exposition on affirmative action

‘Member how I said I’d talk more about it later?  Later = now.

I received a comment on that post – which I’ll respond to here – once I’ve expanded my discussion on the subject a bit further.  So here goes.

Affirmative action is an imperfect program designed to compensate for injustice that has been otherwise propagated in the American system.  So-called preferential treatment is given to women and minorities because they are under-represented [not represented in a similar relation to their presence in the population] in public institutions.  I say imperfect because there are kinks.  Sometimes the program is mishandled [often, IMO, to increase dissatisfaction with the program itself] such that an incompetent minority or woman is given a position above their skill/preparation level.  These kinds of mistakes fan the flames of ire from members of the majority, and often invoke comments about “reverse discrimination”.  These mistakes also help further racist/sexist ideas that women and members of minority groups lack the abilities to attain these positions on their own [on a so-called “fair” playing field], and that is why there would be so few of them, were it not for affirmative action.

The intention of affirmative action [hereafter called AA] is to level the racist and sexist field of American educational, employment, and government systems.  Systems that have existed since the beginning of this country [before, even].  The idea is that those who have benefited from being members of the privileged majority have been able to build wealth and take advantage of opportunities and freedom in ways that were restricted for non-majority citizens.  Women and minorities start from behind – from disadvantage – in this race to the American Dream.  [And it is a race: that’s what capitalism is all about ~ competition.]

In fact, the ideals of capitalism, and the spirit of competition that are sewn into the fabric of our culture are exactly what allowed things to get lop-sided the way they did – necessitating AA in the beginning.  They are also the very reason why AA has so many opponents.  Those that have been privileged to receive goods & services, employment, training, and enfranchisement instead of or at the expense of others will certainly view any program giving said ‘others’ the opportunity to get the same goods/services/employment etc. as “unfair”.  Unfair because it requires them to give up some ground – where before, they had to give up nothing.

But, of course, saying something is unfair does not make it so.  Examining the story from a bigger picture/longer view gives better resolution.  Inequities built in to the original system can only be remedied with systemic solutions.  AA is that solution, until a more perfect one is discovered and agreed upon.

And now – a comment from treewrestler: Continue reading

on origins

Amazingly, it is still seen as viable [by some] to cite the indecencies/shortcomings of leaders/movers/progenitors etc. as reasons to completely discredit their ideas or contributions to society. I know at least one anti-feminist who trumpets the eugenics ideas of Margaret Sanger as one more reason that Planned Parenthood is the devil. I’ve recently come in contact with a few who feel that Martin Luther King, Jr’s womanizing negates any of his work towards equality and civil rights.

WTF?

If Thomas Edison had gone through life hitting people in the head and taking their money, does that mean I’m morally obligated not to use lightbulbs?

When can we separate the origins of a thing from what it has become?

The analogies can reach further, into the Christian attitudes towards holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter – all of which are born out of pagan rituals and commemorations. Some Christians do not observe any of the holidays because of their origins. Some choose to only celebrate with the Christian versions and do not engage in the dressing up on Halloween, the trees and gifts at Christmas, or the eggs and bunnies at Easter [read: the fun stuff]. And of course, there are those that go in for the whole kit and kaboodle, reasoning that nobody these days really believes that bunnies lay eggs, dead souls walk the earth, or worships trees and logs or whatever.

But really, what’s the deal?

How long does something good have to be around before the flawed humanity that started it can be forgiven enough to allow this good thing a wide and positive reception? It’s also worthy of note that, more often than not, those whose flaws are remembered are the ones who have already been marginalized for some other reason. Remembered flaws, then, are a further effort to keep certain groups of people in their ‘place’.

If I look at the flip side of the coin, I understand that it’d be harder for me to use the internet if, say, it’d been invented by Charles Manson. We associate all the different pieces of who people are, with what they do – which isn’t wrong. And we all have to make our own decisions based on our own moral compasses.

I like to be economically and socially responsible, so I face dilemmas like knowing that I should probably be investing in companies that don’t exploit the earth or minorities or third-world countries, that I should be driving a hybrid [or at least carpooling], etc.

There’s the old story about the preacher who railed against gambling all his life – calling the proceeds ‘the Devil’s money’. When his child wanted to go to college and fees started adding up, the lottery-funded assistance program was right on time. And the preacher said – ‘Well, the Devil’s had that money long enough.’

So, I know there’s a fine line between supporting something you don’t believe in and benefiting from the good that may come from it. The line’s a big blur to me, though. And I spend a lot of time wondering which side I’m on.

Class and Privilege – Arguments, Qualifiers, Ownership

Via My Private Casbah. Though I originally swiped it from a friend and former classmate on LJ.Those that were true when I was in college [now a full ten years ago ::shudder::] are bold. Some things are kind of hard to answer because I never went to high school. Things that seem like they might be true if you equate college to high school, are italicized. But of course, there are still qualifiers, as this list couldn’t possibly cover every individual’s family situation.

The original intent of the exercise was to note privilege through the physical act of taking a step forward for each true item on the list. Actual differences in location demonstrated clear differences between classmates. Discussion of the exercise and its emotional impact, in addition to all others, followed the exercise.

I will discuss my own qualifiers, arguments and ownership after the list. Continue reading