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Affirmative Action - I think I've finally got it

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Tyo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:59 AM
Original message
Affirmative Action - I think I've finally got it
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 10:59 AM by Tyo
Ive always supported Affirmative Action, but at the same time have always been a little uncomfortable with it. The Conservative argument that it is nothing more than reverse discrimination seems to make sense, at least on the surface.

But I switched on Thom Hartmann a while ago and caught the second half of an interview he was having with a nasty and annoying Rethug who had recently written a book trashing AA (and I don't think Thom was doing the greatest job in countering the guy). Anyway, I dont remember what it was that flicked the switch for me, but I think Ive got it now. Does the following make sense? Its probably been obvious to most DUers forever, but Im a little slow sometimes.

The meritocracy argument is valid only if everyone is starting from pretty much the same point and has pretty much the same opportunities. Then its up to them to make the best of what they were born with. Until we get a lot closer to that point than we are today we cant have a meritocracy in any positive sense and its wrong to pretend otherwise.

On the other hand, I dont think that you can deny that Affirmative Action is a form of discrimination; however, it is designed to self-destruct at a certain point. Instead of being the kind of discrimination that perpetuates inequality it does the opposite and therefore the need for it will eventually disappear.

I understand that in the real world things arent this neat and tidy, but if what Ive said makes sense then I think Ive resolved my conflict with AA in my own mind.
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laureloak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:02 AM
Response to Original message
1. I don't like affirmative action.
Because it takes away the rights of one person to give them to another person.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:26 AM
Response to Reply #1
9. Really?
Because it seems to me most people have a problem with AA because it takes privileges away from white people and gives rights to black people.
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Comicstripper Donating Member (876 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 12:33 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. I think you know this is a stupid argument
and just felt like being pissy.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 02:00 PM
Response to Reply #13
21. laureloaks'?
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 02:00 PM by Bornaginhooligan
Because my argument's sound.
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Solo_in_MD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #1
12. Neither do I
I have spent the bulk of my career in areas where absolute performance mattered. There merit is the only legitimate approach. Nobody talks about compensation in sports, why do we have it in other areas where performance matters? Race or gender norming where the tests are validly work related is indeed discrimination and more importantly means that those selected are not the best qualified. That is clearly wrong.

I fully support extra help/training/investment in areas where indenifiable groups are not performing as well as others, but beyond that, I can not support it.

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Karenina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #1
16. However, WHITE MALE AA
remains an topic that is never discussed in full in view of its ramifications. WHAT do you think the "Foley Scandal" is about??? Hmmmm????
It's ONLY an issue when the PERCEPTION is that those ntermenschen are getting a leg up. (pun intended).
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Sapere aude Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:34 PM
Response to Reply #1
19. Discrimination did the same thing but no one complained back then except
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 01:35 PM by Sapere aude
those who were discriminated against and they had no voice. I know you do not believe in discrimination but how are those wrongs to be made right and how are you to protect against hidden discrimination that can't be prosecuted?
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jenmito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:56 PM
Response to Reply #1
20. Not really...
It gives people who were born/grew up at a disadvantage the chance to see how they'd do if given the same tools as someone who was NOT disadvantaged. For example, I went to a predominantly Black school where many kids had no fathers, who had to take care of their siblings when they got home because their mother was at work, and the teachers weren't the best, either, since the pay wasn't the best. (I know, because I ended up teaching back there after I graduated college). The kids who got straight As should be able to be given a chance to see if they could rise to the ocassion if given better tools, better teachers, etc. If the kid who got straight As in that poor school was accepted, through affirmative action, to a college where most kids were NOT from a poor school, all that means is they are being given the chance to live up to their full potential. They have already excelled in the conditions given to them. It's not their fault they were born/grew up in poor conditions. Let them have the chance to excel when given better tools and conditions. I see nothing wrong with that.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:05 AM
Response to Original message
2. What people who hate affirmative action don't realize
is that affirmative action will only open a door. To get through that door and stay there require both ability and hard work.

Mediocre white males still have most of the chances they ever had. If an affirmative action candidate doesn't work out, they'll be next on the list to hire.
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Hangingon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:39 AM
Response to Reply #2
11. It hasn't been my experience
I spent a career in the public sector as employee and manager. The affirmative action program was well in place. I'm not bitter - I had a good career. The system has a safety net that protects far beyond the front door.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #11
17. I've been on the other side
and I've seen AA employees who couldn't cut it get counseled, everything documented, and back out the door they went.

Yes, AA checked to see the firings were justified. That's how it needs to be for a very long time.
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OzarkDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:10 AM
Response to Original message
3. You're correct - Meritocracy is a myth
Ask any woman who has worked in a job and been passed over for promotions numerous times in favor of men who are less qualified, then had to train them to do their jobs after they're promoted.

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sinkingfeeling Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
4. By jove, I think you've got it!
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welshTerrier2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:13 AM
Response to Original message
5. perhaps a useful analogy
analogies are always a bit dangerous because they attempt to mirror reality but they themselves are not reality ...

nevertheless, consider this ... if you were to hold a race where one runner was given a large headstart, the race would not be fair IF both runners had to reach the same finish line ... HOWEVER, you would still have a merit-based system if you measured how far each runner had run within a fixed amount of time ... the runner who started ahead might have remained ahead even though the runner who started behind might have covered more distance during the race ... who, then, should be declared the winner?

the reality with affirmative action is that we should not continue to tolerate an either-or situation ... as part of our national education policy, every student interested in pursuing additional education should have the ability and the financial support to do so ... it is unacceptable that schools in poor or minority areas do not receive the same funding and their students often do not receive the same education as students in wealthier areas ... the debate on affirmative action is in many ways a distraction from the central problem ...
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lonehalf Donating Member (273 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:15 AM
Response to Original message
6. The last time we polled on AA (2003 I think)
One of the choices was "I'm against racial bias of any kind".

If I remember it was:

In favor of AA 25%
Against AA 22%
Against racial bias of any kind. 53%
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OzarkDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. It's not just racial, it also applies to gender
and it applies to the workplace as well as institutions of higher learning.

We cheat ourselves as a society when we handicap or eliminate any group of people from making a contribution simply based on race, gender or economic status. None of those things has any bearing on an individuals skills, intellect or talent and we are dimished when we restrict their participation, either even when we do so unintentionally.

God forbid the cure for cancer is in the mind of a woman who has been told she should stay home and raise children instead.
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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:22 AM
Response to Original message
8. White people,
especially middle class white males, have no idea how much privilege they have. As a middle class white female I probably don't realize how much privilege I have myself.

Affirmative Action is a small but necessary step in the right direction. There never will be a perfectly level playing field, but to open doors is a good idea.

It's not as though everywhere I turn I see positions of power being taken over by women and minorities. It's still a White Man's World for the most part.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 12:55 PM
Response to Reply #8
14. I've been out of the job market (self-employed) since 1993, but
what I remember from those days certainly indicated a need for affirmative action.

I first encountered it in my graduate academic department when one professor was denied tenure, leaving a vacancy for a new flunky for all the senior professors to dump on. I actually heard a couple of the oldest fossils in the department talking about phoning their friends and asking them to send "their brightest young men" down for interviews.

They proposed this plan to the dean of their division, and she (yes, she!) hit the roof. She pointed to figures that showed that nearly half the Ph.D.'s in our field were going to women, and yet the department had never had a woman faculty member. She told them that this time they would have to hire a woman.

Well, they did what old fossils often do in this situation. They hired a woman who was unqualified, in that she hadn't completed her Ph. D. yet., and they told her that she had to finish her Ph.D. by the end of the year while teaching a full load, or else be terminated.

Anyone who has never taught a full course load cannot imagine how much work it is, especially the first year, and of course, she did not finish her degree.

The old fossils went gleefully back to the dean and said, "See? We hired a woman, and she didn't work out."

The dean basically said, "Nice try, guys. Now do a serious search, narrowing it down to women who actually have degrees in hand."

They grudgingly hired a woman who had a Ph.D. and several publications, but she didn't stay long, due to the hostile atmosphere. Still, the barrier had been broken, and with the old fossils now either dead or retired, the department is quite a different place.

As a professor myself, I was able to compare life on a campus that made an effort to reach out to underserved populations (people of color, recent immigrants, students with diabilities) and life on one that was uninterested in anyone who wasn't a white suburbanite or small town resident. There is no question which one provided a more interesting and well-rounded education.

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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-13-06 07:17 AM
Response to Reply #14
24. In academia, it seems
that the discrimination is far more overt as in the story you've told. Among the reasons I've never wanted to work in academia is precisely the kind of thing you've described.

I've also had the experience of being the first woman in a particular job. When I worked at Washington National Airport, in 1972 I spent a shift-bid in Operations, which had been entirely male for my airline at that location since the Wright brothers. And while I did not experience the kind of open harassment and ill-treatment that too often comes with being the first woman (or African American) in a job, it was sufficiently stressful that I was relieved when a minor cut-back bumped me out of that slot and back to the ticket counter, and I did not re-bid Operations even when a slot opened up later on. Another woman did, and did just fine there for years.
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ThomCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
10. I think you put it very nicely.
You can't end discrimination by pretending it doesn't exist.

Opponents of AA insist that discrimination can be ended by simply being scrupulously fair right now in various specific situations. But that ignores that people come to those situations already burdened by the effects of discrimination. So if we make no adjustment to account for that discrimination then we're giving bigots the advantage, because we're saying that we'll quietly keep rewarding the effects of prejudice.

Opponents of AA love to say that white men are being discriminated against. But frequently I see discrimination in our favor. (I'm a white man) Opponents who say AA is wrong because it discriminates are basically saying, "It's wrong to discriminate against people I support, but it's okay to discriminate against people I ignore."

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calico1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:16 PM
Response to Original message
15. I am what some people call a "double-minority."
A Hispanic woman. Oh, and I am pushing 50 too. Fun trying to get a job at this age!

I don't want to be hired over a more qualified person. But if I am just as good then I want a chance. Anti discrimination laws are fine and good but I think the fact that AA exists encourages companies to hire a Black or Hispanic for an open slot if they are qualified and if their employees are almost all white. Or hire a woman if the emplyees are largely male. And why not? Without these laws and the resulting expectation that women and minorities be represented it would be like it was years ago....All white and mostly male (at least in higher earning positions) and tough shit if you are a minority. I would like to think that companies, schools, etc. would willingly be fair but these laws came about for a reason. The one problem I do see with the way AA is sometimes used is in hiring or accepting students that are less qualified than white counterparts. That, I do not feel comfortable with and it is an unfortunate stigma that is associated with AA. I have a bachelor's degree and lots of experience and I never had a cake walk in any job I had. Nor do I expect it.
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MadMaddie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 01:29 PM
Response to Original message
18. Okay...the basis of AA is sound
to open the door for minorities, women and other identified groups....

I would like to pose a question to you;

Do you think that a mediocre even below average intelligent black man or women, white women after failing at every job they ever had, ruining company's along the way would have moved through their lives and eventually become President?

The answer is no....because the minority, woman and/or other identified group member would have been fired from their initial job at the first sign of not performing....You see these groups have to be smarter, work harder and prove themselves over and over to move one step ahead...

You see if you are a white male, you are indeed given (unwritten) privileges in this American society....(whether it's acknowledged or not)

Now that I have said that....AA is not perfect and it needs to be adjusted as the times and the years change.....

My personal story: My first name is Estella it is not a ethnic name and when I fill out applications I don't fill out the race check box....and when on the phone I don't have a voice that you can distinguish as black or white....Needless to say when I get into an interview....the utter surprise of the interviewee that I am Black/African American.....it is priceless..... :rofl:
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ThomCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 02:17 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. Exactly. Bush is a clear example of the unwritten AA
that white men with money get every day.
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Tyo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 03:01 PM
Response to Original message
23. I was one of the lucky ones
I had parents that cared about education and had the means to provide my sister and I with opportunities that a lot of kids, maybe most kids didn't have. Basically all that was required of us was that we perform. I did, but looking back, I could have done a lot better considering all that I was given.

As far as I know I was never a "victim" of "reverse discrimination". However, I like to think that given all the options available to me I would not have gotten too upset if a couple of those doors had been closed, maybe only temporarily, so that they could be opened to people who were at least as smart and hardworking as I was, probably more so, but hadn't grown up with all the advantages that I had.

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