Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Affirmative action: defeating perceived discrimination with actual bigotry!

I read that the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s voter-approved initiative banning affirmative action in college admissions.

They didn’t rule on affirmative action itself except for, you know, saying it's constitutional to pass a law banning affirmative action, but merely affirmed the voters’ right to have a say in our democratic system. Predictably, a mob of left-wingers (liberal people expressing opinions on the internet = mob; conservative people expressing opinions on the internet = escaping liberal oppression!!!) immediately took to the internet to advocate for racial tolerance by saying a bunch of racist things about Clarence Thomas. Saying that Clarence Thomas' decision was ironic and hypocritical is accurate, not racist.

In the mind of Liberal Whitey, not only should we have a paternalistic mechanism in place to treat minorities like children who need special treatment, but we should even disallow the citizens of individual states from getting to decide for themselves whether their education system will be based on racial quotas and institutionalized discrimination. So.. having the demographics of the college population match the actual population is "special treatment" but allowing white people to continue to use unjustly gained advantages to the detriment of others is not?

And how does affirmative action treat minorities like children? By telling them that they can have a future in something other than food service?

Notice: I didn’t call it ‘institutionalized reverse discrimination.’That's because reverse discrimination is not a thing. I called it discrimination. Affirmative action is discrimination by definition. Literally, by definition.

Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.

Nope. discrimination has the connotation of being unjust. Affirmative action is not unjust. In fact, affirmative action is an attempt to level the playing field, so that individual merit actually means something.

To call it ‘reverse’ discrimination is to insinuate that ‘real discrimination’ is an innately white phenomenon. It also assumes that discrimination has nothing to do with a historical and social context of institutionalized inequalities and prejudices, which is a grave error.  I know that such a view is actually held by many Americans, and actually taught in our schools, but it is a patently idiotic notion. Discrimination rears its ugly head in every corner of the globe, whether the white man is present there or not. If you want to blame white people for something, blame us for ironic bumper stickers and Aaron Sorkin TV shows. Neither of those would exist in a world without honkies. But discrimination? Find me a race not guilty of it, and I’ll show you a race not of this Earth.  Matt, I know this is difficult for you to understand, but can you at least try to comprehend that it makes a difference, when one's actions toward a person are based on group affiliation, whether or not one is enslaving that group, lynching that group, preventing that group from buying homes and feeding themselves? Do you really have no comprehension of how that matters? 

Affirmative action is discrimination. It’s also bigotry, and strangely enough, the people mostly victimized by the bigotry are precisely the ones supposedly helped by the discrimination. That’s what angers me the most about the whole ludicrous affair. Can you think of anything more belittling than the white folks in charge of universities counting their students like faceless statistics, measuring them based on their skin color, and then decreeing that they need a few more blacks to fill the quota?

I don't know. Maybe you should talk to actual people of color. From what I hear, they quite like the opportunity to get a college education and not spend the rest of their lives in poverty. Most don't, for some crazy reason, find it "belittling" to be accepted into college.

This is equality? This is progress? Bureaucratic calculations predetermining the exact allotment of skin pigmentations — this is the sort of diversity we want in America?  Yeah, that sounds so much worse than a never-ending cycle of racialized poverty. Progress would definitely be allowing oppressed minorities to continue to languish in urban decay and never envision any better future for themselves.

I’m repulsed by it, as any American ought to be. I struggle to even write a few paragraphs criticizing affirmative action, because the entire thing is so nakedly degrading and blatantly self-defeating. Or, because you don't really understand the history of race in America and you are not employing any social, historical, educational, or economic evidence to support your ideas. That must make it really hard to write even a few paragraphs about this issue. (But you'll continue.)

It depresses me that discussions about affirmative action always devolve into arguments over whether it ‘works’ or not.  Really? My discussions center on whether it is just or not. (It is.) It doesn’t work evidence?, and the fact that we’ve had affirmative action policies in place for decades, yet much of black America still struggles so mightily, proves that point. What about the fact that minority enrollment in colleges has plummeted in states that have banned affirmative action? Is that not evidence of a benefit?  How long do you think major social change occurs? Is 20 years enough time to reverse the damage of 200 years of American history, especially in the face of many other continuing forces of institutionalized racism? Many black people are still struggling because many institutions - particularly the legal system - still work against them. No, affirmative action isn't going to immediately, drastically change the situation of African Americans. But giving more of them more opportunities is a start. The fact that affirmative action has, in fact, increased enrollment of oppressed minority groups is certainly a success, even if it didn't immediately rewrite 200 years of American society. Even liberals are starting to understand the strategic disaster that affirmative has proven to be. From one person you extrapolate? But, really, what kind of question is that? Does it work? We’re talking about people here, not cows. Not robots. Not numbers on a spreadsheet. Even if discrimination works, it still doesn’t work. Even if the end is desirable, it can’t justify the means if the means include elevating a certain group through the targeted utilization of systematic racism. Matt, you really don't understand the meaning of the word racism. There have been plenty of admissions factors that advantage white students (e.g. the legacy factor). What's wrong with giving disadvantaged people a leg up?

When we criticize segregation, do we criticize it because it didn’t work? Or do we criticize it because the forced, government-imposed segregation of people based on race is a moral evil? Affirmative action is not "segregation" - in fact, it is the opposite. American society is extremely segregated, and affirmative action helps to increase integration in higher education and beyond. By the way, your argument about "government-imposed segregation of people based on race" (your misuse of the word "segregation" aside) is sounding eerily similar to complaints about forced integration of public schools.

Affirmative action is designed to ignore a person’s merits, their achievements, their character, their ambition, their efforts, and instead rank and categorize them according to the color of their skin. Or, it takes a very large pool of qualified applicants, a good number of whom will not be accepted due to space limitations, and ensures that final result is representative of the general population. This is wrong. It doesn’t matter who it’s supposed to benefit. It benefits no one, but it doesn’t matter if it does benefit someone. It’s wrong. It’s wrong to discriminate against someone or for someone simply because of their ethnicity.  No, it takes into account many factors, and then makes sure they are being racially representative before they start making random cut-offs. This is basic stuff, my liberal friends. These are basic, fundamental ethical concepts. It doesn’t matter if the discrimination is supposed to combat discrimination. That’s like cheating on your wife and telling her you only did it to address her infidelity. No, this makes no sense. It's not about tit-for-tat. It's about trying to prevent injustices in the educational system from exacerbating cycles of poverty and oppression.

Dear Lord, affirmative action proponents, please never become marriage counselors. I can only imagine what sort of advice you’d dole out.

“Hmmm, Mrs. Johnson, you say your husband is deceitful and abusive? Well, I recommend that you employ a policy of reverse deceit and abuse against your husband. Problem solved. That’ll be 600 dollars.”

It’s wrong. I shouldn’t need to spell it out. I shouldn’t need to give reasons why affirmative action in higher education (or anywhere else) makes no sense, when we’ve already established that it’s a moral and ethical travesty.

But, if I wanted to give a few reasons, I’d point out that the term ‘affirmative action’ first appeared in a Kennedy executive order, which called for people to be given opportunities “without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” This is notable because the current iteration of affirmative action is exactly designed to ensure opportunities by taking special regard for a person’s race, color, and national origin. When the person has not had equal access to those opportunities specifically as a result of their race, color, or national origin.

And if I wanted to give more reasons, I’d bring up the Jews and Asians, who are both ethnic minorities, and have both experienced enormous hardship and prejudice, yet they both are, in fact, disproportionately represented in ‘higher education,’ not to mention fields like medicine and engineering. If the university system is stacked in favor of white males, why have we wielders of white privilege made such a glaring exception in their cases? Actually, they’re such an exception, that now affirmative action policies require institutions to discriminate against them in order to stop them from being too successful. Well, I guess if you insist on being blind to social/historical context, then that situation is quite puzzling. If you understand how the histories of Jews and Asians are different from Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, it makes a lot more sense. (This history of how Jews found a niche in higher education is very long to recount, but interesting; for Asians, suffice it to say: they were not brought here in slave ships, they were not ethnically cleansed and forced onto reservations, and their lives were not shaped by European colonization in the same way as the people of Latin America. The U.S. has had a special economic relationship with many Southeast Asian countries, and China has always been outside the orbit of U.S./Western dominance. Yes, Asians have been subject to a lot of discrimination, but they have also brought more resources, social and economic, with them. They are subject to different power relationships and occupy a different position in the economic division of labor.)

And if I wanted to give still additional reasons, I’d say that it’s absurd to think that universities are run by white supremacists whose inherent racism needs to be regulated through affirmative action policies, when it’s the universities that peddle white guilt more passionately than any other institution in America. Many colleges go so far as to teach that all white people are racist, no matter what, without exception. Until recently, the University of Delaware, for instance, required that all residents be indoctrinated (this is not a valid source - in fact, it there appears to be nothing trustworthy on that website) to radical left-wing racial theories, even if they weren’t taking any classes on the subject. And you’re telling me these places that convince white people to hate themselves and their heritage are actually bastions of white privilege? I think we must be working with drastically different understandings of the word ‘privilege.’ Yup, you must be working with a different definition of the word "privilege" - and "racism" for that matter. Here is the key point: these things do not lie in people's heads. They are material, institutional facts. They exist in policies, traditions, and court rulings.

Here's an example. New SAT questions are always tested in a experimental section before appearing on the actual SAT. However, in order to be deemed legitimate, they must perform identically to already-existing questions. The idea is to keep the tests statistically comparable. In practice, this means that all new questions must have disparate racial performance. If black people are able to answer the question as well as, or better than, white people, it is thrown out.

It's about this type of inertia that prevents the status quo from changing.

Now, many people do hold very racist beliefs. Anyone who tries to argue that this overt, ideological racism is "dead" should take a gander at the internet sometime. I would start with YouTube comment chains.

But racism and privilege are more than beliefs, and it is possible for people and institutions to exacerbate racism and perpetuate privilege without intending to do so. That's what makes "color blind" rhetoric (e.g. "Factoring race into the admissions process is sooo terrible!") so insidious. It prevents us from identifying and resisting this institutional racism.

And if I wanted to continue giving reasons, I’d observe that if anti-minority sensibilities are still such a prevalent problem as to warrant affirmative action the sensibilities exist (once again, look at YouTube) but that is not what warrants affirmative action; enduring material, institutionalized racism warrants affirmative action, then clearly affirmative action has not succeeded in achieving the thing which it was supposedly designed to achieve. Either our academic institutions are run by white bigots, and affirmative action has failed to change that dynamic, or they aren’t run by white bigots, and affirmative action only succeeds in creating a problem that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Or racism is much more complex than you understand. Either way, affirmative action loses. You are left with nothing that could lead any rational person to the conclusion that affirmative action policies must continue.  Matt Walsh favorite argument: you don't have any rational reasons for your beliefs. Because I say so.

And if I wanted to give even more reasons, I’d mention that you’re putting a minority student at an extreme disadvantage when you throw him into an academic environment because he fills your skin tone quota, but isn’t otherwise prepared to handle the workload.

Your assumption, Matt Walsh:  the people of color who are accepted into college, in the presence of affirmative action programs, do not otherwise deserve to be there. Their merits and achievements do not qualify them. The only reason they are in college is because of their skin color, and they are not able to handle college work. (By the way, this assumption is what I would call classic racism.) Because the pool of qualified applicants exactly matches the number of spots available, and people who are turned down are very clearly, measurably less qualified. Because the admissions process is otherwise objective and relies upon unassailable measures of intelligence and achievement. Because nothing else about the admissions process disadvantages people of certain skin colors.

And if I wanted to offer yet another reason, I’d say something about the fact that affirmative action makes wild assumption contingent solely on race, while taking no account of other factors that might put someone at a greater disadvantage. You do not understand how affirmative action programs work. We’re left with a ridiculous dichotomy where a black male from a wealthy upper class family is given the benefits of affirmative action, over the son of an impoverished white single mother, or the daughter of a poor Japanese fisherman.  The dichotomy exists in your mind. There are many aspects of the admissions process that disadvantage people of lower economic statuses (and I certainly believe more could be done to address it), but affirmative action, if anything, ameliorates rather than exacerbates this situation. Do you have evidence that affirmative action only helps wealthy minorities? Or are you just trying to create divisions - to nurse the insecurities of poor people who are not Black or Latino?

And if I wanted to keep tossing out reasons, I’d probably tell you that the very term ‘ethnic minority’ is virtually impossible to quantify. Elizabeth Warren claimed she’s a Native American. Sure, she’s a shameless, lying, Socialist, but who’s to say she doesn’t have some minority blood? Who’s to say I don’t count as a minority? My ancestors came from Ireland, and weren’t exactly greeted with open arms when they arrived on our shores. At what point in the lineage does a family lose its minority status? Is it all based on skin color? Is the child of a Polish immigrant less an ethnic minority than Barack Obama, the wealthy biracial man raised by his white mother? What if Obama’s skin complexion more closely resembled his maternal side? Would that make him less a minority? Who is the arbiter of these things? Who decides? Does any of this make even the slightest bit of sense? Have all our brains simply turned to mush?  Yes, yes, race and ethnicity are complex social constructions. It is, in fact, possible to contemplate and even use that fact without your brain turning to mush. I know it is difficult to live in a world devoid of any social/historical context. If you lived in my world where such context is paramount, you might see that it is precisely particular types of systematic discrimination and oppression that define concepts like "race" and "minority, " and therefore, it is possible to be aware of, and use, the concepts as residues of complex social processes in order to amend or halt said processes.

If I wanted to give a bunch of reasons why racial discrimination is a bad idea — aside from the fact that it’s just a generally repugnant practice — I’d probably say all of those things.

But I won’t, because it shouldn’t be necessary.

Affirmative action is an atrocity.

Also, college is often a terrible waste of money, so this whole conversation should be a moot point.  Yup, waste of money. It is much better to sit around, basking in ignorance, making arguments that are detrimental to other human beings.

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