Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pride and Prejudice

Eww. There's something nasty crawling on my computer screen. Why, I do believe it is a Megan McArdle column about affirmative action. Thankfully the ACLU is very experienced in combating deeply inbred prejudice and can do the job of dredging this fetid swamp for me.

Put on your hazmat suit, folks. We're going in.
Continuing on yesterday's demographic theme, I've seen a fair number of people--including conservatives--arguing that the GOP needs to tack to the right on immigration in order to bring socially conservative latinos [sic] into their base. Since I'm in favor of more immigration, I would welcome that. But politically, I doubt it's sound strategic advice. As Heather MacDonald points out, Latino voters do not vote 100%, or even primarily, on immigration.
McArdle is linking to a National Review article, which is humiliating in and of itself. National Review gave us such gems as grossly racist and sexist John Derbyshire, vacuous twit and Jesus-humper Kathryn Jean Lopez, and libertarian economics writer Veronique De Rugy, who is wrong even more often than McArdle, if such a thing is humanly possible. The article itself is neither offensive nor ignorant but McArdle's reliance on such venues for intellectual support is very revealing of her point of view, and hopefully, her future employment.
They are heavy users of government services and generally fairly fiscally liberal. It seems more likely than not that the GOP would be supporting a drive to make millions of more Democratic voters, at least in the short term. The GOP strategists may well reckon that they are better off holding the line and letting assimilation bring latinos [sic] over onto their side.
McArdle, like many conservatives, assumes that Latinos will become more conservative as they become farther removed from the immigrant experience, despite the fact that she just said McDonald's article says the opposite. From the latter's article:
A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.
McArdle's hopes are resting on the assumption that everyone is like herself and wants to pull up the ladder after she has gained advantages.
Nor do I see the case for tacking left on affirmative action. I'm agnostic on affirmative action as a policy matter:it's an unjust way of rectifying a deep injustice.
Then she's not agnostic, is she? This is merely another attempt to seem fair-minded and avoid responsibility for her words, which otherwise might have some troublesome repercussions. Verily, there is nothing more unjust than being just! Affirmative action is only unjust if minorities are not disadvantaged in an historically WASP society. Let's hear from the ACLU:
From the end of the Civil War up until the middle of the 20th century, discrimination in many forms was a pillar of the American way of life. No laws protected racial minorities and women from biased employers, who were free to pass over a black worker in favor of a white worker or to reserve better paying jobs for white men only. Women were even barred by law from various jobs and professions.
I saw a television show from the early sixties (The Fugitive) that showed a man looking at want ads. There were separate columns for jobs for women and jobs for men. Without affirmative action McArdle would be teaching English in high school, or, more likely, teaching in an elementary school until she married, at which time she might be fired since before the Pill it was assumed that married women would become pregnant and quit.

What about now, in what conservatives say is a post-racial society?
Despite setbacks, the legal edifice of discrimination is gone, and the participation of minorities and women in the life of the nation has increased substantially. Nonetheless, stark inequalities remain.  
Women earn 55 to 75 percent of men's salaries.  
Many Latino and Asian workers face bias because they look or sound "foreign," according to a report published by the federal General Accounting Office. Stricter immigration laws have also triggered discrimination by employers, who, presuming that Latinos or Asian Americans are illegal aliens, often refuse to hire them.  
The face of poverty is disproportionately female and nonwhite. For example, 70 percent of black women hold "typically female," low wage jobs.  
The federal Commission on the Cities, convened in 1988, found that today's poor are poorer, and have less chance of escaping poverty, than 20 years ago.  
One third of all African American, and one fourth of all Latino, families live in poverty, compared to one tenth of white families. Native Americans remain the most impoverished minority in North America. Their communities are plagued with disproportionately high rates of unemployment, infant mortality, alcoholism and suicide. 
The unemployment rate for racial minorities is double that of whites.  
One in four African American males is in prison, on parole or on probation more than are in college.  
The ACLU believes that even though no single measure can eradicate discrimination, affirmative action remains a moral imperative and an indispensable strategy for giving those disadvantaged by discrimination a temporary leg up. In addition, the unique diversity of its human resource pool gives our nation enormous potential for developing solutions to all the problems it confronts in education, criminal justice, childcare and affordable housing, to name a few. The key to maximizing that potential is an end to discrimination and fulfillment of the Constitution's promise of freedom and equality, so that all Americans can have a chance to live productively and contribute to society.
My goodness, affirmative action sure is unjust and unnecessary!

And it's far from clear to me that on net it's good for the students who are admitted.
That's because McArdle assumes affirmative action recipients are inferior to white applicants.

Q: Don't affirmative action remedies force firms to employ unqualified workers, or universities to accept incompetent students, simply because they happen to be nonwhite or female?  
A: Absolutely not. Affirmative action has never been about hiring or admitting people solely because of their color or sex, without concern for any other factors. Affirmative action guidelines urge employers to make a sincere effort to find and train qualified people who have historically experienced exclusion from many occupations and professions. Or they urge universities to enhance their recruitment methods in order to find qualified African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American students, who generally have far less access to higher education than whites.  
In addition, employers are asked to drop "qualifications" that are unrelated to a job, but that have had the effect of excluding certain people. Such irrelevant standards include: requiring applicants for manual labor jobs to have high school degrees; experience requirements that largely disqualify women who apply for traditionally male jobs like truck driving, and tests requiring high proficiency in English that screen out people for whom English is a second language. For example, in 1990 some Cambodian immigrants charged that several industrial employers in the vicinity of Lowell, Massachusetts imposed English language based tests and high school diploma requirements for manual labor positions, among other arbitrary standards, to avoid hiring Cambodian applicants. Affirmative action policies that have challenged employers and schools to bring their standards into stricter line with the actual skill requirements of jobs and educational programs have reduced discrimination and made hiring and admissions processes fairer for all.  
Finally, it must be said that the widespread juxtaposition of affirmative action with "unqualified" itself reflects the pervasiveness of racial and sexual stereotypes in our society. Studies have shown that women and people of color, just by virtue of who they are, are automatically assumed to be less competent than white males for any task. This presumption of inferiority is so entrenched that even a woman or person of color who is actually more qualified is often perceived as being less so. Only by increasing diversity in American workplaces and on campuses will such stereotyping die out.
But that's rather beside the point, because it's a policy for a minority-minority country. In a nation where minorities are the majority of students, it's just ethnic quotas. Indeed, that's already somewhat the case; my understanding is that most of the extra spaces that go to black and latino [sic] students are taken from Asians, not whites.
McArdle is, as usual, incoherent when she claims affirmative action takes education spots from Asians and gives them to other minorities. Using McArdle's reasoning, without affirmative action high-performing Asians would take spots from whites, since McArdle obviously assumes other minorities are low performers. "My understanding is" is such a convenient phrase for those who don't think.

Q: Isn't affirmative action essentially a quota system?  
A: Not at all. Calling it a "quota system" distorts the reality of both what affirmative action intends and how it actually works. Affirmative action, which simply takes race and sex into account, is in some cases a legal remedy applied to a specific case of discriminatory exclusion, and in others a compensatory opportunity that an institution or employer provides voluntarily and temporarily to members of groups disadvantaged by discrimination.  
When a court orders an affirmative action plan as a legal remedy, it usually does so only after proof that persistent discrimination has resulted in total or near total exclusion of racial minorities or women, and only after other methods of achieving equality have failed.  
For example, in the 1974 case of Morrow v. Crisler, a federal court ordered the Mississippi Highway Patrol to make the hiring ratio of whites to blacks more equal. At the time, African Americans were 36.7 percent of the state population, yet not one black officer served on the Patrol. In 1979, the underrepresentation of Asian Americans on the San Francisco police force prompted a lawsuit that resulted in court ordered goals and timetables for hiring officers who could speak both English and Chinese. In both cases, the courts' decisions came only after the hiring practices were found to be discriminatory, and only after other, voluntary measures for promoting equality had proved ineffective.  
In cases where discrimination has been found to be extreme, the only reasonable way of remedying it is to set numerical goals that can reasonably be met within a prescribed period of time. Such goals, in effect, estimate the circumstance that would most likely prevail were there no discrimination. Seeking to discredit affirmative action, some critics insist on equating these remedial goals with "quotas." That equation is utterly false. The truth is that such goals are flexible, temporary and are remedial instruments of inclusion, while quotas are fixed, intended to be permanent and were used historically to exclude members of some ethnic groups from jobs and education.  
When used as a compensatory opportunity, affirmative action provides broad opportunities to racial minorities and women to make up for disadvantages they have long suffered because of discrimination. Universities and employers are asked to make an extra effort to seek out applicants whom they would not likely find through traditional methods of recruitment. Compensatory affirmative action sometimes means that a qualified candidate from a disadvantaged group is chosen instead of a candidate who is white and/or male.  
Affirmative action is only one method and not a perfect method of fighting a multifaceted, difficult problem. But the ACLU believes that affirmative action is a fair and moral remedy for institutionalized racism and sexism that must be used on an interim basis, where appropriate, if we are serious about achieving an equitable society.
So what should a new Republican politics for a majority-minority nation look like? I'm not sure. But I am fairly sure that future GOP platform will not look like current Democratic politics. And for that matter, neither will the future Democratic policies.
She hopes. But as we all know, McArdle's prognostication powers, not to mention intellectual powers, are a little weak, and conservatives' habit of basing one's political analysis on prejudice and ignorance is one of the reasons why we just elected President Obama, not Mitt Romney.


Ben Johannson said...

So what should a new Republican politics for a majority-minority nation look like? I'm not sure. But I am fairly sure that future GOP platform will not look like current Democratic politics. And for that matter, neither will the future Democratic policies.

So her conclusion is that she doesn't know but she knows things will someday change?

Susan of Texas said...

Perhaps she means Democrats will change their winning policies and Republicans will change their losing ones, because she sez so.

This post was unusually incoherent even for McArdle.

Downpuppy said...

I don't think you linked Megan anywhere, but it's a short post & you used about all of it.

I mostly went to it to see if "tacking right" made any sense in the original. It didn't.

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks! I'll correct that.

Susan of Texas said...

Is it just me or is her page very difficult to load? I keep getting a "long script" error message and page freezing and reloading.

Both Sides Do It said...

I like the phrase "inbred prejudice", it captures a lot in five syllables.

Downpuppy said...

TheBeast usually loads OK, but blows up if I try to post a link.

Kathy said...

Conservative sites nearly always crash my computer, and if they don't, I wish they had.

Arglebargle is a splendid example of the basic underlying dull simplemindedness of all conservatives, and of their lame-o attempts to rationalize their preference for "survival of the strongest" (richest & most corrupt) philosophy. In their world drug lords and mafia bosses are admirable practitioners of the "Free Market", and putting any constraints upon them at all is anti-evolutionary.

Or something. She can't even rationalize with coherence and consistency.

Anonymous said...

My god does she overuse the word "rather." What an annoying tick.

Duncan Mitchel said...

That's "tic," not "tick."

The best thing I've read on affirmative action is Fred L. Pincus, Reverse Discrimination: Dismantling the Myths (Lynne Rienner, 2003). It's a fairly short book, but packs in a lot of useful information.

One problem I see is that even many advocates of affirmative action don't understand what it means or how it works; in common usage it's come to mean basically "quotas," though that was never most of what it is about. Quotas have very rarely been imposed, and then only after institutions mounted a prolonged resistance to real nondiscrimination. This misunderstanding is only to be expected, though since Civil Rights antidiscrimination law in general are misunderstood, both by advocates and by opponents.

Here's something I wrote about a diversity-education bulletin board that was set up in the dorm where I worked for thirty years. If you read it, remember that the content was produced by someone who favored diversity.

Substance McGravitas said...

I'm not sure Republicans have to offer policies. What's that good for but getting them in trouble? Pick the right group to bash and promise tax cuts and shut the hell up about everything else.

Susan of Texas said...

That's "tic," not "tick."

Both could apply.

Substance, that's true but they can't stop pretending that they actually stand for something. Look at Douthat--he's given up on social issues but thinks he can peddle conservative economic issues. It's his job after all.