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Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
THIS is not THAT, Part Three: Affirmative Action is not Racism
Anyway, I really don't want to talk about that. I want to do the last of my "THIS is not THAT" series. So here's why AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is not RACISM.
I don’t think I really need to define racism.
I DO think that some clarity is needed as to why affirmative action is not racist, or racism. At least… not necessarily. I’m not saying that there’s never been a dysfunctional case of tokenism out there, or someone with a racial quota, but these things are not really part of affirmative action, do NOT really help minorities anyway, and while they may have grown out of a desire to protect a company or other organization from discrimination suits, they are not really effective in doing so.
So, as usual, first things last…
If you run a company, and have you token black, token Hispanic, token Indian, token Jew and token Asian dispersed throughout the company in an effort to avoid the appearance of racism and protect yourself form discrimination suits, guess what? You’re not only a racist, but you’re very likely to lose a discrimination case. The first bit of evidence against you is the very idea that having a token, or meeting a racial quota, somehow relieves you of the responsibility to actually look at people as people. To look at their qualifications, and to appreciate the benefit that a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives will bring to your company. Sticking someone in a job just so you can have a “token black guy," you have not only failed to do ANY of what I’m describing above, but you are admittedly giving him the job grudgingly. And no one will really be fooled by that. What’s more, if another more qualified minority comes along and fails to get a job because your “racial quota” is filled? Well, again, not only is your racism revealed, but this minority absolutely has a discrimination case to make, a hard one to prove, admittedly, as most discrimination cases are, but a legitimate one all the same unless you have a better reason for turning him down than “we already have a black guy in that department.”
The other problem with tokenism and quota’s is the potential for discrimination against whites. The problem with “reverse-racism” (which is a bullshit term, discrimination on the basis of race is RACISM, regardless of the race of the victim) is not nearly as pervasive as the Right would have you believe, but I won’t even try to claim that it’s NEVER happened, nor that a system based solely on meeting percentages would not inevitably result in it happening. In any cases, quotas are in fact already considered discriminatory anyway, and are not a part of affirmative action by design. (Only by unintended consequence, when they exist.)
And remember: quotas don’t really help minorities. Not only will highly qualified minorities face the same discrimination once the quota is met, but minorities performing poorly in position that they are under qualified for and given solely on the basis of their race, to fill a quota, will in turn reflect poorly on the group, and reinforce the negative stereotypes that may exist about that group. So no minority community really benefits from this sort of practice.
And there is an inherently racist problem with arguing that affirmative action is racist: Doing so assumes that the most qualified candidate for a job will always be white. The mere act of calling someone a “token” or (as was said about President Obama and Justice Sotomayor) the “Affirmative Action Candidate” assumes that there was a clearly superior white candidate that got passed over solely on the basis of race. Now… I’m not saying that there wasn’t one, but did you ever notice how the people, who claimed that Sotomayor was only nominated due to Race or Gender, could never point to a White, Male potential nominee that they considered superior? Yeah, some partisans could point to someone who better fit their overall political agenda, but these nominees are not typically considered superior by any broad audience. (Basically not by anyone who doesn’t share that person’s agenda!)
And harkening beck to my “Diversity is not Racism” post, it is also important to realize that a candidate who had to fight for everything they had IS, in fact, already more qualified for a job than an “equally qualified” candidate who led a privileged life. And that was my big problem with the University of Michigan Law School case. (Disclosure: I got my Masters from the U of M.) The case was brought by a white, female applicant who claims she was rejected so that a less qualified minority could be accepted to the program instead. Now, she did make a reasonably strong case: Better GPA, better SAT’s / LSAT’s, extra curricular activates, etc… But there’s a problem, and this why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision here: The black applicant was more likely to have come from a low-income neighborhood, and to have gone to a poorer school, that offered less support. What s/he achieved was done in an atmosphere where far more that just homework and tests had to be overcome. Their SAT score was achieved despite the inferior schooling they were more likely to have received. Their LSAT score was achieved despite the fact that they were more likely to have had to work a job or two to put themselves through school. This also explains why they didn’t have the same extra-curricular activities, clubs, etc… The person who brought the case went to a private school, had her education paid for, etc… I’m not saying she didn’t work hard, and earned the grades and score she got, but consideration has to be given to the fact that the other student may have had to work harder to overcome things that had nothing to do with her ability, in order to achieve a similar, albeit slightly inferior resume. One would expect that a student who had an easier life outside of school to get better results with less effort in school. And a candidate from the streets Detroit with a 1200 SAT score and 3.5 GPA, probably IS a superior candidate to a Bloomfield Hills, private school, trust-fund baby with a 1280 SAT score and 3.8 GPA. The former candidate, IMHO, has demonstrated not only a superior work ethic, but superior potential and tenacity.
To argue that she got in “only because of her race” is to ignore all that she had to overcome because of her race and the advantages you were given because of yours. And that’s the problem with arguing against affirmative action. I’m not saying it’s perfect. It isn’t. Overcoming the very natural inclination that ALL human being have for like to attract like is not an easy thing to do. But arguing against quotas is mostly a strawman, and arguing against affirmative action is hard to do without making a racists argument, as it’s almost impossible to do so without assuming the inherent superiority of whites.