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Current Battle: Election 2004

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - Closing Arguments - Iron Blogger Green

I want to begin my closing arguments by thanking Bryan for his time and effort, the Chairman for providing the forum, and the readers for lending their thoughts and/or attention to this issue.

This morning, while half of my mind was obsessing over what to write for my closing argument, my 7-year-old son provided me with a perfect opener. "Mom," he said to me "I have come up with an alternate plan."

"An alternate plan?" I queried.

"Yes. In case, you know, I can't be a Major League baseball player when I grow up."

"Oh?" I said, "What is this alternate plan, Monk?"

"Well, there are a few of them. Plan B, I could be a professional golfer."

"A golfer? When have you ever played golf?"

"You know...putt putt golf. I'm pretty good at it. Anyway, Plan C would be to work where dad works. Plan D would be fixing computers like J (my significant other)...or maybe testing games and graphics. Plan E would be working at a High School. Like you do, mom."

I was hurt that my career choice was at the bottom of the list, but I was heartened by the fact that he had such a diverse array of options to choose from, and that the people in his family and community provide the examples he needs to feel as though each of those career options are viable opportunities for him. I was also thankful to him for providing such a clear illustration of how representation is as crucial to development and goal setting as opportunity is to achieving those goals:

It is educationally sound for the minority student attending a racially impacted school to have available to him the positive image provided by minority classified and certificated employees. It is likewise educationally sound for the child from the majority group to have positive experiences with minority people which can be provided, in part, by having minority classified and certificated employees at schools where the enrollment is largely made up of majority group students. It is also educationally important for students to observe that women as well as men can assume responsible and diverse roles in society.

In my opening argument, I quoted President Lyndon B. Johnson, but I left out a Nixon quote from this article:

Before launching his second presidential bid, Nixon, in language worthy of LBJ, told reporters that "people in the ghetto have to have more than an equal chance. They should be given a dividend." "On this score," he added, "I would be considered almost a radical." The Republican candidate reiterated a similar position a year later, promising to give "everybody an equal chance at the line and then giving those who haven't had their chance, who've had it denied for a hundred years, that little extra start that they need so that it is in truth an equal chance."

Which sounds as if it was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic." -- 1964, Why We Can't Wait.

"A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro..." quoted by Stephen B.Oates, Let The Trumpet Sound.

My opponent has criticized me for lacking optimism. He feels that we have come far enough in the 30 some-odd years since the inception of Affirmative Action to begin dismantling it. I have attempted to prove that we have not. Statistical evidence from all sectors of society point to the fact that racial injustice is a persistent reality. I've read so many articles about racism this week, that I can barely stand to quote from any more of them. In fact, I really just want to close my eyes and take myself to that happy place where race doesn't matter.

I apologize to my opponent for what he perceived was an ad hominem attack, but I really was hoping that I could prod him into giving me a different way of interpreting the astounding amount of evidence that defines the systemic racism that exists in our country today. Admittedly, linking to information about the Bell Curve was like using a high-voltage taser rather than a gentle nudge with a wooden baton. I was trying to give him an out. All he had to do was explain the cognitive dissonance that exists in his argument that current anti-discrimination laws are enough to eliminate discrimination, when from where I'm standing they most clearly do not:

From July 2001 to May 2002, Bertrand and Mullainathan sent fictitious resumes in response to 1,300 help-wanted ads listed in the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune. They used the callback rate for interviews to measure the success of each resume. Approximately 5,000 resumes were sent for positions in sales, administrative support, clerical services, and customer service. Jobs ranged from a cashier at a store to the manager of sales at a large firm.

The catch was that the authors manipulated the perception of race via the name of each applicant, with comparable credentials for each racial group. Each resume was randomly assigned either a very white-sounding name (Emily Walsh, Brendan Baker) or a very African-American-sounding name (Lakisha Washington, Jamal Jones).

The authors find that applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names. Applicants with white names need to send about 10 resumes to get one callback, whereas applicants with African-American names need to send about 15 resumes to achieve the same result.
At least I seemed to get him to change his rhetoric from calling supporters of affirmative action "racists" to calling them members of the "race industry."

I have to admit that I don't necessarily believe that my opponent is a white supremicist just because he can't explain why the race gap exists. But I was sorta hoping to hear more of a solution for closing it rather than the weak insistence that race simply does not matter. My opponent wants to convince you that I'm engaging in a "strange loop" by advancing the concept of white privilege, but what kind of strange loop is he engaging in by verbally waving away a preponderance of statistical evidence that shows that people of color, as a group, live with the daily challenges of discrimination?

The odd thing about the arguments my opponent makes is that there is so much unconscious racism in many of his statements. From the misinterpretation and misapplication of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King (regardless of how my challenger feels about the statement he quoted, I have to say that it is his privilege to interpret Dr. King's words in whatever manner he sees fit. However, it is his responsibility to consider how Dr. King would have wanted those words to be applied, rather than co-opting them in an attempt to prove a point.) to the success stories of black athletes and entertainers as opposed to Scientists and Historians, to the insistance on "color-blindness," my opponent makes all of the fumbles that are common among people who have a limited amount of social/cultural literacy with regard to people of color. Whether my opponent knows this or not, these types of commissions are indicative of an ignorance of racial dialog, and demonstrate the importance of inclusive experiences.

The argument that simply removing the barriers of discrimination is enough to counteract our nation's history of systemic racism and the effects of this racism on communities of color simply does not make sense. The challenger wants us to believe that dismantling white privilege is not possible because the "race industry" is more invested in making him feel guilty for his privilege than in encouraging him to acknowledge and examine the racial preferences that have been awarded him since birth. He wants us to believe, in the face of a history of injustice, that if we close our eyes and wish really hard, discriminatory practices will disappear without the aid of policies of equalization such as affirmative action. Further, my challenger would have us believe that it's more important to cater to perception rather than reality:

Several studies of court cases also show that the number of racial discrimination cases filed by whites and sex discrimination cases filed by men ranges from 2% to 5% of all discrimination cases. The remaining cases involve charges of discrimination by people of color, women, the elderly, the handicapped, etc. (Burstein, 1991; "Reverse discrimination against whites is rare," 1995). Another study of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission between 1987 and 1994 revealed that only 4% involved changes of reverse discrimination (Reskin, 1998).

In response to this, I say to my challenger, that's not optimism...that's willful ignorance.

My argument is that we are a nation in crisis. The race gap is so wide that we can't just diminish it by outlawing discrimination. Discrimination is already outlawed, and it's still rampant. What we can and must do is continue to apply affirmative action where it is currently being applied, as well as expand it to areas where it is desperately needed. If justice alone was the benefit of affirmative action, it would be enough. But equalized opportunity brings not only long-awaited justice where applied, it brings representation, and, eventually, equal distribution of power. Affirmative action is one way that we can slow the escalator of white privilege to allow people of all races an equal chance at the privileges that those in power are so unwilling to share:

Quote, "We have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and non-violent pressure. Lamentably, it is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture, but as Reinhold Neibuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals," end quote. That was the Reverend Martin Luther King in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

I have shown the results of yanking affirmative action where it was once applied. And, while results in other areas are promising, I believe we have a long way to go:

[...]we have made great progress in the past generation, but there is much more to be done. Drastic inequalities still exist in hiring practices and salary. On average, college educated African-American women annually earn $19,054 less than college educated white men. Also, on average, a woman with a Master's degree makes $4,765 less than a man with an undergraduate degree. With the help of affirmative action, minorities and women now have greater access to the business world. We need to further this progress so that everyone has an equal shot at higher-level jobs and fair compensation. The Supreme Court agrees that the "skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, culture, ideas, and viewpoints" (Supreme Court majority opinion, Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003).

Kind Iron Blog readers, this has been my first debate at Iron Blog, and I have learned much. I have worked hard to bring you an array of links and information that might help shed light upon some of the many facets of this discussion. It is my hope that I have in the process, at the very least, introduced some of you to ideas and concepts you had not yet considered about race, white privilege, justice, and the application of affirmative action.

It is also my hope that when my son is old enough to finally choose which career is right for him, he can be certain that he has earned his position through hard work and dedication, and not due to unearned privilege granted to him by virtue of the color of his skin.

Thanks, as always, for your time.

Drucilla B. Blood
Iron Blogger Green

Battle Affirmative Action - Closing Argument - Challenger

To begin this final statement, I wish to thank the Chairman and the judges for the opportunity to debate this topic. I wish to thank the IBG for her time as well.

Throughout this debate, I have strived to maintain a semblance of decorum. I have attempted to remain above petty sniping and snide remarks about issues that do not touch upon the topic at hand. I feel I have fought that battle alone.

As we end this debate, I feel more certain than ever that the removal of affirmative action is the right course if we are to achieve true equality for all Americans.

Because I see a color-blind society as more than a myth. A color-blind society should be the goal toward which we strive. Rather than see every problem through the prism of race (and certain races at that), we would do better to focus our collective efforts as a society to ensuring that ALL people who labor under adverse life circumstances have access to the opportunities that exist in America. A color-blind society is truly more aligned with the American ideal as expressed in the declaration of independence, from which I quoted in my opening statement.

In order to achieve such a goal, preferential treatment based on race alone cannot be a part of the equation.

But instead of moving toward a goal that even Dr. King advocated in his "I Have a Dream" speech, affirmative action advocates fight a battle of semantics - redefining the ideal to suit their belief in the entitlement (for that's what it is) to preferential treatment through AA. Those who seek to maintain preferential treatment programs must accomplish some tall feats, indeed.

They must argue against the ideal of a color-blind society. They must turn their back on the very "dream" that resonates among people of all races in America - that individuals would be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. They must argue against individual differences in opportunity between members of each race, and between racial groups. They must argue that preferential treatment based solely upon the race of the individual is somehow different from, well, preferential treatment based solely upon the race of the individual. They must argue that 20 points on an admissions application for a person of color is qualitatively different than a "Whites Only" sign at a lunch counter. They must argue that "good" racism can reverse the effects of "bad" racism.

 They must argue that racism is in the DNA of the American system, that it cannot be addressed through alternative measures (like punishment for actual instances of discrimination - you know, actual justice), and that individuals of certain races MUST have these preferences in order to succeed. They must argue that advancing opportunity for one race at the expense of another race - or sex - trumps the need for individual members of a race or sex to have an equal opportunity. They must argue that people who do believe that race should not be an issue in these areas are actually racists. They must argue that "justice" is defined as a redistribution of opportunity based on race.

I admit that up to this point, they've done a pretty good job. As I have researched this topic, I have been amazed to see an entire industry of people whose sole purpose in life seems to be the perpetuation of racial division in society through the advocacy of white (primarily male) guilt and black entitlement.

They explain away the differences in preferences between races by saying "blacks have it harder than you do" to Hispanics, native Americans, Asians, and Indians. They say to white women, "yes, you've been oppressed, but not as much as this black man, so you lose." Such victimization one-upsmanship is truly sickening to behold. It is saddening indeed to watch AA proponents attempt to put greater or lesser value on the sufferings and mistreatments of various statistical groupings.

Whereas the calculus I propose is pretty simple: no race or sex should receive preferential treatment based solely upon those characteristics, the calculus of affirmative action is incredibly complex and loaded with racial overtones.

At its bare minimum, you get 1 point for being a woman, one point for being "not white," and another point for being black. To deny that such a calculus is not inherently racist is to deny that 1+1=2.

In each of my posts on this topic, I have quoted extensively from black scholars (more than one, lest I be dismissed as relying on a single source) who disagree with affirmative action. Their voices highlight what is a crucial point in the debate: even all blacks don't agree with preferential treatment based on race. As you have seen as well, these voices of disagreement are dismissed as "Uncle Toms" or "hit m(e)n for organized racism."

Rather than acknowledge that races are not monolithic entities acting in consort to advance or deny one another, affirmative action proponents dismiss the independent thoughts of members of their own race. Perhaps Dr. Sowell, LaShawn Barber, Justice Thomas and others are merely recipients of "white privilege." As well, they tacitly denigrate the millions upon millions of white people who never owned slaves, and actively worked to end white racism.

None of which is to say that different racial groups fare differently within society. There is much to do to ensure adequate treatment for people of all races. Unfortunately, affirmative action addresses none of these areas.

 Preferential treatment in college admissions doesn't address failing primary schools. Preferential treatment in hiring decisions doesn't address adequate access to health care. Preferential treatment in contract decisions doesn't ensure that our laws are enforced equally among races. Preferential treatment does nothing to reverse the trend toward single-parent households within the black community, many of whom end up in poverty (along with single-parent households in the white and hispanic communities).

 Rather, preferential treatment (nee affirmative action) whispers the thought that is truly damaging to equitable treatment: "You can't make it without our help." I am amazed at how AA advocates cannot see the paternalism of their own ideology.

IBG states in her final rebuttal that affirmative action is "anti-racism." In doing so, she highlights the post-modern tendency to redefine words to mean what they don't mean. Racial preferences that serve my aims are not really racism. They are what I say they are.

In my opening statement, I made three arguments against affirmative action: It is contrary to the spirit of the American ideal, it furthers division rather than alleviating it, and it fails to acknowledge true diversity.

In polling results, ballot referendums and lawsuits, there is ample evidence that affirmative action policies have not created unity, but further division among races. In the cries of "Uncle Tom" and "hit man for organized racism," AA advocates have shown their disdain for diversity of opinion, and in redefining "equal" as "equal plus some," they perpetuate the violation of the American ideal.

Again, I thank you for your time.

Respectfully submitted,

Bryan S.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - Second Rebuttal - Iron Blogger Green

The challenger began his disorganized second rebuttal by mentioning the intervention of "real life" and it's undesired consequences. Granted, as a single mother who is employed full-time and spends the rest of her time attempting to homeschool her unruly children, I am all-too familiar with real life, and I do feel for my challenger. Yet it's ironic that he would present this temporary intervention as an excuse, while arguing against the established system to counteract the disadvantages of a lifetime of artificially imposed "real-life" circumstances.

At any rate, I wish my challenger the best and hope that whatever real life situations have been intervening with his ability to spend the enormous amount of time it takes to write these rebuttals (he's definitely making them look easier than they are!) are not too serious in scope or outcome.

To begin, I need to get two things off my chest

First, my challenger ends his argument with a reference to a color-blind society, and I couldn't more heartily disagree with him. Generally, when one argues about the mythical color-blind society, one is actually arguing that we as a society can move past matters of racism by ignoring the fact that race matters:

What is conveniently ignored is that while certain members of certain races have indeed been allowed through the class barriers, within each class people of color consistently populate the lowest echelons. By refusing to flip the toggle switch and render the class lines visible, so to speak, American society is given the illusion of a continuum containing a random racial distribution. Flipping the toggle switch reveals a society whose reality contrasts jarringly with the illusion, a society of discrete groupings (classes), each characterized by the distribution of white on top, and black and brown underneath. The working class is characterized by white skilled laborers and mostly black/brown unskilled laborers, and the middle class is similarly composed, though considerably whiter overall. (I would comment on the make-up of the ruling class, but they won’t let me into their meetings!)

Perhaps this is why I have so much trouble understanding and swallowing pretty much any of his argumentation. There is a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding that we are having here, and it is based on the perception that equal opportunity will eliminate color rather than promote true diversity:

When originally formulated, the concept of a color-blind society was seen as the answer to discrimination and prejudice: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, advocated judging people not by the color of their skin, but by their internal character. Misguided and devious advocates have co-opted it, taken it out of context and failed to understand a basic assumption made by King; such an approach has meaning only if we operate on a level playing field where equal access and opportunity exists for all groups. This condition does not currently exist in oar society.

The practice of color-blindness is a dangerous and frightening proposal because it will perpetuate and create greater disparities in our society. It will undermine accountability for civil rights violations (hate crimes, discrimination in the workplace and biased racial profiling), health care disparities, and racial/ethnic disease patterns important for medical treatment, educational inequities and so forth.

In my research on the causes and effects of racism, I have come to realize that color-blindness uses "whiteness" as the default key to mimic the norms of fairness, justice and equity by "whiting" out differences and perpetuating the belief in sameness. The denial of power imbalance, unearned privilege and racist domination are couched in the rhetoric of equal treatment and equal opportunity.

Second, my challenger seems to be attempting to redefine the term "affirmative action" as preferential treatment for women and certain races in the areas of hiring and admissions. My definition of affirmative action differs. I view affirmative action as equalizing opportunity in the areas of hiring and admissions in order to promote true diversity. If we are going to talk about "preferential treatment" in the areas of hiring and admissions, we can leave race and gender out of the equation altogether and focus on those who are already the true recipients of affirmative action.

Now, on to the rebuttal (by the way, I wish you all could have heard the peals of shrieking laughter I heard when I asked my children to please give me some time to write a reBUTTal. Ah, the glories of potty humor.)

In his argumentation, my opponent repeatedly takes the word of one well-positioned black man, and attempts to apply that opinion to the entire population of people of color. While it is true that there are many people of color who are positioned solidly in the middle class and above, there are still obstacles that stand in the way of truly equal opportunity. I cannot and will not deny that class is a factor. But race is a factor, regardless of class. I disagree with Judge Thomas' assertion that the son of a middle-class black man necessarily has it easier than the daughter of a single white woman. I, in fact, am the daughter of a poor, single white woman...and I have known many sons of middle class men of color in my lifetime who have had and continue to have significantly more challenges than I have ever had to face.

Certainly, neither anecdotal nor statistical evidence equates to individual impact. But if Affirmative Action has done damage to a significant amount of white males, wouldn't that damage be visible when viewing statistics? In actuality, studies have revealed that the perceived impact of affirmative action on white males is a lot worse than the actual impact.

Earlier I alluded to how half to two-thirds of whites and males believe that reverse discrimination is common. Some of the polls asked respondents whether they, personally, had lost a job, promotion, college seat, etc. because of affirmative action. When the question is phrased this way, the number of whites and males who respond 'yes' drops significantly to between 2% and 13% (Steeh & Krysan, 1996). These numbers are also considerably lower than the percentage of people of color and women that respond 'yes' to similar questions. In a recent survey by the National Conference for Community and Justice (2000), for example, 13% of whites said that they had been discriminated against in the past month at restaurants, while shopping, during worship, at work or in other situations. On the other hand, 16% of Latinos, 31% of Asians and 42% of blacks said 'yes' to the same question.

Additionally, to argue that there should be no impact on white males is arguing backwards. Of course white males are affected. The current state of affairs is due to the fact that white males currently enjoy more power than they have actually earned, and yes, it is time to give some of that unearned power back.

I began this discussion taking care to point out that affirmative action and racial discrimination is not strictly a black/white thing. However, I do have to point out that there are unique challenges within the African-American experience in this country that warrants special attention. With the African-American population, we not only need to combat generations of racism, but also the ingrained and intentional inferiority complex that was necessitized by slavery and is perpetuated by our society's refusal to admit to the systems of oppression which continue to this day. When my opponent talks about "certain" minorities, he is either intentionally ignoring or unintentionally ignorant of the significant disadvantage these "certain" minorities continue to struggle with, both individually and as a whole. As one of my favorite bloggers, Prometheus 6 says in reference to The Shaping of Black America:

Black people had to be broken to be slaves, and White people had to be broken to be masters. How else can you explain slave owners who allowed slaves to buy their own freedom when by law anything the slave owned already belonged to his master?

As for the quote by Sowell:

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.

I have often wondered out loud how preferences are influenced by the society in which they are formed. In other words, we might perceive that women have a preference for one area of study, but that preference might have been artificially constructed by a lifetime of social conditioning pushing her in that direction. Affirmative Action, appropriately applied, can act as a counterbalance by actively encouraging diversity in fields of study traditionally pursued by white men. In turn, this encouragement results in more women populating these fields, encouraging more girls to take up study and participate. I wonder if perhaps the lack of minority students in certain fields creates a self-fulfilling prophecy due to unconscious exclusion or prejudice on the part of those who are already in the field, much as women frequently need to work harder to "prove themselves" in fields dominated by males. Whatever way you look at it, I find it difficult to believe that so many people of color would self-select areas of study and employment which place them at such a glaring economic disadvantage:

Racial-ethnic minorities are a far smaller percentage of the labor force than are women (23.1 percent versus 46.6 percent).1 Their disproportionate representation in certain jobs is, nevertheless, worthy of attention. Women of color-African-American, Latina, and Asian-are over-represented in institutional service work, in occupations such as private household workers, cleaners, nurses' aides and licensed practical nurses, typists, file clerks, kitchen workers, hospital orderlies, and some occupations in the food packaging and textile industry. Other jobs that have disproportionate numbers of women and men of color include guards and corrections officers, mail and postal clerks, social workers, telephone operators, bus drivers, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, and some operator or laborer jobs within manufacturing.

As far as the application (or lack thereof) of affirmative action to the Asian minority:

In the United States, affirmative action programs at universities usually benefit only black African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. Asian Americans, although a racial minority, do not benefit at most colleges because their makeup in the student body exceeds their makeup in the general US population. White-skinned people do not benefit in universities where their makeup in the student body is less than their makeup in the general US population because they are not members of a racial minority.

This is not to say that racism does not affect Asian Americans, but it is to say that racism affects Asians in a unique way which perhaps requires a different approach, but does not necessitate the dismantling of affirmative action:

The goal of affirmative action is to re-orient our society away from one of unearned privilege towards justice. It is this goal that gives affirmative action the unique status of being a social initiative which, in the end, cancels itself out. Our society can only successfully combat the effects of white privilege and the concentration of power when Affirmative Action is applied effectively, and races are represented more equitably in all areas of society. We've moved forward slowly, in fits and starts, due to the dominant culture's reluctance to relinquish some of it's power. This reluctance perpetuates the systems of oppression which cause schisms between races and crises within communities of color. True integration (NOT assimilation) is the only
method of establishing a society based on meaningful contribution rather than means alone.

My opponent wants to argue that anti-discrimination laws are enough to equalize opportunity, yet he refuses to acknowledge that discrimination still happens. In other words, he wants to abolish affirmative action, thereby reversing it's positive impact, without any other viable way to ensure that organizations with a proclivity towards discrimination do not discriminate. Just as the opposite of racist is not "color-blind" but "anti-racist" - discriminatory practices must be combatted not through passive means, but by actively encouraging inclusion of people who have historically been damaged by discrimination.

Once again, I thank you for your time.

Drucilla B. Blood
Iron Blogger Green


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.


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.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - First Rebuttal - Iron Blogger Green

In his opening statement, my challenger made a surprising and startling confession. He's a white male. When I read that, I blinked at my computer screen in stunned disbelief. "My god!" I gasped, "What is the world coming to? Now white males are arguing against affirmative action? The next thing you know, they will be marching on Washington and complaining about oppression!"

But, seriously, I'm glad that my challenger has declared his identity. One never knows who one is arguing with on the internet, and assumptions can interfere with positive dialog. I promise I won't use his dirty little secret against him. And, worry not, dear challenger...some of my very best beloveds are white males.

As I stated in my opening argument, racial identity is essential to the conversation about race-based affirmative action. My opening argument laid out the many ways in which racial bias negatively impacts the lives of people of color in our society. I was pleased to see that my challenger read the links and found many of them "thought-provoking." It's unfortunate that he did not bother to share his thoughts with us in his rebuttal.

Instead, my challenger rebutted statistics and facts such as this:

The report from that study, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, found that a consistent body of research demonstrates significant variation in the rates of medical procedures by race, even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. This research indicates that U.S. racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive even routine medical procedures and experience a lower quality of health services.

The report says a large body of research underscores the existence of disparities. For example, minorities are less likely to be given appropriate cardiac medications or to undergo bypass surgery, and are less likely to receive kidney dialysis or transplants. By contrast, they are more likely to receive certain less-desirable procedures, such as lower limb amputations for diabetes and other conditions.

with a list of 8 successful African-American professionals, of whom four were entertainers or sports figures. So, basically "yeah, yeah, black people are discriminated against in education, healthcare, career, and our legal system, but HEY, how about that Bill Cosby?!"

I'm afraid I expect better of my challenger. He told me to turn on my television...I implore him to turn his OFF. Please.

I feel like my opponent is flailing a little bit, and it's causing this entire debate to veer towards derailment. One thing is sure, though. His sources don't agree with him. First, there's the misquote of Douglass, then there's the terminally (as in, ad nauseum!) misrepresentation of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and then, there's this from my challenger's very own source:

Justice O'Connor: "race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."

Emphasis added by me.

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?

Granted, there is room to argue that twenty-five years is not enough time, but what Justice O'Connor is, in effect, saying, is that racial preferences are tools that are necessary to ensure justice to those who actually make it to college.

(I have to ask, as an aside, what of those who do not? And once again, my opponent helps me with a very helpful source, which led me to another very helpful source with, unfortunately, very disturbing information about the relative placement of blacks and hispanics in reading, writing, math, and science (Thanks, Mr. Challenger, sir!))

The point of all of this being that my opponent cannot deny, yet refuses to acknowledge the glaring discrepancies between people of color and whites. And when one does not deny, yet refuses to acknowledge these facts, I have to wonder if perhaps one views these discrepancies as some sort of real gauge of the relative placement in society of people of color. I hate to believe that my opponent would assume this, but without any other explanation for these very clear statistics which reflect racial inequity, I'm not sure what else to believe. My opponent says that white privilege doesn't exist, but he doesn't offer any other argument on the subject other than "because I said so." Which is strangely indicative of how white privilege works:

Describing White privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in Women's Studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having White privilege must ask, "Having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?

In order to end White privilege, we must explore the destructive impact that White privilege has on White people. In much of the literature about racism, the emphasis is placed on how the system rewards Whites for their Whiteness. I am in no way arguing with the assumption that Whites benefit from their Whiteness, just as heterosexual’s benefit from their status, and men benefit from theirs. I am concerned, however, with exploring and recognizing certain costs. Not as much emphasis is placed on exposing what losses may be associated with having an artificial, socially constructed status imprinted on an individual.

But, I suppose I'm not being optimistic enough. So, rather than spend any more time puzzling over the motivations and mindset of my challenger, I will proceed. In my last post, I discussed the history of affirmative action. In this post, I will discuss the ways that affirmative action has been applied to truly reduce inequality between the races. I will continue to posit that affirmative action, among other things, is still needed to close the gap completely. However, we have definitely made some progress since the enactment of affirmative action laws. There are at least two areas of society in which affirmative action has had a measurable positive impact.

While, as a pacifist, I am skeptical about the application of affirmative action in the military, it is clear that affirmative action has been perhaps most successful in that environment, and possibly the public sector can learn from this success:

[...]certain elements in the military success may be applicable more broadly, including in the corporate sector:

- Top-down priority: There is no confusion in the ranks about the importance of the equal opportunity agenda. Private sector experts on affirmative action stress the importance of similar commitment flowing from the Board Room to the line supervisors.

- Thorough implementation: Relatedly, the goals are pursued with a range of tools, from management information systems, to equal opportunity training, to performance appraisals of managers based on their EO efforts.

- 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.

One official credited the success of the army's affirmative action program to "necessity, control, and commitment." I ask you, kind Iron Blog readers, is it not necessary for us, as a society, to bridge the racial divide, and are we not dedicated to closing the wage gap for people of color? And if we are not sufficiently in control of unconscious manifestations of discrimination, should we not look to guidelines to help ensure that all people are receiving a fair chance?

College campuses, as well, where affirmative action is used to equalize opportunity for those who are more likely to have already been placed at a distinct disadvantage due to institutionalized racism in their primary and secondary education, have experienced remarkable increases in enrollment from people of color over the past 30 years under affirmative action policies:

Affirmative action creates more open, fair, and meaningful access to higher education for all qualified members of our society. Over the past 30 years, affirmative action has contributed to increases in the number of women and people of color enrolling and graduating from colleges and universities. Since the late 1980s, students of color have increased their total college enrollment by 57.2 percent, and the proportion of women earning bachelor's degrees is increasing steadily. The Supreme Court agrees that student body diversity is a compelling interest in affirmative action programs at colleges and universities, given that it "better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society, and better prepares them as professionals" (Supreme Court majority opinion, Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003).

However, all of the progress of the last 30 years dissipate abruptly when colleges dismantle race-based admissions policies:

She's the only black student in an English class of about 30. In microeconomics, she's one of two, out of about 200.

In an African politics class with 85 students, "there are no more than five of us," she said.

When she enrolled in 1999 as one of 147 black freshmen in a class of 3,872 students, she said, the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles looked different.

"I would see other students of color walking around," said McKesey, 22, a political science major.

That year's graduating class was the last one admitted before the University of California system of eight campuses banned the use of race, gender or ethnic factors in admissions and hiring.


The result: minority enrollment at UT Austin, which was the original defendant in the Hopwood case, has plummeted [overall figures for 1995, 1996 and 1997 are available]. It's law school was hardest hit: only four black students (less than 15 percent of last year's enrollment figures for black students) and 26 Hispanic students will join this year's class. And undergraduate enrollment felt a similar drop: UT Austin will matriculate only 150 black students out of a freshman class of 6,500 -- a 50 percent drop from last year.

So, while there has been success in utilizing race-based policies in higher education and the military...we still have a long way to go before we achieve true equality. Particularly when racial employment bias begins before the interview process:

The results are a bit disturbing, the researchers admit. Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be contacted for job interviews than those with typical black names. There were no significant differences between the rates at which men and women were contacted.

This, unfortunately, is not something that affirmative action alone can address. Which is why I insist that, while affirmative action is a necessary component of restructuring the system to nurture equitable opportunity, attacking racism and dismantling the system of white privilege is at least as important. It is crucial that we all stop pretending that privilege does not exist and start doing the hard work in examining how institutionalized racism affects us all.

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.

Thank you, again, for your time,

Drucilla B. Blood
Iron Blogger Green

(edited 8/11 4:31 PM to close bold tag.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - First Rebuttal - Challenger

I am certain that the opening arguments have highlighted what is a major philosophical gulf between myself and the Iron Blogger Green. Much of that gulf lies in the use of definitions, in an understanding of race, and the ideals of "equality" and "opportunity."

I do hope that judges and readers followed all the links offered by the Iron Blogger. Many of them are thought-provoking, even disturbing. Unfortunately, many of them do not deal directly with the topic of affirmative action. IBG uses her examples to show that racism is institutionalized in American society, and hopes that by showing so, she can make the argument that affirmative action is simply a "more fair" form of racism, since it's racism for those who do not have the advantages of the more dominant, "bad" form of racism.

Further, she claims that "while some might argue that the world has changed, since the inception of affirmative action, to allow for more inclusion and opportunity, regardless of race, reality doesn't bear that out. In fact, the amount of information that points to a continued bias against people of color from all income levels and in all areas of society is alarming, disturbing, and downright disgusting."

Hmm. I wonder if you could tell that to Bill Cosby, Dave Chappelle, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, and a whole host of black professionals who hold high profile places in the American society. The fact is, the world HAS CHANGED, dramatically, since the time of affirmative action. The insinuation that racism is as widespread today as it was in 1964 is both tragically misinformed and maddeningly simplistic. Reality does bear that out. Turn on your television, Ms. Blood.

Since we are going to spend so much time on the concept of racism, here's an accepted definition:
n 1: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races 2: discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race [syn: racialism, racial discrimination]

This varies, somewhat, from what IBG would have you read as racism. In fact, IBG would have you accept that everything that occurs in your life today is tinged with racism. It's called "White Privilege."

To make this assertion, she points to racists (I mean, race scholars) who attack the concept of "white privilege." White privilege, we are told, is something that just comes with white skin, and yet it is something that whites use and abuse every day. It is so pervasive and powerful that it is invisible. In fact, most whites would deny that it exists. Perversely, such denials merely serve as proof that white privilege is all-pervasive.

This is what I have termed a "strange loop," following the definition of Robert Anton Wilson. By defining everything a white person receives as part of "white privilege," there is no escape, even for my poor friend Robert, who tried to commit suicide while living on the streets of Fort Worth. And were a poor white person to deny that they were the beneficiary of such "privilege," they would be patted on the head with the smug arrogance only available to liberal academics and conservative old wealthy folk, and told "of course, you don't 'think' you have such privilege because your white schools and upbringing cleverly disguise such privilege."

And so we are left with a hopeless situation. There is no escape from racism. It is the air we breathe. It is the thing that keeps some people going. Every question, every look, every step is either a trip through racism or an opportunity to engage in the unconscious racism of "white privilege."

Fortunately, we have been given a pardon.

But such liberal self-flagellation does nothing for blacks:

In today's climate, too many teachers think they are doing black students a favor by feeding them grievances from the past and telling them how they are oppressed in the present -- and how their future is blocked by white racism. These are the kinds of friends who do more damage than enemies.

Why endure all the hard work, self-discipline and self-denial that a first-rate education requires if The Man is going to stop you from getting anywhere anyway? People who have been pushing this line for years are now suddenly surprised and dismayed to discover that many black students across the country regard academic striving as "acting white."

Attempts to move beyond color definitions are mere window dressing.

IBG pleads that we must end "white privilege" in order to foster true justice. Unfortunately for us who happen to have pale melatonin, we cannot escape the color of our skin. So we must, apparently, trade the racism of viewing other races (approved races, mind you) as inferior, to view the white race as culpable and therefore worthy to be knocked down a notch or two. Racism in service of a "higher ideal" still fits the definition of racism.

Which brings me back to the concept of the pie.

Toward the end of her opening argument, IBG mentions that she holds what Thomas Sowell calls an "unconstrained vision" of humanity: "Gentle readers, as the tagline on my blog states, I believe most emphatically in the inherent goodness of all beings. Which of course means that I believe that people are inherently good." She then goes on to propose what all good people of unconstrained vision propose: using political means to change the process to achieve more equal results. But such inequalities can be the result of misperceptions.

I, on the other hand, have a more "constrained" vision of humanity. I do not believe that people are "inherently good." I believe it is possible for people to act in their enlightened self interest. But none of the examples of racism IBG linked in her opening argument surprise me. I suggest that measures could be adopted to deal with many of those issues that do not require affirmative action.

In keeping with my constrained vision of humanity, I do not expect equal outcomes from equal opportunity. There are inequalities in any system of society. But the American system - because of the ideal of an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has been provided incredible benefits for those at the lowest end of the economic ladder. In fact, I would challenge IBG to find a society as diverse and as large as ours that has as high a standard of living - even at the lowest economic levels.

Finally, IBG pleads that we should use affirmative action to counteract the biases that are arrayed against people of color. Here, again, is the ultimate doublespeak of affirmative action racism: using racism to combat racism.

As author Thomas Sowell noted, this is much akin to the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the wizard, after admitting he cannot give Dorothy and her friends what they have come for, gives them substitutes for all those things. Such is what IBG and the racists on the left want to give us. They cannot give American true racial equality, because they cannot see it existing - ever. So they can give us "good" racism and "good" sexism.

Rather, why not side with Frederick Douglass (via Justice Thomas via Walter Williams):
In last week's U.S. Supreme Court's affirmative action decision, Justice Clarence Thomas' dissent included a quotation from an 1865 speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass: "What I ask for the Negro," Douglass said, "is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. . . . All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . Your interference is doing him positive injury."

affirmative action is just one way to attempt to bring equality and opportunity to people of all races. Notice the part of the equation she leaves off - that the "equality" and "opportunity" she seeks to bring must be gained at the expense of others.

In order to bring equality to a black, we must necessarily leave off some equality for a woman. And from there, we must destroy the equality of the Asian, or the Indian. And the white man, well, he deserves whatever he gets.

And, as Walter Williams noted, ironically, we end up doing a disservice to blacks:
The bottom line is given the day-to-day destruction of education for black students at the primary and secondary levels of schooling, most will never be able to compete academically. The fact that the affirmative action crowd demands discriminatory admission practices for post-graduate education such as in law and medical schools confirms something else. Black performance on admittance exams, such as the LSAT, MCAT and GRE, is stark testament that four years of undergraduate education cannot erase the damage of twelve years of fraudulent primary and secondary education.

Indeed, some people apparently are more equal than others.

As I said earlier, IBG points out some cogent examples of racism (and some that don't pass the smell test), but she assigns healing power to a remedy that consists of more of the same. Ultimately, racism doesn't ameliorate racism. If we want to talk about fixing the inequalities in lending or health care or primary education, then let's discuss those at the level of the problem: in lending, health care, or primary education. Affirmative action does not address those issues. Indeed, 40 years of affirmative action and other liberal social policies doesn't seem to have alleviated the suffering of disadvantaged minorities.

Others have argued that affirmative action actually hinders those it seeks to benefit:
My opposition to affirmative action has to do with my concern for black uplift. Affirmative action has created what I call a "culture of preference." It's not just a benign social policy having to do with college admissions. It is a vast and all-defining culture that continues to lock me in, as a black person, to a victim-focused identity. Affirmative action makes me passive. It makes me into someone who cannot move forward unless white people are benevolent and help me move forward. It perpetuates dependency. I think affirmative action is the greatest negative force—the greatest force in opposition to black uplift—in society today.

Will blacks disappear from higher education? That is not a decision for white Americans to make. That is a decision for black Americans to make. If blacks focus on education, I have absolutely every confidence that they can compete with everybody.

But in any case, when you take that decision away from me as a black person, you make me a secondary citizen. You oppress me in the name of helping me. You perpetuate my dependency. You demoralize me. As long as that continues to happen, you will see the same gaps in scores, with blacks at the bottom. You will see blacks having the highest dropout rates, the lowest grade point averages, and on and on and on. Affirmative action guarantees black inferiority. - Sydney Steele

I have to assert again that discrimination that "levels the playing field" is doing no such thing, because it is actually disadvantaging others based on the surface characteristics of race and sex. Individuals. Not races. Individuals. Affirmative action apologists like IBG then disguise their own racism by the assuagement of "white privilege." "You can give up this little trinket, you see, because you are the heir to a whole host of privileges you haven't even realized." Cold comfort for a person taught that it is the character of the individual and not the color of the skin that should make the difference.

It is perhaps the final irony that I actually find myself more of an optimist about this process than the IBG, who claims to have a belief in the "goodness of all living things."

(almost forgot)
Respectfully submitted,

Bryan S.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - Iron Blogger Green - Opening Argument

The Chairman has introduced this battle by asking whether or not race should be institutionalized. I open my arguments by insisting that race is institutionalized, with or without affirmative action. Moreover, it doesn’t take much research to reveal that racism is the institutional norm in our society, thus predicating the need for solutions such as affirmative action.

To ensure clarity, I will use my opening statement to define terms and illustrate the inequality which currently exists, and which affirmative action is designed to help overcome. I will give a brief overview of the legal history of affirmative action. I will define privilege, and I will present statistical evidence of existing institutional bias which shows how very deeply that bias penetrates both in giving a boost up to those who benefit from privilege, as well as ripping the ladder from the hands of those who do not. Additionally, in future posts, I will cite resources to further educate and elucidate the benefits for all of us when we, as a society, actively promote and foster equality and diversity in our institutions of education and places of employment.

Since our esteemed Chairman has seemingly narrowed the focus of this debate to one of race, rather than one which includes affirmative action based on gender or other considerations, it is important that we understand how race is viewed in our society. I will take the liberty of assuming I can narrow the scope of my arguments to focus on the United States, and here I use the term "our society" inclusively, to refer to what some may consider a very diverse and often divided group of people who live within the United States. It is also important to make it clear that race is not merely a black/white issue. Obviously, there are several races within our borders with unique cultural histories and interactions that influence or inform how they view, are viewed by, and fit in with our society as a whole. The fact that there is such a diverse pool of people who are all affected by institutional biases makes the argumentation difficult, but not impossible, and very definitely richer, more rewarding, and more interesting. Which, when you think about it, holds true for learning, living, and working with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.

Affirmative action, as a concept, was first established by President John F. Kennedy, in an executive order aimed at ending discrimination in employment by government contractors. The term affirmative action appeared as such:

"The Contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin. The Contractor will take affirmative action, to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."

However, like the will of God in the previous Iron Blog battle, the will of our leaders changed (or should I say evolved). Perhaps due to the fact that it is a naive assumption that one can simply pretend that race doesn’t exist after centuries of race-based oppression, turmoil, and revolution. In fact, prior to broadening the scope of President Kennedy’s executive order, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a considerably more pragmatic statement:

"You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you're free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates or opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates .... We seek not...just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result."

This shift in paradigm, from the passive assumption of a color-blind meritocracy to the proactive promotion of equality came to fruition with the support of none other than Richard Nixon. Who was eulogized this way by Fortune magazine:

"Incredible but true, it was the Nixonites who gave us employment quotas."

In actuality, the incredible thing is that, in 1994, a magazine as professional as Fortune, which no doubt has a full staff of fact checkers, can characterize affirmative action as mere "employment quotas." From the same article:

Did the Philadelphia Plan establish quotas? Absolutely not, said officials in the Labor Department. Shultz and Fletcher distinguished between racial quotas that compelled employers to hire a set number of African Americans and goals that simply established numerical ranges for minority employment. Under a quota system, employers who failed to hire a specific number of minorities would face immediate sanctions, while a policy of numerical ranges only punished contractors who failed to demonstrate a good faith effort to meet their goals. Accordingly, Labor Department Solicitor Laurence H. Silberman and Attorney General John N. Mitchell found no conflict between the Philadelphia Plan and the Civil Rights Act. At any rate, such practical men as Shultz, Fletcher, and Silberman probably were more interested in opening skilled jobs to minorities than in splitting hairs distinguishing between quotas and goals.

What would cause a Republican president to commit what some would consider to have been political suicide, and would cause at least one republican opponent of the Philadelphia plan to utter the words:

"[T]his thing is about as popular as a crab in a whorehouse"

We might never know Nixon’s true motives, but it appeared he was a man who understood how privilege, and the lack thereof, affects opportunity. (Um, that's some irony there, for those of you who are struggling to keep up.)
Privilege, specifically white privilege is defined:

white privilege, a social relation

1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.

b. A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.

2. A privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non–white persons.

3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to white persons as a social relation; prerogative.

b. display of white privilege, a social expression of a white person or persons demanding to be treated as a member or members of the socially privileged class.

4. a. To invest white persons with a privilege or privileges; to grant to white persons a particular right or immunity; to benefit or favor specially white persons; to invest white persons with special honorable distinctions.

b. To avail oneself of a privilege owing to one as a white person.

5. To authorize or license of white person or persons what is forbidden or wrong for non–whites; to justify, excuse. 6. To give to white persons special freedom or immunity from some liability or burden to which non–white persons are subject; to exempt.

And, while some might argue that the world has changed, since the inception of affirmative action, to allow for more inclusion and opportunity, regardless of race, reality doesn’t bear that out. In fact, the amount of information that points to a continued bias against people of color from all income levels and in all areas of society is alarming, disturbing, and downright disgusting.

I ask you, kind Iron Blog readers, how these statistics can be interpreted without either espousing a philosophy of Social Darwinism or admitting that the playing field is so far from being level that there are some people who are standing freaking sideways...or upside down!

Gentle readers, as the tagline on my blog states, I believe most emphatically in the inherent goodness of all beings. Which of course means that I believe that people are inherently good. However, with all of the evidence pointing to the obvious systemic shortcomings in promoting opportunities for people of all races, it is clear that the solution does not lie within relying on the goodness of individual people. The solution lies within developing and nurturing a system which actively promotes and provides opportunity for people who are frequently running to stand still. Not people individually, because certainly people of color are not defined by failure and struggle alone. We, as a society composed of individual people, have the strength as a united group to combat the lasting effects of institutionalized bias against people of color. We can do this by strengthening our commitment to promote reasonable goals to counteract the effects of bias towards people of color. Yes. But that’s not the only way. Affirmative action assumes that those it affects have already made it through the system without giving up or being jailed (with or without having committed an actual crime). In a society in which race-based schisms begin in the womb, continue through a person's education and career, and ends in prison and/or death (typically at a younger age than a white person) - affirmative action is just one way to attempt to bring equality and opportunity to people of all races.

In my job as a coordinator and instructor at a community technology center, at which I am honored to serve a wide array of people from various ethnic groups and income levels, one of the keys to success lies in providing WIIFM to the people that I serve. WIIFM is short for "What’s in it for me?" If you are reading this post, and you are not a person of color and do not feel that you benefit from affirmative action, I ask you to consider the evidence I have presented here and will present in future posts. I ask you to sincerely look at how privilege influences your life. I ask you to consider what solutions you would offer for the discrepancies I present to you, and those that present themselves to the people at whom affirmative action is directed. And I re-state that affirmative action is but one of many necessary tools – a bulldozer, if you will – aimed at clearing the obstacles that stand in the path of true equality and viable opportunities.

Thank you for your time,

Drucilla B. Blood, Iron Blogger Green


Battle Affirmative Action - Opening Argument - Challenger

I want to thank the chairman for his gracious invitation. I welcome the opportunity before the Iron Blog Green and the judges to debate this important topic.

I will say that I agree with author Catharine R. Stimpson, who pegged the debate on this issue thusly:
The historical arguments about affirmative action ... have been serious and sometimes profound. Its supporters have claimed that affirmative action is an essential tool for the pulling down of discrimination and the putting up of justice. Its opponents have claimed that affirmative action is a misguided - even immoral - piece of social engineering that will, perversely, perpetuate discrimination in the name of ending it.

Unfortunately, the arguments about affirmative action often have also been stupid and vicious. When this happens, its supporters have ignored its weaknesses - in theory and in practice. Its opponents have inflamed racial tensions and distorted affirmative action - in theory and in practice - for political gain. - "Rethinking Affirmative Action"

My hope here is to keep the debate in the range of the first paragraph, and avoid any slips into the terrain of the second.

A sad sign of the times

Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

A part of me is saddened every time I read that phrase.

If you haven't read the employment pages lately, you might have missed that phrase. I see it a lot. Part of my job as webmaster of a professional organization web site is updating the job page. So I'm familiar with it. This site has the most complete version I've seen so far:
Women, minorities, persons with disabilities, Vietnam-era veterans and disabled veterans are encouraged to apply. 

It's the last thing. Always the last thing that people put on the announcement, below the EEO/AA symbol.

It saddens me as much as would seeing a "Whites Only" sign in the window of a restaurant. It says to me that I'm not welcome.

Because I have a dirty little secret. I'm a white male. Now, I'm actually 1/8 Cherokee, which qualifies me under federal definitions to be considered a minority. But I don't "look" like a native American, so I've always been loathe to engage in a policy of self-victimization. I've never lost a job because of Affirmative Action. I've been accepted to every college I've applied to, so I have no personal connection to the recent University of Michigan cases that were a split decision on affirmative action.

But It is my settled conviction that affirmative action programs as set forth in this day and age are counterproductive to the achievement of a truly diverse society. Programs which elevate race (or other genetically determined attributes like sex) as a preference in determining access to the promise of the future are a profound affront to the philosophical underpinnings of the U.S. Finally, rather than promoting equality, affirmative action in fact builds up walls between races and sexes.

Defining Affirmative Action
Just so we're clear on what we're discussing, I'll call upon the Washington Post for a helpful definition:
Born of the civil rights movement three decades ago, affirmative action calls for minorities and women to be given special consideration in employment, education and contracting decisions.

Institutions with affirmative action policies generally set goals and timetables for increased diversity – and use recruitment, set-asides and preference as ways of achieving those goals.

In its modern form, affirmative action can call for an admissions officer faced with two similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman for a job instead of a man. Affirmative action decisions are generally not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates. And they are not supposed to harm anyone through "reverse discrimination."

It is the qualifiers in the last paragraph that concern opponents of affirmative action, myself included. Because at the heart of it, affirmative action has led to forms of reverse discrimination and "quotas" like the Michigan undergraduate admissions standards that were overturned by a 6-3 decision in Gratz v. Bollinger. In that case, the Wolverines' admissions crew gave 20 points to every minority for their race (out of a total 150), regardless of other factors.

These are not the hard quotas that the Supreme Court addressed in its Bakke decision (in which 16 spots were "reserved" for blacks), but "soft" quotas that achieve the same non-egalitarian aim through less obviously discriminatory means.

It is ironic that Affirmative Action causes such varied reactions among people, given its origin in the rather innocuous (for once) phrasing of President Lyndon Johnson:
The actual phrase "affirmative action" was first used in President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Executive Order 11246 which requires federal contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." (the sex of the employee would be added to non-discrimination clauses soon after)

Sounds like a noble goal, right? But what initially was meant to take race (and other irrelevant factors like creed, color or national origin) OUT OF the employment equation ended up as a method of making sure that race (and later sex) was INCLUDED IN the hiring equation.

Race-based decision-making is contrary to the American ideal
I would start off at the beginning. The Declaration of Independence spells out a clear foundation for political thought in the U.S.:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," (emphasis added).

I believe that statement has merit today. I realize that the U.S. hasn't been perfect in its implementation of the ideals expressed in the Declaration. I am more than a little aware of our shortcomings in this area, but I believe the ideal is the best expression of the fundamental thing - the essence - of the greatness that is the United States. When we depart from that ideal, we do further harm in the name of redresses past wrongs.

It was just such a bedrock that served as the inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, when he looked back and saw that the U.S. had not lived up to its vision. Dr. King dreamed that the vision would come.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

It is my belief that the very institution of affirmative action has made such a dream impossible. Rather, our society has moved to a point where such purposeful use of race and sex in hiring decisions should become a thing of the past. In this, I only disagree with the Supreme Court with relation to the timing of the sunset of such biased decision-making.
Justice O'Connor: "race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." - Grutter v. Bollinger

Affirmative Action causes further division, rather than unity
Consider this definition of minority from Michigan State University (don't want to discriminate among Michigan universities):
(6) "Minority" is defined by the Federal Inter-Agency Committee on Education as one who is a member of one of the following groups: a. American Indian or Alaskan Native; b. Asian or Pacific Islander; c.Black (African-American); and d. Hispanic.

So Middle-Easterners, Europeans, Africans (such as Teresa Heinz-Kerry), and Indians (real Indians) are not considered "minorities"? What about New Zealanders? Aren't they in the Pacific?

I'm sure that comes as news to many of those minority group members, since they make up significantly small amounts of the U.S. population. But so often, "minority" is really a code word for "underrepresented minorities," who apparently are not able to make it into good schools and good jobs on their own merits. So we learn that it's better from an AA standpoint to be a member of one minority than another minority. Which is confused by the fact that Asians actually outperform whites on standardized tests and are represented quite well in admissions.

And not only are some minorities better than others, but being a certain minority is sometimes better than being a woman. Or so it would seem from the Michigan cases.

It is one of the ironies that few discusses with regards to the Michigan cases: both the undergraduate and graduate school cases were filed by women. Women who happened to be the wrong color, according to the Michigan admissions standards.

And the preferential admission of blacks and hispanics has fueled resentment among asians as well (as referenced above).

In fact, rather than seeing opportunity as something that is an expanse that each student can be able to achieve in one way or another, affirmative action positions opportunity as a limited pie, where one group must lose for another to gain. If you aren't in one of the preferred groups, tough luck.

Affirmative action doesn't address real diversity
The current Republican president has one of the most racially diverse cabinets in history. And yet those on the left paint him as indifferent to the concerns of other races.

Clarence Thomas is the second black to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, a man who grew up in extreme poverty in rural Georgia. And yet, he is considered a traitor to his race.

In fact, blacks who have expressed opposition to - or even questioning the wisdom of - affirmative action and race-based policies have been labeled with similar epithets.

Affirmative action is an affront to real diversity, which occurs in the mind - beyond the confines of the color of ones' skin. For a true appreciation, perhaps Michigan Law School should strive to accept more libertarians or greens into its hallowed halls, rather than judging by the color of skin.

In conclusion, let me state for the record that I am not here arguing against anti-discrimination laws. I am all in favor of enforcing the laws against discrimination in hiring and admissions practices. But I do not think it wise to set up another set of discriminatory policies is helping us to achieve the goals of ending racism and ensuring equal opportunity.

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