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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - Second Rebuttal - Challenger

I apologize in advance for the disjunction that this post may take. Real life intervened for the challenger today, and so these thoughts are taking shape as sand trickles through the hour-glass to the deadline. I am approximately 200 words over the 2,000 "soft cap," as well, but felt constrained to include relevant court citations.

First, I should say that there are areas of agreement between the IBG and myself. She lauds “actively encouraging diversity.” I am in full agreement with that. We should encourage diversity in all areas of American life and culture.

Her final statement: In closing, just as systemic racism has a negative impact on all of us, so are we all affected positively by making a commitment to honor and encourage the success of people from a diverse array of cultures, races, and backgrounds. In my next post, I will address how actively encouraging diversity is essential to a healthy society, and is in fact the only way we can bring an end to the necessity of affirmative action.

Is something that no American true to the ideals upon which this nation was founded could disagree. But I am afraid that she tells only half of the picture with that statement.

IBG states that affirmative action (defined as preferential treatment for women and certain races in the areas of hiring and admissions) is the real world equivalent of “actively encouraging diversity.” Rather, I maintain that affirmative action so defined is not the real world equivalent of “actively encouraging diversity,” but a real world equivalent of the racist system it seeks to replace.

To simplify things, I will only speak here about affirmative action based upon race. I plan to respond to her charges on the basis of two points: individuality (and within group disparity) and racial disunity.

Individuality

IBG notes that I do not refute her statistics that prove that blacks as a group struggle against greater obstacles than do whites. I cannot dispute such statistics.

But the problem with statistics based solely upon race is that they deny the opportunities afforded the individual.

To give just one example, unlike my opponent, I have actually met Justice Thomas, whom her citation refers to a as a “hit man for organized racism” In conversation with him on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, he noted a very cogent reason why race-based affirmative action is wrong.

As he put it, "the son of a middle class black man is not disadvantaged when it comes to opportunity" as compared to the child of a poor white person (say, the daughter of a single mother). And yet, that child of middle class means would receive preference over a child of lower income solely on the basis of race.

In short, it is not the “white race” that is being hindered by race-based affirmative action, but an individual - an individual who may have far less objective opportunity than the beneficiary of such preferential treatment.

To use another example, I mentioned earlier that I am 1/8 Cherokee. According to the federal government, I would be allowed to list myself as an "underrepresented minority" in applying for jobs and admission to college. However, should I use such a racial identification, would my acceptance into a prestigious school actually increase "diversity"? Perhaps since there are probably very few balding, tattooed Christian hockey goalies in the world. The same would apply for a person of mixed black/white race. Should that person receive the benefits of "underrepresented minority" status, simply because of a portion of black heritage?

What Ms. Blood and those in the race industry would have us do is sacrifice individuals of one racial group for individuals of another. I fail to see how this achieves racial equality.

As Thomas Sowell put it in an actual statistical study of affirmative action in academia:
Statistical “laws” apply to large numbers of random events. But universities do not hire large numbers of random academic employees; departments each hire small numbers of specialists within their respective fields. To establish numerical goals and timetables for such small-sample unpredictable events is to go beyond statistics to sweeping preconceptions. Nowhere can one observe the random distribution of human beings implicitly assumed by affirmative action programs. Mountains of research show that different groups of people distribute themselves in different patterns, even in voluntary activities wholly within their control, such as choice of card games or television programs, not to mention such well-researched areas as voting, dating, child-rearing practices, et cetera.


Racial Disparity

One concept my opponent refuses to deal with is the fact that affirmative action hits different races differently. I would encourage her to read the dissent in the case cited earlier, Grutter v. Bollinger.

In fact, the vast majority of slots in the law school were already handed out to those who scored very high on the LSAT. What "affirmative action" meant was a higher chance at the few remaining positions.

Even there, race was a factor among racial subgroups:
From 1995 through 2000, the Law School admitted between 1,130 and 1,310 students. Of those, between 13 and 19 were Native American, between 91 and 108 were African-Americans, and between 47 and 56 were Hispanic. If the Law School is admitting between 91 and 108 African-Americans in order to achieve "critical mass," thereby preventing African-American students from feeling "isolated or like spokespersons for their race," one would think that a number of the same order of magnitude would be necessary to accomplish the same purpose for Hispanics and Native Americans. Similarly, even if all of the Native American applicants admitted in a given year matriculate, which the record demonstrates is not at all the case,* how can this possibly constitute a "critical mass" of Native Americans in a class of over 350 students? In order for this pattern of admission to be consistent with the Law School's explanation of "critical mass," one would have to believe that the objectives of "critical mass" offered by respondents are achieved with only half the number of Hispanics and one-sixth the number of Native Americans as compared to African-Americans. But respondents offer no race-specific reasons for such disparities. Instead, they simply emphasize the importance of achieving "critical mass," without any explanation of why that concept is applied differently among the three underrepresented minority groups.


In short, as I have said all along, race-based affirmative action doesn’t level the playing field. It discriminates wildly.

Review of the record reveals only 67 such individuals. Of these 67 individuals, 56 were Hispanic, while only 6 were African-American, and only 5 were Native American. This discrepancy reflects a consistent practice. For example, in 2000, 12 Hispanics who scored between a 159-160 on the LSAT and earned a GPA of 3.00 or higher applied for admission and only 2 were admitted. App. 200-201. Meanwhile, 12 African-Americans in the same range of qualifications applied for admission and all 12 were admitted. Id., at 198. Likewise, that same year, 16 Hispanics who scored between a 151-153 on the LSAT and earned a 3.00 or higher applied for admission and only 1 of those applicants was admitted. Id., at 200-201. Twenty-three similarly qualified African-Americans applied for admission and 14 were admitted. Id., at 198.


I understand my opponent’s squeamishness with addressing this issue. It is a touchy subject. As mentioned earlier, Grutter is a woman. A very bright (3.8 GPA), qualified (161 LSAT) woman, but a woman who is white.

But white women are not the only minorities who suffer under attempts to redress statistical variation through individual discrimination. As noted in the Michigan case, Hispanics and native Americans didn’t fare much better.

Here and Yon

My opponent engages in a classic post hoc fallacy in attributing declines in enrollment of blacks at the University of Texas and the California university system to repeals of affirmative action. To again quote Sowell, the numbers don’t bear out the assumption:
Without affirmative action, its advocates claim, few black students would be able to get into college. In reality, there are today more black students in the University of California system and in the University of Texas system than there were before these systems ended affirmative action.

These black students are simply distributed differently within both systems -- no longer being mismatched with institutions whose standards they don't meet. They now have a better chance of graduating.

What of the idea that affirmative action has helped blacks rise out of poverty and is needed to continue that rise? A far higher proportion of blacks in poverty rose out of poverty in the 20 years between 1940 and 1960 -- that is, before any major federal civil rights legislation -- than in the more than 40 years since then. This trend continued in the 1960s, at a slower pace. The decade of the 1970s -- the first affirmative action decade -- saw virtually no change in the poverty rate among blacks.

In other words, most blacks lifted themselves out of poverty but liberal politicians and black "leaders" have claimed credit. One side effect is that many whites wonder why blacks cannot lift themselves out of poverty like other groups, when that is in fact what most blacks have done.


IBG cautions me against misrepresenting the positions of famous black leaders. On the contrary, it is she who is missing the boat. Douglass specifically railed against meddling from whites who would seek to do the blacks some good once they were free. As she notes, whites continued to do so. Her solution: continue to do so.

Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.


Who is closer to the spirit of Douglass’ words?

She further claims that I misrepresent Dr. King’s speech. On the contrary, I agree with Dr. King’s sentiment as expressed in that speech. I fail to see how his judgment regarding the situation in 1965 (when desegregation was still a hotly debated topic in the south) is the required reading of the situation today.

Buh? Guh? So, wait. My opponent is arguing against affirmative action, and fervently pointing to a justice who says that the court expects racial preferences will no longer be necessary TWENTY-FIVE YEARS from now?

I should note that my agreement with Justice O’Connor, as specified in my opening statement, was in everything but the timing. She also should note that Justice O’Connor was on the other side of the argument in the other UM case - Gratz v. Bollinger, invalidating the undergraduate system that assigned points solely based on race.

My opponent later goes on to play the amateur psychologist, assigning to me opinions that I do not hold in a subtle ad hominem attack.

In re: “white privilege,” it is hard to refute a definition that is, within itself, unfalsifiable. While I may point to the numbers of whites who enjoy no such “privilege,” like my friend Robert, the definition of “white privilege” builds in a refutation of negating evidence. Thus the “strange loop” that I mentioned in my first rebuttal. I am saddened that my opponent chooses to use just that strange loop to argue again for “white privilege,” denying a much more realistic indicator of place in society: green privilege.

My opponent further confuses progress in achieving a more diverse workforce through non-discrimination laws (which I support) with progress made through preferential treatment of women and (certain) minorities. She cites the military, refusing to mention that the article she cites includes cautionary notes that the military is a closed system unlike the market economic system that exists out here.

Further, the “affirmative action” policies she cites in the military include a great number of policies which are, quite simply, non-discrimination policies, i.e., providing equal opportunity to access to promotions and training.

She includes these two points, which do not address preferential treatment:

- Emphasize merit and have patience, but measure results: The long-term support for the program has depended upon the firm belief that merit principles are indispensable. The payoff has required both patience and investments. Patience, however, can degenerate into flagging commitment unless progress is carefully measured, tracked and related to goals.

- Investments for a quality pool: The organization works to recruit, retain and upgrade the skills of women and minorities to ensure that they, like their white male colleagues, can compete effectively in the promotion pool.


Rather than ask whether a mandated social program from government should be the way to achieve a truly color-blind society (in keeping with the true ideal of “all men created equal”), I ask whether transferring racial preference to a statistical group from another statistical group is truly “affirmative” or necessarily “equitable”?
My opponent ascribes miracles to affirmative action (again, defined as preferential treatment for women and some minorities), but are the encouraging gains of the last 30 years due to such preferential treatment, or the removal of discriminatory barriers that were previously in place?

It is not my suggestion that “privilege” does not exist. But “privilege” does not flow from the color of one’s skin, no matter how much IBG and the race industry repeat the mantra. There is too much evidence to the contrary. Evidence of individuals who excel and others who fail despite the blessings or curse of a certain skin color.

Thank you again for your time,

Bryan S.

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