Blaming Silicon Valley Bank collapse on diversity or 'wokeness' gives away Republican game

Many Republicans have developed a Pavlovian response to bad news. They hear something has gone wrong – like the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank – and emit a yelp: “Wokeness!”

It’s a conditioned buzzword response, meaningful only to those who speak fluent Fox News. But when it came to the California bank’s recent failure, a number of anti-woke warriors let slip the truth.

They strayed from the vague safety of “wokeness” and nonsensically pinned the blame on DEI, or diversity, equity and inclusion, a trio of words companies large and small have made part of their culture.

Silicon Valley Bank ruined by diversity? Nice try.

Discussing the Silicon Valley Bank collapse on Fox News, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said: “I mean, this bank, they’re so concerned with DEI and politics and all kinds of stuff. I think that really diverted from them focusing on their core mission.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets supporters on March 10, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets supporters on March 10, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa.

That is, in a word, nonsense. There’s zero evidence the bank’s desire to be a diverse and welcoming workplace had anything to do with its collapse.

Rather, SVB was heavily invested in normally secure bonds, but rising interest rates lowered the value of the bank's bonds. Then clients got spooked about the bank’s liquidity and started withdrawing money. It was a classic bank run.

A brake on innovation: SVB's failure poses serious challenge for America's tech economy

Anti-woke warriors should just come out and say what they're thinking

The facts didn't stop deep-pocketed Republican donor and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus from going on Fox News and saying, “These banks are badly run because everybody is focused on diversity and all of the woke issues.”

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, tweeted that House Republicans should subpoena bank officials to find out "how many hours & dollars were spent on equity/DEI/ESG/climate scams."

All that led me to think: Good grief, fellas, why don’t you just come out and suggest the bank would’ve been OK if it were run by a bunch of white guys?

Look, I'm not saying diversity is to blame for everything, but ...

And then, like magic, a Wall Street Journal columnist did just that.

Andy Kessler wrote of the bank: “In its proxy statement, SVB notes that besides 91% of their board being independent and 45% women, they also have ‘1 Black,’ ‘1 LGBTQ+’ and ‘2 Veterans.’ I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.”

Never have the words “I’m not saying” more clearly meant “that’s exactly what I’m saying.” And indeed, that’s exactly what all these folks, and pretty much anyone who spouts the words “wokeness” or “diversity” as if they’re diseases, are saying: Any effort to tint a workplace a whiter shade of male is inherently bad.

How did words like 'diversity,' 'equity' and 'inclusion' become bad things?

So let’s pause a moment and reflect on the absurdity – perhaps even the fragility – of fearing diversity, equity and inclusion. Logic dictates that a diverse workforce is preferable, as it brings a multitude of ideas and life experiences into one place. But if logic isn’t your thing, studies have repeatedly shown that diverse workplaces are both more profitable and more innovative.

Equity? Why would anyone think treating people equitably is bad for business?

The same holds for inclusion. If you view inclusivity as a negative, you’re letting your insecurities show and clinging to something you don’t want to share.

Which is really what this is all about: Not wanting to share. White guys like me have been in control of pretty much everything since the invention of white guys.

Republican war on 'woke': Ron DeSantis and the GOP fight 'woke' because hating a word is easier than hating people

Maybe if you shout 'WOKE!' louder they'll let you keep running everything

Now the world has, thankfully, shifted and things like diversity, equity and inclusion are not just desirable but necessary for any reputable business or corporation to be competitive. Some white guys don’t like it, so they’ve glommed onto the word “woke” and decided that if they holler and stomp their feet loud enough, they can convince people that transparently good things such as diversity, equity and inclusion are the cause of all the world’s ills.

A worker tells people that the Silicon Valley Bank headquarters is closed on March 10, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.
A worker tells people that the Silicon Valley Bank headquarters is closed on March 10, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.

It ain’t gonna work. Few reasonable Americans are going to say, “Well, what a shame that Silicon Valley Bank failed because it had one Black person and an LGBTQ+ person on its board.”

I’m sure people like DeSantis and the Home Depot fellow and others will keep trying. I fully expect one of them, any day now, to say: “I put on a couple pounds, and I fault the woke ice cream companies and their preoccupation with diversity.”

It's not DEI that's the problem, buddy. It's your preoccupation with vanilla.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook

More from Rex Huppke:

Anti-transgender rules, rhetoric and legislation are a shameful stain on America's soul

'Dark Brandon' shows up at State of the Union, mops the floor with lost Republicans

USA TODAY food drive donates nearly 670,000 meals, columnist declares self 'awesome'

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What happened with SVB? Republicans blame collapse on diversity. Huh?