The Human Trait Exchange: A Free Market Solution to End All ‘Isms”

If I May

Human Resources is hardly a comfortable profession for conservative, straight, middle-aged white guys. Seriously, talk about your under-represented voices. I’m as common as a leprechaun riding a unicorn.

Colleagues, who, by comparison, often make Hollywood insiders sound like Fox News, consistently force-feed leadership erroneous statistics that support their desire to prop up programs favoring various protected employee groups. From formal quota-based hiring models and vendor contracting practices to informal backroom dealings that drive skewed promotion and succession planning decisions, you get the feeling that the fix is in.

It’s a stressful situation. Speak out, and they brand you a racist, sexist, or simply someone who has yet to see the politically proper light. Overtly challenge this new normal, and you’ll risk tanking your career or earning a pink slip. And so you stay silent in meetings as companies shift resources to promote race-based and female leadership groups that gently exclude other employees. You bite your tongue in talent reviews when they pass over four qualified straight white males to select a more “diverse” candidate for that international assignment or promotion.

The perplexing behavior would be easier to accept if the actions somehow supported higher productivity, business results, or investor interests, but they don’t. The rationale behind diversity programs and actions is fundamentally flawed.

Diversity of Thought

For years, pundits have asserted that having people of different backgrounds yields better decisions. Theoretically, this is true, but diversity doesn’t come from one’s race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or religion. To suggest so is a stereotypical, if not prejudicial, act. The idea that all black people, for example, think the same way simply because they are black is as foolish as it is offensive.

What companies and their leadership teams should strive for is diversification of thought. Instead of assuming that old white males bring X to the table and young Hispanic women bring Y, they should consider the qualifications, skills, and actual experiences of the individual. Valuing the person over their labels will provide greater insight into how he or she will add value and, yes, diversify the team.

The trouble is that analysis takes effort, logic, and an emotional detachment from the political and social opinions we all have and let seep into our subconscious. It’s much easier to exclaim that, “my people have been denied,” without ever answering questions such as: Denied what? By whom? When? 

I assume, based on the side-eye glances I receive from fellow HR conference-goers when the topic of DEI comes up, that I’m somehow one of the villains in the story, but I don’t recall the transgression. It’s not like my To-Do list says drop off the kids, pick up the dry cleaning, and oppress the [fill-in-the-blank] demographic.

It’s also easy to assert that “women are paid 70 cents on the dollar” without noting those pesky details like which women? To which jobs, industries, and locations does the statistic refer? Are we talking part-time factory workers, knowledge workers, or C-suite executives? Again, vague is easier. People see themselves in the allegedly disenfranchised “we” and get angry. Lines are drawn. Progress slows. Guys like me are told to turn in our “white privilege” for something in a nice cool shade of shame.

The Power of Back Story

I’m not delusional. I realize people play favorites. Sure, white males get the shaft far more frequently in this Affirmative Action era. That said, other groups continue to struggle with a kind of prejudicial treatment I’ll never fully comprehend. But that’s the point. As I illustrate in my TEDx Talk — I Am Diversity! you can’t be a cultural tourist. You can only experience what you’ve actually experienced. If you haven’t, you’ll never know. For example, you can take an expat assignment in China, learn the language, study the history, and adore the food, but you’ll never really know what it was like to go to grade school in Shanghai.

It’s also impossible to un-experience things. Consider the gray-haired, Caucasian male with the corner office. Sure, maybe he’s a silver spoon kid. Then again, perhaps he grew up with a learning disability, absentee alcoholic parents, and government assistance poor. ­Perhaps being on welfare, forced to use those miserably embarrassing paper food stamps, and literally choke down the government cheese is precisely why he works late, leans right, and scoffs at the idea that some millennial should get a chauffeured ride to the C-suite because she possesses some politically favored characteristic. Again, unless we look beyond the labels, we’ll never know the truth of things — the context and perspectives from which people came and currently view the world. But we won’t, ’cause, you know, that’s hard.

So what to do? Clearly, pretending there isn’t a divide is not the answer. Even if we go through the motions of a force-fed woke culture, it doesn’t erase the underlying feelings. People still tell off-color jokes at cocktail parties. The unsaid is still thought.

Enter the Human Trait Exchange

Perhaps someday race, sex, and other isms will go the way of the 8-track player. Till then, I offer the following plan to nullify such thinking. I call it the Human Trait Exchange. Under this plan, each human would receive a Human Trait (HT) card. The card would list the individual’s preordained attributes, including race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, and abled-ness, awarding 11 character credits for each item. 

Religion and initial economic status would also be listed. However, since they are chosen by the individual and/or naturally adjustable, they are provided only 8 credits each. We’d also include 7 credits for stereotypical skills, e.g., water polo for whites, basketball for blacks since, let’s face it, people aren’t going to let that nonsense go. This would bring the person’s trait tally to 100 credits, all of which would be of equal value — at least initially.

Human Trait ExchangePersonal Trait Credit Legend
Race – 11Ethnicity – 11Sexual Orientation – 11
Age – 11Gender – 11Gender Identification – 11
Abled-ness – 11Religion – 8Initial Economic Status – 8
Stereotypical Skills – 7

Once awarded, people could list their credits on a market-driven exchange and then buy, sell, loan, and trade their traits based on their perceived value. Thus, the transparent laws of supply and demand would govern our interactions instead of this ill-conceived PC culture we all pretend to embrace. We’ll examine three specific cases to understand the proposed market’s basics.

CASE 1: Whitey Goes to Market

A young, white male entrepreneur wants to start a business, but lacks the preferred vendor status afforded to women and select minorities. Under the new system he would simply call his broker and offer to the market say 5 male credits and 5 race credits. At the same time, he’d place a buy order for some female and some Native American in order to gain government support for his fledgling enterprise. 

When the transactions conclude he would instantly adopt these traits, gaining their perceived benefits i.e. not only identifying as a Native American female, but actually becoming one…well, at least 10 credits worth. Of course the action would jeopardize his “old boys club” membership, but that’s a small price to pay for financial solvency.

CASE 2: Romancing the Court

A pathetically uncoordinated, 14-year old, Chinese-American nerd is infatuated with a beautiful, 18-year-old African-American, cheerleader. Unfortunately, she won’t give him the time of day. To remedy the situation, he uses the Human Trait Exchange to sell a youth credit and a credit of allegedly advanced math skills. He then buys age credits to become a senior and a stereotypical skill credit to make the B-ball team and impress the hell out of Watesha.

CASE 3: Ice-Ice Baby

An elderly black woman decides to become a young white man. She has been a closet hockey fan all her life and would desperately like to live out her lasting years as part of the New York Rangers. To do this, she sells some of her ethnicity and wisdom to a young, Jewish executive and picks up some youth and Canadian at a surprising discount.

Market Dynamics and Regulations

While these cases may appear simple to the novice trader, risks and opportunities are many and varied. For example, a wealthy, conservative politician could woo a coveted voting demographic by purchasing options to be gay. A life-long Christian, who is experiencing a crisis of faith or health scare could cover all bases by selling his charitable nature to a person with lesser altruistic inclinations and thereafter purchasing some Judaism, some Muslim, and a splash of Buddhism, just to be sure. So who says you can only serve one master?

Unfortunately, the market has its limitations. Firstly, an agreement would have to be reached with the God-like substance whereby all people would die at the same age. This would prevent the hoarding of youth credits. Also, it’s important to understand that purchased traits would last only as long as the original owner. Therefore, if as a young man, you purchased 8 credits of elderly female, you must be prepared for the loss of those traits when the original holder’s life-course runs out. Once the credits have expired you will be transformed back into your original state for the remainder of your life-course.

Please note: Given the expected level of government inefficiency, a person whose purchased credits expired may experience a brief period of partial nonexistence until the paperwork goes through. To avoid this, the buyer should ascertain the seller’s death day and notify HT headquarters at least two months in advance. Unless of course you enjoy partial nonexistence, in which case, procrastinate your brains out.

In addition to the law against living forever, the HT Market Observers (a highly unimportant branch of the HT High Council) seriously frowns upon any attempt to hoard a certain characteristic. Such monopolistic ventures are considered “seriously uncool” by the HT High Council and are punishable by a vicious batch of name-calling, a rather painful Indian… ah Native American burn, and being sent to one’s room without supper. To limit these attempts, the High Council has stated, said, and otherwise exclaimed that no one, no matter how obscenely wealthy he or she may be, can own or have access to more than 200 credits.

Please note: Even persons of extreme “hipness” can only incorporate 100 credits into their physical make up at any given time. Any additional credits purchased by the wealthy ones noted above are to be stored in government approved Credits Containers. This rule is to prevent a potential increase of partially nonexistent people, who generally win at such games as “Red Light, Green Light, One Two Three” and “Hide N Seek”.

On Second Thought…

Although the Human Trait Exchange would help even the most bigoted Bob shake free of his prejudices and ultimately usher in a new era of interpersonal harmony, it’s not without fault. It does after all, require a universal death day, a plethora of partial non-existence, and the bending of several natural laws. Still, people tend to favor optimistic, yet hopelessly impossible, simple sounding solutions that mask the real issue. So let’s draft a bill and get that puppy passed.

Of course respect is another option. Imagine seeing beyond labels, treating each other as individuals, and calling out fear mongering, whining, and empty protests for what they are: agenda-based bullshit.



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