This Sunday evening (Sept. 17) will bring the end to another Constitution Day. The question facing America is whether we are also reaching the end of constitutional democracy: Do we still believe in the “self-evident truths” of equality and inalienable rights?

If it seems strange even to ask such a question, consider the principles of a movement that has been growing in higher education, and elsewhere, rapidly: DEI (“Diversity, Equity, Inclusion”).

Under DEI, which purports to be a recruitment tool for students and faculty, words have lost their everyday meaning. “Diversity” in practice has come to signify an anti-merit perspective, leading a number of universities to lean toward banning words in job descriptions such as, “meritocracy,” “color-blind,” and “best qualified.” Adherence to such core American principles, according to DEI, constitutes, somehow, a refusal to recognize “diversity.”

DEI’s inversion of the meaning of words means that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech would be considered an assault on “diversity.” Why? Because King’s dream was that his children, and all our children, would come to be judged not on the basis “of the color of their skin,” but “on the character of their character.”

King’s insistence on color-blind equality, or meritocracy—that is, his insistence that we live up to Declaration’s promise of equality—would make him persona non grata in today’s DEI world.

What about “equity”? Equity sounds like the term “equality.” And, given the primal or creedal truth of our Declaration of Independence—that all of us “are created equal”—equity appears be as American as it could be.

But this is not the case, according to someone who should know—James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution.” Writing in Federalist 10, Madison anticipates and rejects government-enforced homogeneity, or as he states it, “giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests,” because such schemes fail  to recognize key facts of human nature—diversity of “opinions,” as well as “the diversity in the [productive] faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate…”

Nurturing such diversity requires protecting individual liberty. But it is precisely the denial of liberty that DEI’s notion of equity produces in practice. Why? “Equity” aims at equal outcomes, which, given our different opinions and interests, can only be achieved through what for Madison would be a radically unnatural, anti-freedom agenda. For Madison, equal opportunity naturally yields unequal results.

What is the practical meaning of DEI’s notion of “inclusion”? It does not mean the inclusion of different opinions. Instead, DEI excludes dissenting opinions (demonstrated by the numerous “shout-downs” and other acts of censorship at universities that have become legion over the past two decades). The “diversity” that DEI establishes is, instead, a monolith of like-mindedness, where “inclusion” is enjoyed only by those who agree with its anti-American tenets.

In sum, the American ethos consists of the principles of equal opportunity, individual liberty, and merit-based advancement—all of which run counter to the precepts of DEI, which produce, not “diversity,” but coerced uniformity of opinion; not “equity,” but the denial of equal opportunity; and not “inclusion,” but the exclusion, including the shaming and canceling, of dissent.

For DEI, whites, by virtue of their race, whether they know it or not, are racists. Attributing moral failures to a group simply because of skin color used to be regarded, rightly, as an example of racism, and, in fact, DEI is the new racism–and unapologetically so.

Abraham Lincoln warned that a “house divided” against itself could not stand when it came to the fundamental issue of slavery versus freedom. The same forecast holds for the issue of DEI versus America’s founding principles.

Our country stands at a crossroads: We can have our Founders’ principle of color-blind equality, or we can have DEI’s doctrine of division by race.

But we cannot have both.