View Full Version : Affirmative Action/Racism
Sat, 10th Aug '02, 5:47pm
I was reading through Methyl's discussion on sexism and saw a few passing references to this, which inspired me to give it a topic. Basically, let's debate the pros and cons on this. I'm interested in hearing your opinions.
Personally, I dislike it. It penalizes people for being in the majority regardless of ability. I can see little use for it in a society that states that racism and sexism is not present. This sure is. It's racism against the majority. It causes them to lose opportunities that they may have had because they were born into the majority.
Sat, 10th Aug '02, 7:08pm
I think that the discussion could be tightened. Rather than just affirmative action, let's put it in a context. Here is one: should race be a factor in admission to medical school? Consider that in the U.S. the poorest sector of our society is African-American and not surprisingly these poor neighborhoods suffer from a dire lack of medical personnel. This leads to a lower standard of health care than in the rich, affluent, typically white neighborhoods where access to medical care is bountiful. There have been attempts by medical schools to try to entice people to work with the poor using scholarships as the enticement. This hasn't worked. However, what is noted is that a minority doctor is much, much, much more likely to practice in an underserved area for whatever reasons -- draw your own conclusions. Schools that have used race as a criteria for admission to medical school have noted that the number of doctors serving in underprivileged communities doubled when they started the admissions program.
So, using race as one factor for admissions to med school means more doctors for those that need them the most. Distilled to its essence, the purpose of government is to protect its citizens. Part of the duty of the government is to ensure access to cruicial services such as medical care on an equal basis to all. No other method seems to have worked (scholarships, charities etc.) but making race a factor to admission to med school has worked. Because of the compelling nature of the need for medical care, it seems to me that "affirmative action" is an excellent thing in this context.
Sat, 10th Aug '02, 9:49pm
Hmmm. . . is it me, or is the Whatnots forum getting full of more serious topics now? :p
Okay, as I understand it, affirmative action is basically discrimination. They discriminate "positively", as a certain number of Whites, or Blacks, or Hispanics, or Asians so that every race gets to be in a workplace or education-place or whatever in equal amounts in terms of race or ethnicity. But if racism is false, in the sense that no race is superior to another, then affirmative action, like racism, is absurd because people ought to be measured by their own worth, not their color of their skin, or their creeds, or their ethnicities, regardless of whether the discrimination has positive or negative results.
However, while there is pretty much no thing as race on the genetic level for Homo Sapiens, as more difference on the genetic level exists between two people than between two races, there are definitely cultural and social differences between races. As Laches pointed out, among the poorest groups in America tend to be Blacks, and among the richer, more affulent people tend to be Whites. So if people got jobs based on affirmative action, perhaps poorer people would get more jobs that they need, and richer people could stand to lose some jobs or money to poorer people.
I'm pretty much saying that affirmative action has its ups and downs. While it may overlook 100 well-qualified White (or otherwise affluent) people, it also helps give more Black (or otherwise poor) people jobs.
[ August 10, 2002, 21:52: Message edited by: C'Jakob ]
Sun, 11th Aug '02, 3:28am
I have mixed feelings about affirmative action. I was angered in the Army when women friends who had joined hoping to become nurses were put into the infantry instead to satisfy the whims of Public Relations captains who wouldn't know which end of a gun goes bang.
On the other hand- while of course I don't think that people should be hired for any reason except their ability to do the job better than the other candidates, I'd have to be even more mindlessly idealistic than I actually am to think that that would happen without affirmative action. People hire people with whom they feel a rapport while reading the resume or during the interview- and this is most often someone of the same gender, age and race as the person interviewing. This won't matter so much in a few years, when the workforce (particularly upper management) is more ethnically diverse, because the people doing the hiring will belong to more diverse ethnic groups so one particular group will not be favoured overall.
Consider this: You are an Anglo-saxon person looking for a carpenter in the telephone directory. You have four choices: two are long foreign names you don't know how to pronounce, the third is a woman with a young-sounding name, and the fourth is "John Brown". Without even thinking about it you will probably call John Brown because his name sounds right for what you imagine a carpenter should look like. But guess what? You have just discriminated against three potential employees based on characteristics that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job.
And there are jobs where belonging to an ethnic minority does offer benefits. The police are often dismissed as racist and sexist rather than the impartial enforcers of law that we would like them to be. A more ethnically diverse police force could significantly improve relations with non-Anglo-Saxon communities as well as reducing the likelihood of Rodney-King type embarrassments.
I once got a job loading trucks at a grocery store's warehouse after applying as a cashier: because of their affirmative action policy, I had to take a "traditionally male" entry level job instead of a "traditionally female" one. They didn't expect me to pass the physical fitness test, or for that matter accept. None of the other women lining up to be cashiers did. But you know what? It turned out loading trucks paid $7 an hour. Cashiers got $4.50. In general women do get paid less for entry level jobs than men do, so in this case affirmative action benefited me. Hmmm... no complaints for me, except for the fact that the men decorated the warehouse in ribbons and doilies to celebrate my arrival, and the men complained constantly that women were taking over the warehouse. 1 woman, 80 men- and that was one woman too many for them. Pretty good argument for affirmative action right there. Without the benefits of affirmative action, I never would have got that lousy $7/hour job and experienced sexual harrassment firsthand! (Note to the humourless: this is irony.)
Finally, I think the problems that result from affirmative action, while regrettable, don't occur as often as people think; there's a whole lot of exaggeration going on. A number of my friends became police officers around the time I was graduating from college, and all the guys I knew who didn't get in reported that they were told the job had been given to a black or a woman with a lower score. I went to a graduation parade and was amused to hear the guy sitting next to me say, "Yeah, I always wanted to be a cop, but these days you've got to be a black disabled lesbian to get hired." I looked down at the faces on parade and noted that there were dozens of white men, one dark-skinned man, one dark-skinned woman, and one white woman in the graduation group. That dark-skinned woman singlehandedly stole at least 8 white men's jobs. You go, girl! :rolleyes:
Sun, 11th Aug '02, 9:01pm
Sounds like I'm outnumbered here. No problem. I'll give the take from the management's viewpoint, rather than the employee's.
I'll take whoever is most qualified for the job, period. While I am occasionally forced to hire less than ideal people because of the government's regulation, I consider my corporation unbiased in its hiring practices.
Now, from an economic viewpoint, affirmative action costs money from the private sector. That person I was forced to hire over a far more qualified candidate is required to get the same salary. The end result: I get less work and lower quality for the same price, and lose money. This costs all of us money, not just the companies. For example, let's say I did take the far more qualified person (we'll say, white male) over the lesser qualified person (black female). That would be in the best interest of my company, however, I promptly get accused of being racist and get sued. Who wins the lawsuit is immaterial, the litigation still costs the taxpayer money.
I can see how in the past, AA may have been important to secure equal opportunity, however, now it is an obselecent system that is being put under the scrutiny that it should be.
Before anyone jumps to conclusion, in my region of the company, there are more females than males employed, and all the employees come from a myriad of races.
[ August 11, 2002, 21:03: Message edited by: Rastor ]
Mon, 12th Aug '02, 2:34am
Just a friendly pointer Rastor. And this is purely from a Business students point of view.
Its also going to cost the company its reputation. We do have to think about that and consumer relations...
Mon, 12th Aug '02, 2:58pm
The problem dogging affirmative action is that it relies on the existence of racism in everyone with power.
It's assumed that a white guy hiring people will tend to hire more white people. It's assumed that colleges admitting students will let white people in first. It's assumed (as Laches did above) that white doctors will want to serve rich white patients.
While this may be the case in some instances, perhaps in many instances, affirmative action is inherently unfair in that it harasses the non-racist among us without need.
Tiger Woods recently played golf at a club that doesn't admit women. He was asked by a crusading reporter if he was going to agitate for the club to abandon its men-only policy. He said that it's their club so they should be able to make the rules as they like.
That's why affirmative action is evil. So what if people turn to John Brown for my carpenter because his name is neither female for foreign? It's not fair, but there a millions of unfair tendencies in the world.
And it is not the federal government's role to try to make everything fair.
Life isn't fair. Deal with it. Without taking my money or forcing me into some idiotic race-counting policy.
Mon, 12th Aug '02, 3:51pm
Shralp, just a note about the medical school inforamtion above, it has been empirically verified that an admissions policy where race is a factor drastically increases the number of doctors in underprivileged neighborhoods. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia released the report based upon a few different medical schools. I didn't just assume this.
Also, noone has talked about what and where. What is affirmative action. Where are we talking about. There is a bit of an incorrect generalization that there is some law that says, for instance, that you have to hire a certain number of minorites. There isn't. As a matter of fact, in the United States, a quota system is illegal. If you reade the Bakke case the Supreme Court made it very clear many, many years ago that to have a quota system (you must hire a certain number of minorites) is a surefire way to get your butt sued by members of the majority who might have been discriminated against. Even if it is not a stated quota system, if the evidence shows that a de facto quota system is in place, the plan is illegal and you WILL lose a suit because the Court has clearly stated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment applies to protect the majority as well as minority (this used to be a huge debate many years ago by the way.)
Now, if quota systems are illegal what is this affirmative action we're talking about? Well, I know what I'm talking about but it sounds like some above are talking about quota systems. What I speak of in the medical school context is this: the school looks at a students G.P.A. and multiplies it by 100 and then it looks at the M.C.A.T scores and if together they add up to a certain number you are automatically accepted -- they have no idea what your race is. If the number is too low, you are automatically rejected -- they have no idea what your race is. For those students in between they look at all kinds of things like letters of why you want in, letters of recommendation, what sports you played, your work history, charities you worked with, and yes, your race. This sort of all comprehensive plan where race is a single factor may be dubbed "affirmative action" but it certainly isn't a quota system.
Shralp above says it isn't the federal government's job to make things fair. Well, it is the federal government's to protect people. It does so with the Army and it does so with the F.B.I. and by providing funding to the states when they perform their police duties. Now, if it is the federal government's job to protect people, it seems to me that one hell of a way to do so is to make sure that its citizens have access to medical care -- prenatal care is something particularly important that has long gone unfurunished to the poor communities. The "affirmative action" plan detailed above is the only effective means they have found to entice doctors to serve underprivileged communities so far (they tried 3 or 4 different scholarship programs first) so, it seem like the program is working splendidly in this instance to significantly further a compelling governmental interest.
This is why I think we need to get specific, it isn't fair to lump an illegal quota system in with other types of affirmative action systems. Like lumping tylenol in with heroin when discussing drugs. So, if you're talking about something else, maybe we could precisely define what type of "affirmative action" we're talking about. I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm really being selfish I suppose, since it is the only way I can be sure what we're talking about.
[ August 12, 2002, 15:51: Message edited by: Laches ]
Mon, 12th Aug '02, 4:58pm
Laches: I'm not sure what you're trying to say about the federal government and the army. Are you saying that the government upholds the statutes they give to us? That's why the army is letting in homosexuals in large numbers and women are allowed to be Navy SEALs. Get real. The federal government does not use affirmative action in its industries, so I cannot see why the civilian population has to.
For those students in between they look at all kinds of things like letters of why you want in, letters of recommendation, what sports you played, your work history, charities you worked with, and yes, your race.And if that race is a minority, you are far more likely to be accepted. That's still discrimination, despite anyone's attempts to justify it.
Its also going to cost the company its reputation. We do have to think about that and consumer relations...I couldn't agree more. That's one of my reasons for opposing affirmative action.
And it is not the federal government's role to try to make everything fair.
Life isn't fair. Deal with it. Without taking my money or forcing me into some idiotic race-counting policy.Yep. And it's not the governments job to make things fair. All people have the potential to be great at something. Just because I took advantage of it, someone who did not should not get preferential treatment.
Laches, what you are describing as affirmative action is still a system in which race is a factor. Race as a factor in any system has no place in a free society.
Shralp, I don't know what you were getting at by referencing that club. It's completely legal for a club to be discriminatory in its membership practices. You don't see the Boy Scouts admitting girls after all.
Well, it is the federal government's to protect people.And what is it protecting them from? Is it the government's job to protect people from outside sources? Yes, as you referenced. Is it the governments job to make life fair for the people who weren't willing to work hard to put themselves on the same level as another? No.
The truth is, Laches, that even though quota systems are illegal, the government has still called me up to ask how many african-americans I have working with the company. That's why I am still discussing this.
This thread is for any discussion about racist practices in the country, which includes affirmative action.
Mon, 12th Aug '02, 7:26pm
I appreciate that you're frustrated Rastor. The thing is that most medical schools receive a large amount of funding from the government. As a result, they have a duty to help make sure that all Americans have the opportunity to see a doctor when they are pregnant or they are sick. Currently not all Americans have that ability. The program I described helps alleviate that situation. That's protecting your citizens.
Here is what really bugs me, you reference "people who aren't willing to work hard to put themselve on the same level as another." To me that it looks like you are equating the poor with the lazy. Just because it is so important to me to show that this common myth is bunk I have a few statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the the Conference of Mayors. A low-income worker would need to work 87 hours a week in order to pay for housing with one-third of her income. 40% of of all homeless are employed and working. 52% of homeless are women and 65% of them live on the streets with a child under the age of 18. 22% of homeless are homeless due to domestic abuse and 23% are veterans. There is a common perception that being poor is a status beyond poverty. In 1786 Rev. Joseph Townsend stated that "the poor know little of the motives that stimulate the higher ranks to action...In general it is only hunger which can spurn and goad them to action." Modern society views the poor as "idle or dissolute persons, physically able to work, but unwilling." Cynthia Marby. In 1983 it was suggested by a city counselman in Ft. Lauderdale that one way to prevent the homeless from searching for food in the dumpsters would be to spray poison in the garbage.
You may think all of that drifted off topic. It's not. I was trying to show that there is an attitude, which your post seemed to display, that the poor are lazy and unwilling to work. It is an old attitude. The small number of statistics there I think show that that myth is untrue even amongst the most impoverished sector of our society.
It is easier to begrudge someone when they're perceived as lazy but not so easy when the reality is seen that that simply is not the case.
I'm sure that you didn't mean to say all poor people are lazy and deserve what they get but your post could be misinterpreted to say that because of the section I quoted above and I just wanted to point out that wasn't true.
I'm also genuinely curious. Quota systems are illegal. You say the government has called you and asked how many African Americans you have working for you. Who in the government? What did they want? What did they say? Were they simply taking a poll? Did they threaten you? Where is your company? Did they tell you you needed to hire more minorities and why? TIA.
Tue, 13th Aug '02, 2:37pm
If the goal is get doctors into lower-class neighborhoods then you should allocate money to get doctors into lower-class neighborhoods. Why bother giving money or preference to people based on the color of their skin instead of directly as an incentive to go into those neighborhoods that need to be served?
Small towns already do this with great success.
Of course, this assumes a few things: first, that the CDC study is valid (which is highly suspect given the overt politicization of the administration and the CDC's track record with such studies); second, that there is a need for more doctors in poor areas (in most poor metropolitan areas access to transit means that a doctor's proximity is nearly immaterial, and the afore-mentioned small town program covers poor rural areas); third, that if such an imbalance exists it's the federal government's role to correct it (which is isn't for the reasons Rastor pointed out).
Tue, 13th Aug '02, 4:51pm
Alright, sorry about the possible misinterpretation of my post. Yes, the poor are generally not lazy. What I dislike about affirmative action is that it makes it easier for the lazy to get ahead at the expense of those of us who work hard. They are the ones I was referencing to in my post.
The guys in the government that called was the Department of Labor. They did not threaten or anything else, so it was likely simply a poll. If quota systems are illegal though, I'm unable to see why the Department of Labor would be spending their time polling companies instead of handling other matters.
The thing is that most medical schools receive a large amount of funding from the government. As a result, they have a duty to help make sure that all Americans have the opportunity to see a doctor when they are pregnant or they are sick.Agreed, but their are better ways to do this. I am not a proponent of this, but perhaps government subsized healthcare? Or maybe they could buy insurance for all those who can't afford it. Regardless, there are better methods than affirmative action.