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.