March 27, 2005
The Persecution of the Majority
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Here's one little snippet: a woman in Tampa, FL, buys caramel machiattos from Starbucks. She notes that the quotes on the side of the cups, part of Starbucks' new "The Way I See It" campaign, have more liberal thinkers quoted than conservatives. She says:
"There are a lot of great conservative quotes, but oh well, I'm not surprised. I'm used to being under-represented."
So, her party controls the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court; a vast majority of pundits and commentators in the media are conservatives, and the culture of conservatism runs deep in the media in general. And this poor woman feels that she is always "under-represented" because her coffee cups disagree with her more often than not.
This mirrors a comment by Tim recently, something discussed just a bit in the media, about the irony of a majority which feels it is persecuted. Christians, for example, enjoy an exalted status in this country, where every belief system is supposed to be equal. But in the media and in society as a whole, Christianity is dominant--even in government, where its incursions over the past few hundred years have given it special recognition that no other belief system enjoys. But like privileged white males who feel that minorities and women are stealing away their justly deserved status and position, right-wing Christians are expressing the feeling of persecution and oppression when they cannot have the dominance they feel is only natural and right.
And when you look at people crying persecution, it does, more often than not, seem to come from the mouths of conservative Christian white males--a group which at this time have a greatly disproportionate amount of influence and power in American life.
When you feel that it is your right to be of a higher status than everyone else, anything less than that may well feel like persecution. But you look pretty ridiculous to everyone else when you're on top of the heap and are crying about persecution.
Posted by Luis at March 27, 2005 11:12 AM
It seems to me that there is legislation which supports positive discrimination - "affirmative action" and such - for almost everyone other than white males these days. I attended a presentation one day held by our Personnel manager who went through the list of those parties who were 'protected' by law:
o non-english speakers
and a few other groups (I'm sure there were four or five) which, after being subtracted from the universal set, left only white males ('aged' might have been another one).
I'm a white male, and I *don't* believe that "it is [my] right to be of a higher status than everyone else". But I think just one law like:
"hire the best man/woman for the job"
would do, rather than instead targetting every minority that one can find.
Why can't it be that simple?
I'm fairly sure (trembling in fear of a vicious attack by Luis, armed with actual *facts*!) that various governments and institutions these days have 'quotas' that, directly or indirectly, mean that the minorities are given preference over white males. Do you think that's fair? (If such quotas do exist). I think I recall recent challenges over University admission policies in the USA. Is that fair?
Posted by: brad at April 1, 2005 01:06 PM
I'll try to be gentle... :-)It seems to me that there is legislation which supports positive discrimination - "affirmative action" and such - for almost everyone other than white males these days. I attended a presentation one day held by our Personnel manager who went through the list of those parties who were 'protected' by law:o nativeso non-english speakerso womenI've heard this before and it is always vague; the critical question is, what does "protected" mean, and how does it impact hiring and promotion? As I understand it, "protection" simply means that it is illegal to discriminate against these people on the grounds of sex, race, or any other non-job-relevant determination. You seem to be assuming that it means that they are given special privileges or status; I would suggest finding out precisely what those terms mean if you have not already--it might be far a more reasonable determination than you imagine. If it is not, then it is likely that your organization is implementing quotas/AA incorrectly--that is not unheard of, especially due to misunderstandings created by urban myths, usually coming from the media or right-wing commentators.I'm a white male, and I *don't* believe that "it is [my] right to be of a higher status than everyone else". I never said you were. I said that if that's how you feel...
Moreover, unfortunately, being of a higher status does not require your belief, acceptance, or even awareness. If an employer, for example, hires you and not a black woman because your employer is more comfortable with you on the basis of familiarity, then you will receive the benefit and never be aware that you got it. That's the nature of the beast I'm describing. I would add that I believe that 90%+ of all discrimination is not intentional--it's not neo-nazi extremists plotting against minority groups, but rather perfectly reasonable people influenced by cultural assumptions, personal comfort levels (which are always highest within one's own gender/race), and other subconscious considerations we are not fully aware of.
Discrimination is rampant--note the common studies done (like this one, or this from the WSJ) where identically qualified whites and blacks go to job interviews and white get far more callbacks than blacks, or simply note the radically disproportionate distribution of white males in higher positions, and women and minorities in lower positions. And as I noted, you can be (a) not racist in the least, not even subconsciously, yet (b) benefit from discrimination because of your employer's actions, and (c) you will be completely unaware that it ever happened.But I think just one law like:"hire the best man/woman for the job"would do, rather than instead targetting every minority that one can find.Why can't it be that simple?Because racism and sexism don't allow that. You see, the assumption is that quotas are an action, when in fact, they are a reaction. Racism and sexism are what puts the whole system off well before quotas come into the picture--they shun minorities and women who may well be the best people for the job--unless one believes that white males are innately better-qualified than minorities and women. So before there are any quotas at all, our society is already not hiring the best men/women for our jobs, generally speaking. The system is already off-kilter, already targeting people who are not best-qualified. Quotas are a redress, not a stand-alone movement acting in a vacuum. And note that in the absence of racism and sexism, quotas by their nature have no affect at all!
Also note that quotas NEVER require the hiring of unqualified personnel, nor do they require hiring to match the local population demographics (they require hiring to match the demographics within the local qualified pool of workers).
As for hiring the "best" instead of simply "qualified" people, there's the societal edge--blacks, for example, are far more likely to suffer from poverty and have poor-quality schools in their communities than whites, which gives whites the edge in being just a bit better-qualified; this disparity is a direct result of past discrimination. It's easy to say "tough luck, that's the way it is," especially when you're not on the short end of that equation.
Read my post, "Rush, Quotas, and the Discriminatory Double-Standard" for a much more detailed look at AA and quotas and how they work.I'm fairly sure (trembling in fear of a vicious attack by Luis, armed with actual *facts*!) that various governments and institutions these days have 'quotas' that, directly or indirectly, mean that the minorities are given preference over white males. Do you think that's fair? (If such quotas do exist). Again, read the above-cited link, and remember that quotas are a reaction, not an action. Quotas never kick in unless a pre-existing bias can be demonstrated, and that is usually very hard to assert. Furthermore, if the local workforce is 10% black, and you hired 1000 people in a fair process, then roughly 10% of the people you hired should be black, and quotas will not require you to change a thing.
If you answer no other point in this response, answer this one:
Look at government, in which quotas have been mandatory for decades--and yet, white males still disproportionately dominate the higher-level, higher-paying jobs, while minorities and often women dominate the lower-level, lower-paying jobs.
Ask yourself: if, by the quota, minorities and women are getting "preference" over white males, then how are the white males dominating the best jobs? The answer: there is an even greater, unseen force pushing things in the other direction. Either that, or minorities and women are inherently inferior to white males. Do you have an alternate explanation?I think I recall recent challenges over University admission policies in the USA. Is that fair?University admission policies are a different animal, and are typically (if not always) voluntary, not mandated. I would again argue the poverty/poor public schools point, but in this regard, I would just as easily favor universities giving a big boost not to minorities and/or women, but to anyone coming from a poor background. Watcha think?
Posted by: Luis at April 2, 2005 03:21 AM
> Watcha think?
I think you were gentle ... :-)
Your big point seems to be "in the absence of racism and sexism, quotas by their nature have no affect at all!". I.e., I assume, if there was no malignancy affecting employment then the employee demographic would reflect that of the local citizenry?
I don't know. I think a lot of it might just come back to the sad fact that a lot of the minorities simply don't measure up to whites because they didn't enjoy the same benefits in their upbringing, as you mention. Which I think should be fixed at the root of the problem - better schooling to the minorities so the next generation will come out entirely 'equal' and the existing system will redress everything automatically, without any fixes. As you suggest in your closing remark.
A trivial example of perhaps 'affirmative action' going the wrong way, for me ... I rang up the tax office's help line the other day and spoke to an ethnic whom I really couldn't understand, the accent was that thick. She should not have been employed in a position which entailed telephone support in a country with English as the official language. I reckon that's an example of governmental meddling with job quotas and short-term political bandaids.
I'll have to check out your 'Rush' link for those examples of AA policies in action.
Posted by: Brad at April 4, 2005 03:44 PM
I think a lot of it might just come back to the sad fact that a lot of the minorities simply don't measure up to whites because they didn't enjoy the same benefits in their upbringing, as you mention.Some of it, to be sure--but also there is undoubtedly the fact that since minorities and women are discriminated against, even the better-performing ones are often not hired or promoted (the old "I have to work twice as hard just to be accepted half as much" paradigm), it is not simply underperformance. In the absence of racial and sexual discrimination, I would agree that whatever is left is a specter of discrimination in schooling and social status per se, but we do not live in that absence. Therefore the redress to discrimination cannot be thrown out simply because part of the redress is caused by the effects of past discrimination.
This leads us to:Which I think should be fixed at the root of the problem - better schooling to the minorities so the next generation will come out entirely 'equal' and the existing system will redress everything automatically, without any fixes. As you suggest in your closing remark.The closing-remark point I made concerned university admissions only, not job-related matters. I agree with your ideas, but only up to a point. Present-day social status and the poor quality of education for minority classes are caused by discrimination, just as a minority not being hired or promoted today is caused by discrimination. Both are unjust denials of opportunity caused by discrimination, so IMHO both should be redressed.
To suggest that fundamental education disparities be redressed is all well and good, except for two problems: first, such disparities are not being redressed, and there is close to nil chance that they will be in our lifetimes, and second, even if education were put back on track, that is little comfort to all those who missed out already and now suffer for no better reason than that they too were discriminated against.
I don't think we can dismiss any kind of discrimination without thought and action to redress. Some people say it's better to do nothing than to engage in "positive discrimination," but if you read my post on how inaction is mistakenly assumed to be void of responsibility, you'll see that inaction is actually worse than even "positive discrimination." Think about it: by doing nothing, you are allowing an even greater discriminatory imbalance to prevail; just because you stood by instead of taking direct action does not lessen your responsibility.
We think it is better to "do nothing" than to positively discriminate, but in fact, "doing nothing" is discriminating just the same or worse, by inaction rather than action. Failing to act has consequences which are just as real. Take for example the idea of disciplining children; punishment that may seem cruel to a child is done to avoid a greater cruelty overall. But would you say that a child should never be disciplined (corporally or otherwise) because you would feel more comfortable to not engage in active discipline? We would surely blame a parent who refrained from discipline because they didn't want to be responsible for being tough on their kids, resulting in badly-raised children. "Inactive discrimination" and "positive discrimination" are the choices, and you cannot absolve yourself or society by choosing the former solely because it seems to be hands-off.
While education should be reformed on the basis of poverty, inequalities in the job market caused by discrimination present or past should be redressed independently.A trivial example of perhaps 'affirmative action' going the wrong way, for me ... I rang up the tax office's help line the other day and spoke to an ethnic whom I really couldn't understand, the accent was that thick. She should not have been employed in a position which entailed telephone support in a country with English as the official language. I reckon that's an example of governmental meddling with job quotas and short-term political bandaids.You probably don't reckon correctly, for two reasons: first, neither AA nor quotas EVER require the hiring of ANYONE who is not at least minimally qualified for the job; an English-language support line should never hire someone who cannot speak local dialects well enough to be understood. That is not quotas at work, that is poor hiring practices. Second, you seem not to have considered the very real, and very likely possibility that you were not speaking to someone located in America, but rather in India or some other country; even the IRS farms out their customer support to other countries, just like everyone else these days.
And that, along with my other points, is one of the themes I try to touch on: so many people get the impression that AA and/or quotas are wreaking havoc when most likely 99% of the time these are not accurate examples of AA or quotas, or they are not unreasonable if one examines them fully and sees the real, whole effect.
Posted by: Luis at April 5, 2005 01:10 PM