Monday Debate : Affirmative Action, Still Necessary or Outdated?
Voters in Michigan passed an anti-Affirmative Action law (Proposal 2) last November. According to the bill’s proponents, the purpose was to “prohibit the state from granting preferential treatment based on skin color or gender.” The language that voters saw in the ballot box:
The proposed constitutional amendment would: Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.
And the official amendment says:
The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
The result is that the University of Michigan, whole president is a staunch supporter of Affirmative Action and diversity, has to find other ways to ensure a diverse campus besides the factors of race and gender. NPR covered the story several times (the link will take you to a list of archived audio clips).
It looks as if the person spearheading Prop 2 is a white woman named Jennifer Gratz who was rejected by U of M back in 1995 (supposedly because some black person stole her spot!). The Yes on 2 website is sneakily named michigancivilrights.org and a lot of the language on it emphasizes the idea that removing Affirmative Action is more in line with the Civil Rights Act and Movement than implementing and continuing it. There’s even some dubious use of the phrase “By any means necessary”. Voting Yes on 2 meant voting Yes on Civil Rights.
I cannot remember a time in my adult life where someone somewhere wasn’t talking about ending Affirmative Action. The reasons I’ve heard usually boil down to “We/You don’t need it any more” or “It’s reverse racism/unfair to white people.” Certainly many white people say the latter. Some black folks say the former. No one has ever shown me compelling evidence that either statement is true.
Since the last Monday Debate was such a success, I thought I’d kickstart the blog again by having another one. Here we go.
Is Affirmative Action still necessary? Do people of color and/or women need it, still? Or do we now exist in a fair and equal society in which we do not need any help leveling the field?
On the flip side, is Affirmative Action unfair to white people? (I won’t call it reverse racism because of, well, the last debate.)
I’m looking an actual debate, not just groups of people screaming at each other. This probably won’t be a problem considering the excellent regulars here, but I’m putting that out there for new folks who drop by. I am interested in exploring this issue with an open mind. I’m asking that anyone who comments do the same. Humor is, as always, welcome.
When you make statements, make it clear if you are spouting an opinion or a fact. If a fact, back it up as well as you can. Unsupported ‘facts’ are opinions. If your ‘fact’ is supported by personal experience, that doesn’t invalidate it, but it does make the ‘fact’ one based on limited data, thus it does not carry as much weight.
Anonymous commenters, please provide us with some kind of handle to call you by. And don’t come and post under lots of different handles to make it seem like lots of people agree with you. I’ll know. And I’ll smite you.
Tags: Affirmative Action, Equality, Civil Rights, Michigan, Proposition 2, University of Michigan, Jennifer Gratz
31 thoughts on “Monday Debate : Affirmative Action, Still Necessary or Outdated?”
Changing demographics are making a farce of race- and gender-based affirmative action programs. Hispanic Americans have now replaced African Americans as the United States’ largest minority. In states such as California and Texas, Hispanics will soon outnumber non-Hispanic whites. In my hometown of El Paso, a city of about 750,000, Hispanics now make up 80 percent of the population (the city’s ouytlying communities are even more predominantly Hispanic). Once the city’s Afircan American, Asian, American Indian and non-Hispanic white females are counted, about 95 percent of the population is eligible for affirmative action.
As a result of changing demographics, it time to consider other affirmative action options.
Income-based affirmative action would not achieve the affirmative action goal of increasing the presence of under-represented minorities on college campuses. The reason is that there are still as many poor non-Hispanic white students as poor African-American and Hispanic students. Non-Hispanic white and Asian academically outperform African-American and Hispanic American students at every income level. Therefore, income-based affirmative action would produce a minor increase in the number of non-Hispanic white students and a big increase in the number of Asian students on the campuses of elite universities. (Some studies predict that Asian-American students would take four out of five slots now filled by African-American and Hispanic students. Affirmative action proponents know this and would oppose any switch from race-based affirmative action to income-based affirmative action.
A better alternate would be Texas’ ten-percent solution which guarantees admission to students who graduate within the top ten percent of their high school classes, provided they pass entrance exams. This benefits students from under-achieving urban school districts where the student body tends to be predominately African-American or Hispanic.
The ten-percent solution is unfair to students at the state’s highly competitive affluent high schools who, despite good grades and test scores, fail to graduate in the top ten percent of their classes. However, these students are going to rise to the top of their chosen professions no matter what college they attend.
Let’s start the debate with a proposition.
For the state to discriminate, it should be able to provide a “compelling interest” or reason to discriminate, and the burden should be on the state to demonstrate that (currently, the Supreme Court defines that burden as “strict scrutiny”, which is a high standard of proof).
What is the compelling reason a state should be able to discriminate in the case of race or gender preference? Since I’m not defending the practice, it shouldn’t be my burden to prove a negative.
I start here, because supporters of preference will break into different and contradictory camps on this issue, and it is best to know where to start the next stage of rebuttal.
I believe preferences aren’t justified by any of the camps, but I don’t want to go in circles.
1 – I object to your use of the term discrimination. While it is true that the definition of the word discriminate does mean simply to make a distinction, there are really negative connotations to that word that aren’t merited by the results of affirmative action.
2 – “What is the compelling reason a state should be able to discriminate in the case of race or gender preference?”
To even the playing field as regards the opportunities and advantages those with majority status have in our current society.
Also, no one is asking you to prove a negative. Nor is anyone asking you to prove anything.
Blair – “Changing demographics are making a farce of race- and gender-based affirmative action programs.”
I disagree. Right now the term “minority” is a bit misleading. Overall, “white” Americans still outnumber Americans of color if you take the entire country into account. Looking locally, yes, there will be some states, regions, or towns where the “minorities” actually outnumber the white people. However, the term minority doesn’t jsut refer to numbers, but the amount of power a group has. It’s similar to aparteid in South Africa. Though the blacks outnumbered the whites, they had a minority of power. In America, many people of color have a minority of power even in places where they aren’t the minority in numbers.
Therefore, demographics don’t have as big an impact on the root issues affirmative actions hopes to correct as you think they do.
To Angry Black Woman: The term “minority” is applied to affirmative action to disguise the fact that the vast majority of Americans—everyone except non-Hispanic white males—are eligible for affirmative action programs. Most Americans would continue to support affirmative action if it were limited to the group affirmative action was originally created for—African Americans. Therefore, demographics have an obvious impact on affirmative action because our population growth is primarily the product of legal and illegal immigration from Latin American countries. They are not victims of the United States’ “racist past” but beneficiaries of opportunities adherent to a liberal democracy. Due to current demographic trends, they are replacing African-Americans as the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action programs. Most “racism” directed against Hispanic Americans is actually class discrimination. They appear to be following the same economic and social assimilation as the Irish and Italians immigrants who preceded them. Intermarriage between Anglo and Hispanic is common, yet the children and grandchildren of these marriages (think Cameron Diaz) also become eligible for affirmative action.
Due to changing demographics, affirmative action for minorities tends to become affirmative action for majorities. Elite universities such as Harvard and Princeton hold Asian students to higher admission standards than other racial and ethnic group to prevent them from becoming “over represented” on campus.
Assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t declare race-based affirmative action programs unconstitutional—which seem likely—more and more states are likely to follow the example of California, Texas, and Michigan in banning race-based affirmative action programs. Therefore we need to find race neutral programs that accomplish the same goals. I think the Texas 10-percent solution is a good option.
Yeah, to the explanation of how “majority minority” as it’s called doesn’t necessarily mean that’s reflected in the power structure of government, i.e. aparteid in South Africa.
California may be “majority minority” as they call it, but the government is still primarily looking after White interests in the states and in fact, seems more determined to do so in the face of the reality that Whites are becoming more and more a minority.
Particularly against Latinos, the fastest growing racial group in California. Voter intimidation at polls and through the mail especially in Orange County(which is undergoing similar demographic changes) and the push and passage of propositions 187(against undocumented immigrants), 206(anti-affirmative action in education and governmental contracts) and 227(English only in education. The campaigns for all these measures(which passed) focused on racist stereotypes and the idea that Whites were the victims of racism.
A.A. was eliminated here in 1996 and in the UC system before that, before the same folks left here and took their show on the road to different states including Michigan.
The term “minority” is applied to affirmative action to disguise the fact that the vast majority of Americans—everyone except non-Hispanic white males—are eligible for affirmative action programs.
Um, no. The term minority is used because: #1 – not all minorities can be lumped together. Therefore, you cannot say “they aren’t a minority because there are more of them” because every minority group has different issues to deal with. Thus, AA is useful to and still necessary for all of them. #2 minority refers also to minority of power.
Most Americans would continue to support affirmative action if it were limited to the group affirmative action was originally created for—African Americans.
Provide me some evidence for that. Because my first reaction to this statement is that you’re deluded or lying.
our population growth is primarily the product of legal and illegal immigration from Latin American countries.
Again, provide some evidence for this statement. Otherwise, that’s just your opinion, and I do believe your opinion is wrong. If I remember correctly, Asian immigrants are a faster growing group.
They are not victims of the United States’ “racist past” but beneficiaries of opportunities adherent to a liberal democracy.
Again, wrong. Just because they weren’t subject to slavery hundreds of years ago doesn’t mean they aren’t victims of a racist past. The past can be 10, 20, or 50 years ago and still negatively affect education, employment, and economic opportunities. Also, many Hispanic people are suffering from the US’s “racist present”, thus making your statement moot as well as incorrect.
Most “racism” directed against Hispanic Americans is actually class discrimination.
And you’re okay with this?
the children and grandchildren of these marriages (think Cameron Diaz) also become eligible for affirmative action.
And why is it you think they don’t ‘deserve’ it?
Elite universities such as Harvard and Princeton hold Asian students to higher admission standards than other racial and ethnic group to prevent them from becoming “over represented” on campus.
Cite your source.
Therefore we need to find race neutral programs that accomplish the same goals. I think the Texas 10-percent solution is a good option.
Until we rid the country of race bias we cannot have race neutral programs. How do you propose we solve that problem? The 10 percent solution doesn’t solve the problem in any way, shape, or form.
My perception that much of the racial prejudice aimed at Hispanic-Americans is actually class prejudice comes from living on the border with Mexico. Non-Hispanic whites on the border are careful not to refer to themselves as non-Hispanic white or Anglo rather than white because most Mexican-Americans also consider themselves white. (A recent study, by the way, shows Hispanics are more prejudiced against African-Americans than non-Hispanic white Americans (http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2006/07/racialpolitics.html).
Affirmative action is only an issue at elite universities that accept a small percentage of qualified applicants. About 80 percent of American universities accept all applicants who meet minimum standards. We should devote most of our effort to ensuring affordable college educations for every student who demonstrates the potential to perform college work. (Most graduates of elite universities are going to spend the rest of their lives performing routine jobs that any bright high school graduate could handle with six weeks on the job training. After a few years on the job, no one will care where they got their college degree. Graduates of lower-tier colleges who perform better will pass them up on the career ladder.)
I think we should pay less attention to racial preferences in college admissions and more to lessening the widening pay gap between rich and poor. Rather than being concerned with who gets into Yale or Harvard, we should ensure that our high schools do a better job of preparing the students who lack the academic skills or inclination to succeed at the collegiate level—the majority of students—for success at work that doesn’t require college degrees. This, of course, will only work if good paying jobs are there for them when they exit high school. How we will replace the manufacturing jobs—which turned generations of lower class Americans into middle class Americans. Perhaps the proponents of globalization are correct in predicting the new world economy will replace old industries with new industries. But if the economy slows—and as more and more professionals discover that accounting, engineering and legal work cans be outsourced even more easily than heavy industry, I suspect we will see a new wave of populism at the ballot box.
A recent study, by the way, shows Hispanics are more prejudiced against African-Americans than non-Hispanic white Americans
And this is important, why?
Affirmative action is only an issue at elite universities that accept a small percentage of qualified applicants. About 80 percent of American universities accept all applicants who meet minimum standards.
Blair, I’m seriously going to start ignoring you if you continue not to cite your sources. You cannot say things like this and expect me to take you seriously if you cannot back up your words with evidence. Otherwise, you might well be making stuff up to bolster your position. Everything in that paragraph is suspect until I see at least three sources for this statement. Hell, I haven’t seen sources for the statements in your last comment, so I’m thinking maybe you don’t have any.
I think we should pay less attention to racial preferences in college admissions and more to lessening the widening pay gap between rich and poor.
And I think you’re wrong. While lessening that gap is a fine goal, part of the reason that gap exists is racism. You must address all aspects of an issue in order to resolve the issue.
At any rate, until you start coming up with hard evidence, you’re done here. Next?
Requested source material:
• Rather than stating 80 percent of colleges admit all qualified applications, I should have written that 80 percent of American students attend colleges that accept all minimally qualified applicants. Source: “The simplest race-neutral means of ensuring a critical mass of minority students would be to adopt a system of open admissions for all minimally qualified applicants. Roughly eighty percent of American college students already attend institutions that accept all qualified applicants.” (http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20070129.htm)
• Harvard University’s Civil Rights Projects reports on aspects of poor public school performance at http://www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu/news/pressreleases/dropout05.php
• If racial preferences were eliminated, black and Hispanic acceptance rates would dramatically fall, and four out of five admissions spots that would have been offered to those students would instead be turned over to Asian students. The effect on admission rates for white students would not be pronounced. Source: Asian Americans for Affirmative Action
Blair – just so you know, I’m not ignoring you. I’m trying to bring some other voices into this debate so it’s not just you and me poking at each other the whole time :)
is Affirmative Action unfair to white people?
Affirmative action at elite Universities is not unfair to white people, but is unfair to Asian Americans.
“The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities”
Thomas J. Espenshade, Princeton University
Chang Y. Chung, Princeton University
Honestly, I think that an admission into college or getting a job should go to the most qualified person. Period. It seems like people are all too ready to blame their not getting a job or not getting into college on their race or gender. Time spent whining about being a minority could be better put to use working for what you want.
It was ten years ago, plus or minus, that I found out that my mother was not white as she claimed to be but was actually Creole. I look white, I was raised quasi-white. I call myself white, whatever that’s worth. But it does lend a different context when I read Black history now.
However, I dislike affirmative action, and this is why. I feel it’s demeaning to blacks.
I remember in medical school hearing the snickers from other whites, directed at a fellow student: “that guy’s just here because he’s black”. As if the only way an African American could get into the program was to be pushed ahead of more qualified people.
I don’t have statistics, just my opinion. But it seems as if affirmative action also sends a message to black kids: you aren’t good enough, you can’t compete fairly, so we have to “help” you along. And I think it’s a bad message to send to anyone.
Yes affirmative action is still necessary. Sit on a few admissions and hiring committees, and you will see why.
Dear other white people,
Please quit whining.
A White Person
Good point, David Moles. My personal opinion: instead of complaining about affirmative action, we might target “legacy admissions” at elite universities for elimination.
Y’all do know about these, right? How you get in no matter how bad your grades are, if your daddy went there … and sometimes if your family is a potential donor? This is just one of the ways in which ‘affirmative action’ for traditional elites, including whites, is still firmly in place. And is far more powerful and heavier than the existence of a few ‘minority slots’ here and there.
What else: get rid of the form of ‘affirmative action’ which means you have to be rich to run for public office … and the way in which the courts support election ‘handling’ by the Bush family …
These are the real injustices, folks, even if you *don’t* believe AA is still necessary, as I do.
This was posted in the comments here by chicago dyke. I’m just moving it to this thread since it was intended for this conversation.
on the affirmative action question, if i may chime in:
i’ve worked in education for over ten years, and spent much of that time in “selective” college admissions. the schools i’ve worked for and with generally accept less than 10% of applicants, sometimes far fewer than that depending on the applicant subgroup in question. i’ve also been on the other side of admissions, and fought for my own education, which i never could’ve paid for on my own, by getting scholarships. i was lucky enough to get scholarships for my MA and doctoral programs, at a school where there were exactly two black people in my class, including me.
so to those who think that “we” don’t need affirmative action programs, let me tell you as an insider: you’re full of shit. sure, there are more black folks in college than during, say, slave times. but the sad truth of the matter is that there are still places in which blacks (and latins and underrepresented asian groups) are rare. oddly enough, these places are frequently the schools which boast placing graduates in high paying jobs and exclusive opportunties with great frequency. if you don’t think that people who go to top 25 schools have a significant advantage over everyone else, you need to take another look.
many schools have done a great job of keeping minority matriculation rates high. the problem is that minority graduation rates are still not as high as for whites. same with placement into top graduate programs, fortune 500 companies, government…
i believe that affirmative action in education is key to improving diversity everywhere. obviously, if you don’t have the education they’re looking for, entities like corporations, the military and government aren’t going to even consider you, let alone admit/hire you. more importantly, far too many white people spend all their lives surrounded by nothing but other white people, the token affirmative action minority or two aside. this is why racism lives on today- because too many white people have no direct experience working with, living next to, and sitting in the classroom with real, live, not-sports figure, not-hip hop artist, black people. it’s so much harder to hate what you actually know and have friendships with, and it’s so much harder to stereotype when you work with someone who breaks that stereotype every day.
i was just reading an old harvard study (2001) that reported that if you’re a black person, you have the same chances at being hired as some white…felons. this study equalized for qualifications in terms of education and experience. simply being darker hued means most employers would rather hire a less qualified white person or former white criminal instead of you. six years into bush’s blatantly racist administration, i can’t believe things have gotten better.
affirmative action *does not in any way* “cost qualified white people jobs/opportunities in favor of less qualified minorities.” compared to minorities, even problematic white folks have a much better chance at getting into a school, getting a job or grant or contract. those facts are well established, and only nutbags like horror-witz think there is a problem or imbalance.
i encourage white folks to look around, and count the number of black and brown folks (not the ones on TV) who are in their lives with regularity. have you ever had a black boss, or been in a classroom that was mostly latin? lived in a majority-minority ‘hood? what do your friends look like? you?
i don’t want to hog this post, so i’ll just end by saying that the problem extends beyond areas in which affirmative action has been applied. minorities have a harder time getting credit, insurance, buying homes and cars…it’s a long list. you may not want to believe it, but lots and lots of times, the reason we don’t have those things has absolutely nothing to do with our “lack of qualifications.”
And on that note – profacero (and anyone else this applies to), I would really like to hear more about your experience on admissions committees and how that’s shaped your view ont hsi subject. I think yours would be a highly important viewpoint (as is chicago dyke’s) because you actually deal with these issues directly.
Blair – Re: Affirmative action is only an issue at elite universities that accept a small percentage of qualified applicants.
Thank you for providing a link for your arguments on this point, but it would have been extra helpful to provide a link to that exact article, which is this. http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20070129.html If the data this writer presents is true, then yes, AA IS only at issue at the universities that are more selective. More selective universities are often perceived as being better by people who hire graduates from them. So while it is good that where lottery/open admissions policies are in place, the # of minority students is more balanced, it still doesn’t address the concerns of ‘elite’ universities and the bosses who want to hire from them (as far as minorities go). The writer also points out that these elite unis are not about to adopt an open admissions policy, anyway, so other solutions have to be found.
The 10% solution doesn’t work, either, because it does not take into account the number of schools in the country and how they are broken down along racial lines. If there are, say, 85% of high schools that have 95% white enrolment then if everything worked out mathematically only 5% of the top ten would be minority. But it’s more likely you’ll end up with an all white top ten in a school such as that. So there will still be WAY more white people getting an opportunity than minorities. We need more data along those lines before the 10% solution could be implemented as a replacement for AA.
I’m not sure what the Harvard link is supposed to be a source for.
Rory seems to have done your work for you in citing the source for your statement about Asian students (though from a different place than you listed. Hmm…)
And there are still a ton more statements that you haven’t cited a source for.
Rory – I would like to know (and anyone can answer this) if Asian students have so little trouble meeting or exceeding admission requirements on an academic, financial, and opportunity level, do they need affirmative action? By limiting the # of Asian students accepted, is that truly putting a crimp in Asian students’ ability to make it into a good college and get a good job?
Little white girl – you have contributed absolutely zero to this conversation, thanks. The whole point of AA is that people seem to be unable to NOT consider race in their hiring and admissions practices, etc. Why don’t you take some time out from your privilege and actually talk to some minority folks about this issue instead of offering up old and tired statements like “things should go to the most qualified person regardless”. Yes things SHOULD be that way, but they ain’t. So what are YOU going to do about it (besides whining)?
Pllogan – seems to me that, in your anecdote, the problem was not with AA or even the black person, but with the white kids doing the snickering. If they can’t imagine that a black person had what it takes to get in, then THEY are the reason AA exists in the first place. I’d be more worried about what will happen when they come into positions of power as hospital administration than the imaginary black kids you feel are getting a message no one is sending.
It seems like people are all too ready to blame their not getting a job or not getting into college on their race or gender.
You mean like this?
“In 1997, after being denied admission to the University, Gratz and Hamacher filed a lawsuit claiming that the University’s race-based affirmative action policies caused them to be unfairly rejected because they were white.”
This is a bit rambling, excuse me.
ABW: I worked as a faculty attending in a medical residency program (the same one I went to for my own residency) for five years. Our residency director was a black man. Not my direct superior, but the first among equals. My boss was a white woman.
The program is in CA and is at a county hospital, so we worked with indigent patients, a good portion Hispanic. Most of the residents were of some minority; very few were straight white men. Maybe a fourth at most. Among the attending physicians, the ratio did change. I’m not sure where all our residents went to.
I sat on resident admissions committees for many years. (I currently work from home, so anything since 2000 I can’t comment on) We never chose a resident doctor on the basis of race. Perhaps this is something unusual.
Now, I live in OK and am lucky to even see a person of color. (I’m exaggerating a bit but it is strange after living my whole life in southern California.)
I’m glad black kids aren’t getting the message that they are less than white ones from affirmative action. That has always concerned me.
I would hate it if the situation were reversed. I would refuse to take a job if I were seen as not qualified but given the spot out of some “program”. To me it smacks of charity, of being told I am “less than” … ‘oh, you poor thing, you’re so weak and incapable we have to come help you up’.
But this is a deep reaction I have as one raised in the white culture. Some whites have literally died rather than take anything they saw as a handout. This might be why some whites see accepting affirmative action as proof that blacks are lazy or whatever. Just a thought.
I do not deny that there is racism. Demand for equal treatment on the basis of ability rather than preferential treatment seems to me to be the way to go, something whites can understand. It also seems to me that most whites (with the exception of the hardcore racists) would gladly get behind it.
Of course, there’s the issues of unequal childhood schooling, the disparity of wealth, racism in the media, culture differences, and so on. It’s overwhelming to figure out how to solve all these issues at once. But it seems like blacks shoot themselves in the foot to insist on preferential treatment.
Half my family is black. I want blacks to succeed. I think, though, that there are ways to do things that bring people together instead of being divisive. That’s all.
Yes, black, white, hispanic, WHATEVER people are all blaming their situation on their race or gender. Why does race even need to be a factor at all? I guess I’m probably just an innocent person who thinks the world is basically good and fair, but I don’t understand how race could be an issue if it’s not made an issue. Having never been hispanic, black or asian myself, I suppose I can’t pretend like I know what it feels like. But I know that there are scholarships for those who are the first in their family to go to college, and for all different kinds of minority groups. I have yet to find a scholarship for a white person whose ancestors have been here since the Mayflower landed. If I am completely wrong about this, please lead me to a place where I CAN get a scholarship.
Little white girl, you continue to spew simplistic words that to not forward the conversation or debate. Instead, they back it up about ten feet.
Yes, you don’t in any way understand why race is an issue even if it’s not ‘made’ an issue because you are white. Do a search on this site for the term “White Privilege” and then come back to this thread. Because you obviously have a lot of homework to do. While you’re at it, you should probably read the Racism debate and everything in the category “Things You Need To Understand”. THEN (and only then) can you come back here.
Just the fact that you bring up this scholarship bullpucky tells me that you’re in serious need of education. How old are you, anyway?
I’d also like to point out that you’re blaming your white and affluentness on your inability to get a scholarship, so how is that different from what you accuse people of?
Little white girl:
Go to your school counselor. Go to the library and ask for a book on scholarships. There’s sites online just for scholarships.
You CAN get scholarships if you’re white. Do well on your PSAT. I did, and got a four-year scholarship because my mother happened to work at a place that gave National Merit matching funds. There are scholarships just for women.
You have to do the work to find them, though.
ABW: The sum total of my education about blacks in school was a half page about Harriet Tubman. No lie. This was before the whole black history month thing got popular in schools, so I’m thinking/hoping it’s better, but I wouldn’t be too sure.
I have some ambivalence about affirmative action, but I wouldn’t put it in terms of the two questions you asked.
On “does racism still exist?”, put me down for a yes. On “is affirmative action mean to white people?” I have two related reactions.
If I accept the terms of the question and we put white people in one bag and black people in the other bag (and ignore everybody else, because the application of affirmative action to, say, Asian Americans, is completely unclear to me), then I guess my answer is, “hey — white people can suck it up.”
However I’m also a little troubled by the terms of the question, because race-based affirmative action seems like a bit of a blunt instrument for a vague combination of purposes.
Is it supposed to be corrective? That is, is it a we-don’t-want-to-apologize-but-here-shut-up system of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow (and the genocide of Native Americans and, I would add something about Asians and Hispanics here but as I said the subject of Asian Americans and Hispanics and ffirmative action is too bewildering)?
Is it meant to be targeted assistance in levelling the playing field, like “to optimize society, we want to make sure resources are distributed fairly and to the people who most need them, so that rich dumb tennis-playing kids whose parents donate to fancy schools do not automatically displace smart poor kids who triumphed over great academic odds?”
Or are we meant to take the word “diversity” literally, as in “all things being equal, since only one of these two genius violin-playing lacrosse players can have a spot at our school, we should admit the one who belongs to an ethnically underrepresented group, since we acknowledge that background does matter and that she will bring experiences, historical knowledge, and perspectives that would otherwise be lacking?”
I guess my global take on American race-based Affirmative Action is that, for any of these purposes, It’s Better Than Nothing, but it isn’t great. It isn’t targetting any of those issues very squarely.
To the extent that there are two genius violin-playing lacrosse players applying for yon spot, and one is Bill Cosby’s daughter who went to Exteter and the other is a poor half-Serbian, half-Bosnian-Muslim immigrant whose parents were killed in the NATO bombings and who was raised by her lesbian aunt on food stamps in a cult in Alaska, then, you know — you’d get more reparation, optimization, and diversity selecting the Kanovic than the Cosby.
Obviously this is an edge case. Obviously you can point to statistics and show that you will *statistically* get better reparation, optimization, and diversity with race-based affirmative action than with doing nothing… even if you correct for the fact that the best-connected subgroup of any marginalized group you try to assist are going to be the ones who make best use of the assistance.
But you didn’t really actually ask the most relevant question, which is “given that racism is a real and murderous reality in America, is affirmative action doing more good than harm?”
I think there are a variety of ways in which it does harm (it perversely benefits least those black americans most affected by racism; generates lots of odd unfair edge cases; sows resentment in those left out of the system and defensiveness and insecurity in those left in; forces people of mixed heritage to “choose sides”; in some contexts increases tokenism; defuses pressure for more fundamental social change; and so on).
I think it also probably does more good than harm. At least in the short and medium term. In the long term, its worst aspect is the potential to help entrench the illusiory and toxic concept of race which so dominates America.
But the question is, what are you comparing it to? When you say “do we still need it?” are you saying we’d just get rid of it and replace it with nothing?
Or can we replace it with, oh, for example — reparations paid by the US government, with interest, to the actual descendants of individuals harmed by slavery and racial genocide; a strong social safety net; a national South-Africa style “truth and reconciliation commission” for institutionalized racism in the police and prison system; a tax and benefit system which optimizes for real economic mobility; and class-based affirmative action for education designed to make sure the kids with the least resources
get where they belong?
The Economist reviewed a book a couple of years or so by an author (an African-American, I think) who had surveyed the results of racial preference programs all around the world over a period of many years, and concluded that they were mostly counterproductive — that laws preferring Malays to Chinese in Malaysia, say, mostly end up hurting Malays. Anyone know what the book was? I’d like to read it.
To restate what I apparently said poorly before: I see a lot of opportunity for every race out there, so don’t tell me that there’s nothing for you.
However, the more I read about discrimination and what affirmative action is trying to do, the more I think that maybe it is necessary. I just hate the thought that we need to put a law in place so that everyone can have equal (or at least more equal) opportunities.
Just some random thoughts from some random white girl. Take it or leave it.
Sorry to chime back in after so long, but I am busy.
To answer the points in response 3 above:
1) Discrimination may carry “negative connotations,” but as you admit, it is correct. You “object” to my use of that word because you won’t admit the negative connotations of race preferences. Therefore, you suggest I shouldn’t use the word. So when I use the more precise word “race preference”, others on your side will object saying that I’m trying to avoid their nice, warm, and fuzzier term “affirmative action.”
The US Supreme Court MAJORITY in Grutter admitted that the actions were “discrimination,” and “racial preference,” in exactly those words, but that they were not “unlawful” forms when narrowly tailored to meet the alleged compelling interest of diversity. So there really is no legal debate about the correct terms.
Regardless, what terms do you want me to use? And if it is “affirmative action,” I must insist at least on qualifying it as “race-preferential affirmative action” since I support the original outreach, anti-discrimination enforcement, and newer socio-economic types of “affirmative action.”
2) If you believe the compelling interest is to “level the playing field”, as you assert, and I won’t go into the numerous legal/ethical reasons why courts have rejected that argument, then the argument is easily countered by offering race-neutral socio-economic alternatives and K-12 improvement. Race preferences don’t actually succeed at “levelling the playing field” anyway – 86% before Grutter/MCRI went to suburban-wealthier minorities. Social stratification has worsened in the last 40 years UNDER AFFIRMATIVE ACTION (even though the “boat has been lifted for everyone” through growth and African Americans as a statistical group have gained ground, residential segregation and inner-city woes have increased).
Indeed, it is MCRI and the elimination of race preferences that forces universities, for the first time, to spend serious resources cultivating students where they a clustered into bad situations because they can’t use the simpler race preference to “cherry pick” minorities from the suburbs. Mary Sue Coleman is now working for her half-million a year (level that obnoxious playing field by cutting her salary) by actually going into minority-dominant schools (and those schools have 10% whites who are in identical economic situations – why should they not reap the benefits of levelling).
Why should Oprah or Colin Powell’s grandchildren get preference over the child of a Vietnamese waitress or even poor white-single mother?
Posts like these make clear nothing short of mass suicide will do. “Equal” means whites do not live, earn, reproduce—until all others are of equal number. I have refused to work for years—sad, because I worked myself through 10 years of college. But it’s just not worth it to be part of the affirmative action welfare society. Yuck. I just read books. Live cheap. Equal society means do not excell—if you are white. “Opt out.”
not to be rude but that’s almost the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say on this subject. “Being equal means that no one excels”? No. No, it doesn’t.
I don’t know where to begin untangling the obviously messed up worldview you’ve built in your head, but I suppose I’ll start with something simple – equality doesn’t mean that anyone should *stop* being the best they can be. Equality means treating people the same regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation when they do excel. Right now, that does not happen. White folks are given more when they excel and sometimes even when they don’t. men are given more than women.
Affirmative action – one of the aspect of it – seeks to even the playing field by not only providing spaces for qualified minorities that would not exist otherwise but also helping minorities to excel from the ground up by making sure they have equal opportunities in education, access, and experience. Affirmative action is not about bringing everyone down to the same level but to bring everyone up.
But hey, mass suicide of whiny, over-privileged assholes works for me, too.
“Affirmative action – one of the aspect of it – seeks to even the playing field … helping minorities to excel from the ground up by making sure they have equal opportunities in education, access, and experience.”
“Equality means treating people the same regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation when they do excel.”
I agree fully. You follow:
“Right now, that does not happen.”
I agree as well.
“White folks are given more when they excel and sometimes even when they don’t. men are given more than women.”
I agree in part and disagree in part. There is no question that there are situations where whites, or men, were and are discriminated in favor of. Some whites and men however were given less than some blacks and women (for example, the male child of a single-white-mother on welfare in suburban Detroit receives less education and other benefits than Oprah or Colin Powell’s grandchildren, who go to the best schools in the world, yet race preference policies currently configured benefit the Powell’s and Winfrey’s at the expense of the Detroit child I just described). The solution isn’t to discriminate against OTHER whites and men who were NOT given preference – the solution is a case-by-case review, aggressive enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outreach that includes everyone, and at best programs that consider socio-economic conditions. Punish those that discriminate against blacks. I understand you won’t catch them all, but the litigation system as it is in modern America is the most accessible in human history.
We disagree solely on the means and the nature of the solution.
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