On Affirmative Action

Last week, Mother Jones came out with an article about affirmative action as a case is likely to head to the Supreme Court. You can read it here.

Affirmative action has always been a touchy subject for me. I write this blog in the hopes of drawing attention to everyday racism and white privilege and ways to improve the situation, but I have mixed feelings on AA. Here is where I stand (in list tl;dr format!):

  • Affirmative action is a government mandate for institutions like work and education to increase racial diversity. But that’s just it, it’s a mandate. There are no instructions on how to accomplish this so several policies exists, most are flawed.
  • I used to believe that using race to decided on policies was counter-intuitive to battle racism and why can’t we just ignore race and based decisions on merit? I no longer believe in this ignorant color-blind concept. Racism is pervasive and inequalities based on racial lines do exists. It has been proven. It cannot be ignore away.
  • I do not thing affirmative action should be stopped.
  • But I do think actions along the lines outlined here in this article should be emphasized:
    ‘”Previous efforts to curtail what are known as “race-conscious” policies have shown that “universities don’t just throw up their hands and give up on racial diversity,” says Rick Kahlenberg, an education expert at the Century Foundation. “They look to race-neutral alternatives, some of which can produce substantial racial and ethnic diversity.” ‘

A little more on the second point where some believe merit alone should be the deciding factor. The plain truth of the matter is not everyone has equal access to education and money. A large reason for this discrepancy is race and poverty and those are inextricably linked. Yes there are poor whites who might not have had access to this or that (I was one of them!), but poor whites are very much a drop in the bucket if you compare those numbers to those of basically any other race. Race-neutral solutions should be found, but that doesn’t mean we should stop collecting racial information; because if we don’t know there’s a problem we can’t work to solve it.

Race is not an equal topic

Recent years have seen a depressing pattern in which notable “ethnic” political figures— from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on down—end up having to extricate themselves from the tangles of racial politics, defending themselves from charges of “reverse racism,” “identity politics,” or the like. This may have much to do with the fact that, unlike their “nonethnic” counterparts, such “minority role models” are regularly asked to put on the public record—at lunches, award ceremonies, community events—lengthy statements of their views on America’s most explosive topic: race.

Slate: An Invitation You Can’t Refuse

Monica Youn is of course talking about the charges of “reverse racism” lobbed at Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayer, and that often, people of color are asked to talk about race and represent “their” race especially when achieving high office or appointments.

The charges of racism, because Sotomayer suggested that because she is a woman and a Latina, that she might have a better perspective than a white male judge, only really works if talking about race and racism was equal in this country. The sad truth of it is: it is not.

Whites do not have to talk about race. Whites do not have to defend themselves daily and especially when achieving high positions. Youn makes this point at the end of her article:

Frank talk about racial identity is neither racism nor its reverse and should be invited from “ethnic” and “nonethnic” figures alike. It’s hardly fair for minority candidates to be attacked for accepting invitations to talk about race when members of the silent majority are allowed to remain silent.

And that’s just it. While various ethnic groups strive to find individuality, acceptance and recognition of unique circumstances, mainstream America really only sees two “races”: white and not-white. Yet, whites often assume that since liberal teachings tell us that we are all equal, then the balance of these two races is just as equal. It is this myopic view where conservative pendants lash out when a person of color talks about race. They do not see, or they refuse to acknowledge the very real history and present reality of race in America.

Or maybe, just maybe, they are all too aware that with a black president, a powerful symbol of racial change, whites really will be seen as just another ethnic group.

It’s ethnic or something.

Check out this drivel posted recently about a Filipino named street in a part of SF’s South of Market District:

Hey, did you know that we have a Lapu Lapu Street? It’s true! Between 3rd and 4th on Harrison. What a crazy name! It’s ethnic or something. (Also: is that a little hedge maze a block north of it? That seems pretty.)

Fortunately, the commenters sorta set the record straight. But as any resident of just a few years (who pays attention) knows: that part of SF is known as Little Manila, thus providing the basis for such an “ethnic” name. Seriously, when did a city known for its diversity get so full of casually racist white yuppie transplant douchebags?