflict so that the attentions of the mob would not focus on them.
Nothing has changed in 2000 years.

Dionne Finch
Dionne Finch
6 months ago

DEI is alive and kicking in Canada. I am a sponsor for apprentices (women in trades) and had to complete a mandatory DEI Govt. course to access apprentice/mentor tax and grant benefits. I was literally not allowed to give an incorrect answer to progress through the course and so had to agree that ‘words are violence’

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
6 months ago
Reply to  Dionne Finch

‘Attendees who cry have to leave the room’. What about about those of us much more likely to break down into hysterical laughter?

54321
54321
6 months ago

“they ask white women to name recent instances in which they’ve been racist”

Having been raised a Roman Catholic I am entirely familiar with how confession works. Rather than pointing out where they have sinned, the priest gets the supplicant to identify their sin themselves and be grateful to God, through the priest, for granting forgiveness.

Incredibly powerful because its so cathartic to have pleased God, in this case the god of social justice, and been absolved.

What’s even more laughable than a bunch of liberal white woman prostrating themselves in the hope of the delicious thrill of being told off is that there is anybody left who can’t see that this social justice malarkey is a religion.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

Not so much a religion, as a grift on the back of religion, like the superstitions and corruptions of the Catholic Church that helped to bring about the Reformation.

“Buy one of my nice indulgences to get your soul out of purgatory, dear rich liberal white woman?”

“Buy a bit of the of the true cross, guilt-ridden white male boss?”

Well, if there are these fools, why not part their money from them, after all?

Ewen Mac
Ewen Mac
6 months ago

“Race To Dinner” sounds absolutely hilarious. Instead of getting penitents to whip themselves, just get them to make you dinner and give you $5000 at the end of it.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Ewen Mac

Yes – not so much “how dare they” as “why didn’t I think of that”.

And if only gave the money to those in genuine need they would be modern robin hoods.

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago
Reply to  Ewen Mac

Think I just had a comment put on hold for mentioning the guy from Sherwood Forest.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Little John?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The chap that runs an amateur stock trading business?

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

If it was Maid Marian, perhaps calling her a “guy” counted as misgendering?

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
6 months ago
Reply to  Ewen Mac

As my grandmother always said: stupidity knows no boundaries!
They would not get a single penny from me; not even a photo of a penny.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

I very much doubt that you would ever be invited, dearie, so not something you need to concern yourself with…

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
6 months ago

Why are you here, since you contribute nothing of any interest? Just trying to beat your own record for downvotes?

David Morley
David Morley
6 months ago

Number 4 sounds a thoroughly good thing. Though I think the events in full should be posted on YouTube and the women concerned should pay a stupidity tax in addition to the money they have blown on moral makeup. Because you’re worth it.

Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Perhaps an enterprising journalist could inquire into the ethnicity of the people who cook, serve and clean up the dinner, and how much they’re paid?

54321
54321
6 months ago

Its a given that wherever there is money to be made from grifting there will be grifters.

The much bigger concern is that poisonous garbage like “white people invented slavery” is being established as an article of faith to be taught without questioning to children.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
6 months ago

It’s DIE – Division Inequality Exclusion
and it must die.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
6 months ago

Dogma, Indoctrination, Excoriation

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
6 months ago

Why are so many of these grifters young angry black women? Why?? Before the pandemic I was temping at a place where they insisted the freelancers attend an ‘unconscious bias’ session alongside the permanent staff. The person who did the session was, yep, a young angry black lady – completely humourless, no smile on her face, she projected the demeanor of a judge in a soviet show-trial. My attempt at a joke went down like a lead balloon.

And… like with the little boy who pointed out that the monarch is wearing no clothes, am I not supposed to say any of this out loud?

Last edited 6 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Geoff W
Geoff W
6 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

You were expecting an old, placid white guy?

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago

The entire premise is a fraud. What other outcome would any rational person expect?

Danny D
Danny D
6 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Fields like gender studies exist for the sole purpose of generating data to support the need for DEI offices, which then creates jobs to the people who did said research. It’s a self-perpetuating money making racket through and through.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago

There are always going to be cult grifts. You can only warn the potential victims. My objection is to my taxes going to support this pernicious DEI ideology. At least in the US there seems to be pockets of resistance to this whereas there seems little attempt to dismiss and ban the army of DEI employees here in the UK.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

IDK. Feels like one of those clickbait articles to feed the rage machine. I can’t stand DEI, but there nothing new here. Seems a little lazy IMO.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think it shows that Social Capitalism and Socialism can be evaluated on a Grift-Theft spectrum.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yeah well the DEI argument is that capitalism can be evaluated on the same spectrum (weighted towards the theft part which includes exploitation).

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Maybe, but I’m glad that DEI programs are being shut down. Anyone with a grain of sense saw them for the race-baiting scams they were. I’m just surprised that it took so long for others to realize.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Just because you get a putz like DeSantis to shut down DEI at a couple of publicly funded institutions to please the racist rubes don’t believe for a second that DEI is going away.
I realize that it terrifies you but you had better get used to it.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why do you hate diversity, Jim? Offends your white supremacism?
How about equity? Why are you so scared of a bit more equity?
And why are you so scared on inclusion, Jim?
This should be good!

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
6 months ago

White supremacy seems a bit of a stretch for anyone hoping whites can survive,when they are in such a minority already. About 750 million out of 8 billion. I dont think pro white groups call themselves white supremacists. It is a cheap and illogical smear from the left,

Gaz Farnell
Gaz Farnell
6 months ago

‘Diversity,’ as used by commies, is a weakness that divides and degrades our societies and the people in them, so that’s why people hate it. White supremacy is a complete non-thing and is just used as a clumsy smear by clumsy thinkers, and even that is running on fumes at this point. The varied peoples who qualify as ‘white’ are actually far more likely to denigrate their own race than they are any outgroup, not to mention the corollary that deep-seated racism can be much easier found in more ‘diverse’ racial groups. Equity, the communist, illiberal value that it is, is deeply unfair and undesirable (except to communists, who usually regret it once they have it, unless they’re one of the ones who’s more equal than their comrades…) ‘Inclusion’ simply means ‘exclusion of straight, white men’, which is racist, sexist and heterophobic, but I’m sure that won’t keep you up at night. You either know all this, and are a straight-up villain, or you somehow don’t, which suggests you’re being used by villains. In any case, best of luck to you.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

I have zero issue with diversity and inclusion. Zero. I don’t even have an issue with the end goal of affirmative action. I support giving people a hand up, as opposed to knocking others down. Equity is pernicious. Equality is freedom. I recognize that people growing up on the south side of Chicago have been dealt a crappy hand to start with and we should do whatever we can to support them and improve their living conditions and prospects. DEI is none of these things. It is the manifestation of the opposed vs oppressor narrative. Is this enough white supremicist for you.

Last edited 6 months ago by Jim Veenbaas
Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
6 months ago

Number 6 = Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard, although my remark should be taken in context.

Hit
Hit
6 months ago

Man, what a great scam. I really need to quit construction and get in on this. Imagine how much money I could make by portraying myself as the white conservative man who finally saw the light and is redeeming myself.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
6 months ago

How is the BLM leader (no3) not defrauding the public? I can understand the temptation to hand close relatives a bit of the mugs dosh, but a million to her brother? And tens of millions buying luxury properties?

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
6 months ago

You forgot the black activist with white parents. And the native indigenous activist who wasn’t of indigenous descent.
Can’t remember their name.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
6 months ago
Reply to  Aldo Maccione

One was in Canada and the other is Rachel Dolezal who portrayed herself as black, was later accused of welfare fraud.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
6 months ago

ON the subject of DEI Bari Weiss is definitive – a must see. Deserves to go viral https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhvfRxJ3ul0

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
6 months ago

In the nineteenth century, gullible rubes flocked to freak shows attracted by hucksters like P.T. Barnum, who, referring to how easily “suckers” can be drawn in quipped, “There’s one born every minute.”

Fast forward to the twenty-first century. There is still an endless supply of rubes for the hawker of DEI, our contemporary strain of the plague of Marxism. Only, nowadays, the rubes claim the moral and intellectual high ground. It is those of us who believe in common sense and traditional values who are misguided.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

How about the anti-woke grifters? e.g. author.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago

One has to wonder what scares you people so much? Are you really so fragile that the thought of competing on a somewhat level playing field terrifies you so much?
If you oppose diversity, equality and inclusion then you are pretty clearly a racist and a bigot. I suppose that must apply to the extremists here who are so terrified.
On a happier note, I can report from the upper reaches of the corporate world that DEI has been thoroughly embraced and it isn’t going anywhere. You had better get used it!

John Solomon
John Solomon
6 months ago

And what would you know about ‘the upper reaches of the corporate world’? Humble bragging, by any chance? Or emptying the wastepaper baskets in your cleaning job?

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
6 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I figured that the closest our resident hypocrite comes to the upper echelons of the corporate world is in the form of cleaning their toilets! I suppose there is an element of diversity in that, but also inclusion since everybody must heed nature’s call.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

“And what would you know about ‘the upper reaches of the corporate world’?”
Wouldn’t you like to know, mon cher?!?! But trust me, you’d be impressed…

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
6 months ago

Certainly not by your wit and wisdom.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
6 months ago

The letter e in the word salad does not stand for equality, and you know that very well! I wonder what chip on your shoulders you people carry around to be filled with so much bile and spite! Actually, your name says it all: you are a hypocrite, and I have nothing but contempt for hypocrites. Good day.

Andrew R
Andrew R
6 months ago

Owen Jones is that you…

N Satori
N Satori
6 months ago

OMG! Three full paragraphs of mouthy heckling Sham Pain! Bless my soul but I didn’t think you had so much verbiage in you.
That being said, you have clearly failed to overcome those socialist delusions of yours and in spite of the extra words I don’t see much evidence of increased insight. Didn’t you grasp the fact that those most terrified of that mythical level playing field are those who most aggressively demand the playing field be tilted to favour the habitual losers (via positive discrimination and such)?
Your call Brains…

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Wee bit of racism there! No surprise from the likes of you, obviously!
It must really sting to know that you were dealt all the best cards, you cheated and you still lost!

A. Whyte-Mann
A. Whyte-Mann
6 months ago

I don’t think it’s fear per se Franciacorta Fcukwit but rather revulsion at the notion of fair play being so egregiously violated by the broadly talentless and the wholly undeserving. I am entirely opposed to DEI on every level as it’s a false construct; one simply cannot produce a bottle of Domaine Leroy with grapes bought from Tesco! The fact that I’m unashamedly racist and a transphobe to boot is purely incidental.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  A. Whyte-Mann

If you are going to try and impress us then I’d suggest using an example that wasn’t quite so obviously googled. But then I don’t suppose you people really do taste or subtlety, do you?