we voted to end affirmative action--is that progressive?

the language in the bill threw me for a loop:

the bill was seeking to end ^this, sans some specific exclusive cases when it should still be permitted.
now. this caught me off guard–i was too caught up national stuff and missed that this was going to be on the ballot. so going off the language, i was like heck yes, let’s be fair. let’s cut this ethnic over-focus out. let’s all just be people.

now all my liberal friends think i am one in the same as the racists. i am at a loss. i literally believe the progressive, fair, PC and liberal way to be would be to end ^that, based on the language.

my logic is that law is from 1960, on the heels of separate but equal. it did a great job as vanguard against discrimination, but even proponents these days admit that unless we alter or amend the law (or find newer, better ones) it easily could become a more-harm-than-good situation.

my initial thought in the booth was “binders full of women.” that is affirmative action (in action). the rich white wasp was like “aw, no ladies? let’s go find some ladies! where oh where can i find some qualified ladies? can YOU help me find a qualified lady? and finally, we did.”

that’s…the total worse. i vote no more that.

my logic was the Lilly Ledbetter law, and things more of that nature, are honest viable solutions.

someone in raving anger showed me an article about how blacks and latinos test lower on college entrance exams based on ethnic disparities. my rebuttal is ok, solve the flaw in the metric. don’t give them some free pass with a weird blanket law; fix the test. if we can accurately test and equally weigh the white kids, suss out what we need to accurately test the others.

my logic is the more you go “oh, hey–he’s mexican so, i mean, he’s going to suck at this test”–that’s racist as shit!
any time someone walks into an interview and the manger thinks “he is black–i shall adjust how i weigh his value based on his color” is propagating racism in a weird, other direction.

am i way off here?

i agree there’s problems, but think strict watchdogs against discrimination, more fair-pay laws (like Obama has passed) and attention to (and accounting for) flaws in testing metrics are FAR better solutions than “where oh where can i get a binder with just some women in it!”

Oklahoma ballot in question:


This is the subject of a couple of recent threads.

There are two arguments:

  1. Racial diversity is inherently desirable, so we must use AA to promote diversity.

  2. Merit is more important than diversity, and it is wrong to ignore merit in favor of race.

I am in group 2. It is wrong to give someone any benefit because of their skin color, regardless of what that skin color is. All people should be judged by their performance. Even Martin Luther King, the greatest civil rights leader in the nation’s history, claimed we should be judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Further, the idea that people of minority groups require advantageous treatment to achieve parity is inherently racist. Affirmative action posits that (for example) no black person can achieve as much as a white person, so they require additional assistance. This is a blatantly racist notion.

And although this was already covered in another thread, I must say again that diversity is not, in and of itself, necessarily desireable. The competence of the people doing the work is more important than artificially maintaining a racially diverse group of workers.

If there is a disparity in performance based on racial factors (such as unequal education opportunities) we should be attacking the root causes of the disparity rather than trying to conceal it by committing “benevolent racism.”

i am sorry for missing the other threads, as it just became pertinent in my little myopic world so suddenly.

after speaking with a few of the morally outraged friends, i have come to a conclusion: they have build it to mean we either keep AA forever or we embrace racism. any votes to progress away from AA means you are a racist.

so i am just writing them off as idiots. the loudest screams were about how we need AA to dissolve “legacies” in prestigious univs because “they are nearly always unanimously white.”

there’s another, simpler way to say that: they want to keep AA around so they can discriminate against white people. that’s just being racist in the other direction.

the language in the ballot struck me to vote to abolish AA based on my perception ledbetter laws and the general hypersensitive p.c. paranoid world we now live in might have evolved beyond that separate but equal, mandated diversity, gotta hire blacks for the sake of them being black era. it seems like a dinosaur of a law at this point–and i personally see it as a crutch to some and a hindrance to others in equally arbitrary ways. i can’t tell you how many times i was told “if only you were on the indian roles, you wouldn’t have to take out these student loans.” on the flip side, my gf got free medical care because she was on the roles, by dumb luck of having a mixed grandma (she heself was nearly translucently European pale). i really want to move into progressive solutions.

can’t agree more. that essay they sent in argument basically said latinos will ALWAYS test lower. that is a racist statement. and even if it’s true, fixing the test is the solution. not caveating them into success.

I think the pickle we are in with AA is that our litmus test is whether or not something is “racist” and not whether or not something is the best course of action.

And the flaw with having a litmus test of “racist” is that the default assumption that there are no inherent (genetically determined) maximum average potential differences among SIRE groups (the Self Identified Race/Ethnicity groups to which AA applies).

If the egalitarian hypothesis is correct, then equalizing opportunity will equalize objective measurements (test scores, e.g.) and we can choose based on merit but still come up with a SIRE-balanced class.

If the egalitarian hypothesis that all SIRE groups will perform equally given equal opportunity is incorrect (the “racist” hypothesis, you might say), then choosing on merit alone will prevent almost all minority admissions. This is because at every level of equivalent opportunity, some SIRE groups will outperform others. As an example, on SATs, black children born to high-income families and to parents with graduate degrees under-perform whites and asians from low-income/low-education parents. So what happens if you use “merit” is that at each opportunity level (assuming you take opportunity into account), under-represented minority SIRE groups will always be at the bottom of each opportunity category, and you’ll never get enough black kids into your school. The black children of physicians will underscore the asian children of physicans, and so on, all the way down to poverty levels of opportunity.

I think we just need to suck it up, accept that either there are “racial” genetic differences or else that there is some secret opportunity deficiency which we have never been able to identify, and accept that AA is the only way to get proportionate SIRE representation.

I consider this is a progressive view–maybe even a liberal one–with respect to AA, and a racist view with respect to, well, race.

Note that I think AA should only be enforced for schools and ordinary businesses; not sports businesses. I do not want some lame-o white AA guy diluting the quality of our sports teams, and I don’t think anyone cares about AA for professional sports. But we do care out here in the business world, and schools do care, and the masses do care. So I think we need to preserve a broad SIRE representation that overcomes whatever mother nature handed out on her own.

Nah. Your position assumes that all aspects of society are already totally based on merit and that no discrimination exists. This is not a true assumption.

I am not a promoter of Affirmative Action in all cases for all situations because there are times when it is not useful and there are ways to implement it that are inherently unfair. I have never been a fan of hiring quotas, even when they had a limited usefulness in the 1970s. At this point, I think that quota based Affirmative Action is counter productive. On the other hand, outreach based Affirmative Action addresses specific problems that continue to exist in society that have nothing to do with judging one group of applicants to be less qualified.
In some cases AA does nothing more than offset White Privilege. That is no reflection on the qualities of any individual on either side of a color line, but it addresses a situation that exists in society that tilts the playing field in an unfair manner.

In a state with a population less than half that of New York city, I doubt that the law that prompted this thread will have much of an effect, in any event. I do note, however, that it begins with a false premise, so I would not like to see it expanded to larger states with greater impact on society. Its premise begins with a claim that AA is based on “preferred treatment.” I would note that in an outreach program, (the only sort of AA that existed from 1962 until the early 1970s when quotas began to be implemented), the “action” was not treatment, per se, but simply efforts to broaden the population that was encouraged to participate in various activities, with merit, (or financial stabilty), still the basis on which any person was treated.

And now we’re picking up where this thread left off.

Our disagreement is over what the goal is.

As before, I maintain that getting enough black kids into my school is irrelevant, because the goal is to produce the most competent workers regardless of skin color. I do not care whether my workers have proportionate SIRE representation or not.

Your argument is that the goal is to have proportionate SIRE representation to promote racial harmony, even if this means your students will not be the most competent or qualified. You put racial harmony and representation ahead of actual competence and achievement.

Until we agree on what the fundamental goal of college admissions are, our disagreement will be impossible to resolve.

What are the sources of these “Indian rolls” to which you refer? Are they enshrined in Oklahoma law that says “Indians get a free ride”? Or are they the negotiated or judicially imposed results of lawsuits that provided compensation to tribal members for tribes that were denied property and due process throughout the 19th century European expansion? If they are based on lawsuits claiming recompense, your anti-AA constitutional amendment will have no affect on them, so it was pointless.

Yes, basically.

I don’t think a society in which SIRE groups are disproportionately represented across economic levels to a severe degree will be a harmonious one.

There may come a day when our gene pools are intermingled enough so we all look the same and we don’t care, but I think that’s quite a ways off, and I don’t think it’s OK to look around and see almost no black professionals. Neither do I want to eliminate quantitative testing, which I firmly believe enables the most accurate sorting out for a certain type of skillset (not, obviously, the only skillset but nevertheless an important one). For the forseeable future, the marked differences among SIRE groups in quantitative testing is going to continue until we either identify some undiscovered-as-yet opportunity difference, or (if the “racist” argument is correct) more completely intermingle our genes so that all SIRE groups have roughly proportionate access to the same genes.

I tend to focus mostly on the role of affirmative action when it comes to college admissions, which has been a big issue here in Michigan in recent years. Certainly when it comes to universities, diversity (whether racial or otherwise) is inherently desirable. I would argue that exposure to people from different backgrounds is one of the most valuable parts of the college experience, especially for people who grew up in more homogeneous communities.

But it’s a false dichotomy to suggest the choice is between merit or “ignoring merit in favor of diversity.” No reasonable person suggests ignoring merit, but diversity can also be a factor. You might say, “Yeah, but if you take someone who’s a 92 (on whatever merit-based scale) over someone who’s a 95 because the 92 is a member of a minority group, then you’re overlooking merit.” But that gives a lot more weight to those rankings than they deserve.

There’s no such thing as a completely objective ranking of applicants. Maybe one student has better S.A.T. scores, but you liked the other one’s essay a little better. Maybe one had higher grades, but the other took more challenging classes. And isn’t the ability to achieve in the face of adversity a sign of merit? If one student got slightly worse grades because they had to squeeze in their homework around working a part time job to support their family, shouldn’t that be factored in?

Given that any merit based ranking of applicants is inherently going to have a lot of fuzziness, what’s the point of pretending that an 88 is unarguably more qualified than an 86? What’s wrong with saying “Let’s take all the applicants in the ‘awesome’ bucket and then fill out the class from the ‘pretty good’ bucket in such a way as to achieve a diverse student body”?

The way to a harmonious society is to divide people along racial lines and then to treat certain races better than others? This sounds more like a way to balkanize our country than promote a harmonious society. The idea that we can intermingle genes until we no longer need quotas is a pipe dream. Look at Brazil where they have been intermarrying for 500 years and they still have racial differences in college admissions.
It seems crazy to me to lament a dearth of high achieving black and hispanic students and then to change the rules so that black and hispanic students can obtain the rewards of high achievement without the actual achievements. How many students have the discipline to give maximum effort when it is not required?

It depends on what they take away from the experience, IMO.

The point I have heard made is that when you use diversity as one of your criteria, the tendency is the favored minority winds up in schools that are a little more than they would otherwise be expected to handle. An slightly less-than-average minority winds up in an average school, rather than a community college or something. An average minority winds up at a more-than-averagely-demanding school. And an above-average minority winds up at a school where everybody else is the cream of the top achievers.

And therefore the minority member is going to be that much more likely to cluster around the bottom of all of those schools, no matter what. And thus you will tend to get a higher drop-out rate for racially preferred students. You are also encouraging the perception, whether rightly or wrongly, that the favored minority really can’t hack it on their own. If you are at a school, and perceive that, somehow or other, one group tends to wind up at the bottom of the class, it is difficult to avoid politically incorrect conclusions.

“Sorry, Chen - yes, you scored just as well as the other ten who got in, but you’re the wrong color. Sorry.”


The more prestigious the university, the greater the gap in SAT scores.

Cite. So it isn’t always a matter of a few points here and there.


Colleges and universities are not in the business of rewarding merit. They are not the Noble Prize or a spelling bee. Indeed, objectively ranking merit is a ridiculous idea anyway. Does the kid who has had years of private tutoring and has a decent SAT score out of it have more “merit” than the kid who scored three points lower, but is a recently naturalized Somali refugee who never set foot in a classroom until he was 17? Does the kid who goes to a crappy high school not have a chance, since his A will never beat a B from a better school? If a school needs a tuba player and a trombone player, and there happens to a glut of great tuba players, it is unfair that the great tuba player gets passed up for a mediocre trombonist?

Anyway, like I said, universities are not rewards for smart kids. They are organizations that are dedicated to producing the best learning and research possible, and they choose from their pool of applicants to ensure that. They choose people who have something to bring to the table.

Diversity within a learning and research community is an inherently good thing. Learning happens best when people bring in a variety of perspectives, drawing on varied life experience. It’s a good way to avoid group think, stimulate creativity, and identify potential issues that may be overlooked in a more homogenous group. To give a quick illustration, I took a class once on the “Sociology of the American Family.” How different would that class have been if it had been 100% Chinese foreign students? Even in things like medicine, understanding how different cultures approach health and healing is a key, sometimes the key, to practicing good medicine.

Race is obviously not a perfect indicator of life experience, but many of the various cultures in the US are arranged vaguely along racial lines. It’s not a perfect system, but you’ll notice that universities have not been kicking and screaming to end affirmative action. That’s because it helps their cause.

Anyway, I don’t have an answer, but “universities are about merit” is bullshit, and holding them to that is just hamstringing our universities and preventing them from providing the best education possible in exchange for an ideological stance. We are all familiar with the kid who has perfect SATs and a 4.0, but has absolutely nothing interesting to say and doesn’t contribute to the intellectual atmosphere. We should not force our schools to admit kids like that if they think someone else would bring more to their institution.

Well, but this is kind of a strawman.

The “race” question is, “If everything is about the same, except for SIRE group, do we give certain SIRE groups weight purely because of their SIRE group?”

I sat on a med school admissions committee for many years, and it’s not actually all that tough to evaluate non-quantitative factors. I believe you also have piddled around in this area.

The real dilemma schools face is this: If they want the highest-scoring black candidates, those candidates typically come from more privileged backgrounds for the same reason that the highest-scoring white candidates come from more privileged backgrounds: socio-economic status roughly correlates with quantitative scores. Wealthy blacks do better than poor blacks; ditto w/ every other SIRE group.

Sure, there are plenty of high scoring asians who are of the type you describe. But the dilemma is not about accepting them over low scoring blacks who are personality geniuses. The dilemma is that in the like for like personality, like for like social contribution, like for like opportunity, etc etc., blacks consistently and persistently significantly underscore their like for like groups.

We must preserve SIRE-based AA if we want SIRE diversity.

Make any case you want about why it’s not a genetic problem–another thread–but in the practical world of college admission, ONLY race-based preferences are going to give you diversity (with the exception of a Texas-style system where you take the top X percent of any schools). The Texas system sort of works, but their problem is they want to remain free to also use race for the leftover spots so they can compete for the best students instead of just the top X percent at a lamely-performing school. As it turns out when the top X percent system delivers its students, they cluster in the mediocre subjects and cluster near the bottom of the overall class. This is why Fisher is such an important SCOTUS case for universities.

Note that in some of the amicus briefs in Fisher, the “something else” black and hispanic groups must bring is their SIRE group status. That is, there is a presumption that belonging to that group alone is an “achievement” even if you were the son of wealthy and highly educated parents and grew up in fabulous surroundings with unlimited opportunity. There’s no other standard to make AA SIRE groups evaluated for their contribution to “diversity.”

I think affirmative action is still appropriate because there are still huge systemic inequalities of opportunity in society. That said, it’s divisive and fosters intolerance, so we may as well get rid of it.

I wonder if people in liberal arts programs have a different view than those in STEM programs. I have to admit, in response to your (rhetorical) question, my mental answer was “I dunno. It’s just a load of bullshit anyway.”

You mention medicine, where in some cases there’s certainly value in broad cultural understanding, but on the whole it’s largely fact-based and indifferent to cultural or racial perspective. The diversity you want doesn’t lie on that spectrum, and that’s even more true of harder sciences, engineering, etc.

My thought is that AA is bound to make things worse, by creating a class of objectively inferior students, who by design also happen to be racial minorities. It’s hard to break that mental association, and even if this could be overlooked, no one is going to want to work with the inferior students, and they’ll be trapped in a cycle of lowered performance.

In geek-speak, AA is a kludge that doesn’t root-cause the issue.

People admitted by affirmative action generally have similar grades as their peers, and go on to future success. We are usually not talking about “objectively inferior” students. We are talking about very capable people with a lot of potential who are finally in an environment where they can fulfill that promise. My high school offered two AP classes. Other high schools offer 8. The kid who only has two AP classes on record is not necessarily inferior to the one who took 8. They just haven’t been a place to meet their potential.

This isn’t like sports scholarships, where you often do have people who genuinely can’t keep up academically. I saw a statistic at Duke that said the difference between underrepresented minorities was between SATs in the 96th percentile and the 84th. Now, was the 4th highest scoring kid in your high school pretty darn smart? Yeah. Was the 16th kid a dolt in comparison who’d be completely out of their league among the top 10? Probably not- especially if that kid consistently got worse teachers and less prep than the other.

And of course the method to “break the cycle” is that their children will be raised in educated households and likely to be included in a part of the environments and social networks that foster success. Many of our grandfathers received college help and mortgages in new suburbs from the GI bill. That’s shaped a lot of our current upper middle class.

As for the field…everyone who does public health eventually reads “The Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down,” which is a story of a Hmong girl with epilepsy, and how completely different concepts of health and medicine created a pretty avoidable tragedy. Culture affects so much of medicine- what risk factors people have, what they are likely to see a doctor for and what they are likely to ignore, how aggressive to be with treatment, what side effects are tolerable or intolerable, what treatment regimes are likely to be adhered to, what other non-medical factors are going to be important to healing, etc. All kinds of risk factors are affected by culture, and culture contributes heavily to decisions about things like reproductive health and family planning, mental health, treatement options, pain management, etc.

In economics, it took years for development economists to acknowledge that in order to understand an economy, you have to understand what men and women are doing economically. In engineering, we’ve built countless water systems and bridges and the like in developing countries that have failed utterly and completely when the host country did not have the materials and expertise to maintain them- something any engineer from that country could have pointed out. Heck, in Afghanistan we just built a whole rack of very expensive schools that immediately fell apart because we hadn’t considered the skill of the local tradesmen in the chosen materials. Building a school or bridge or whatever in Kabul is not the same as building it Kalamazoo.

In biology, in remote parts of the Amazon, the local languages often have hundreds of worlds more for various types of flora and fauna than we do, and this points to additional species that we don’t have a way to distinguish and are working furiously to figure out. Not to mention the research opportunities in understanding traditional medicines. Did you know our currently most effective magic bullet drug that cures malaria better than anything ever imagined comes from traditional Chinese medicine? And for some reason, schizophrenic people in developing countries have much better outcomes than those in the US getting our best treatment.

Technology, of course, is only as good as how its used. The predictive text used in writing Chinese characters is absolutely amazing. The need to appeal to a broader audience has driven the development of tablets. The widespread adoption of mobile phones in developing countries has completely changed the course of telecommunications. Concerns about internet censorship in some countries has had a huge impact on companies like Google.

One more thing, while I’m piling on, Sven.
I know this is dear to your heart, and I know that you are probably a much sweeter and nicer person than I and all that, but…

what’s bullshit is that race is a better marker for diversity of culture than socioeconomic status. My black physician colleagues, from the same SES class as I, are indistinguishable from other wealthy professionals, “culturally” speaking.

The bullshit we have to get rid of is that there is any way to parse this out other than bite the bullet and just say we need SIRE-based AA. We need to get rid of all these ridiculous pretexts that there are other subtle reasons. No there aren’t. I need to be able to accept a wealthy black preppie over a south asian immigrant family’s kid.

Sure; all that other diversity counts. And we do try to balance it out. But when it comes to this delicate topic of SIRE-based AA the data is ovewhelming: only a consideration for SIRE group as a standalone criterion will work. Pretending we’re going for some other kind of diversity is bullshit. Universities aren’t fighting for “diversity.” They are fighting to keep race-based preferences, and with good reason. (At least, they are fighting to keep the gubmint out of their admissions processes, and are worried sick that a look under the covers will reveal an obvious SIRE-alone based bias.)

But many of the people who view it as divisive are the same people fostering intolerance. It’s pretty telling that whenever this issue comes up, nobody is lamenting all the “unqualified” women, who are the primary beneficiaries of AA, when this discussion comes up? Why is that? If it were just about principle, why is the discussion ALWAYS about Black and Hispanic people?

I don’t think this is true. I suppose you can make a stronger argument that the research side is mostly fact-based, but the way people arrive at those facts is largely a result of their way they interpret data and look at the world. Being Hispanic may not help you with the gritty details of synthesizing a drug, but it might direct your attention towards certain problems, and help others see past their biases.

There is also the fact that most jobs in the STEM fields are not just daily exercises in raw intellectual power. Especially given the marginal return on intelligence after a certain point. Students accepted based on AA are not idiots. Even if you make the argument they are “less qualified” based on traditional metrics, the question is more about competence, not superlative test scores and grades.

But that mental association is usually informed by people’s preconceived racial biases; notions which have nothing to do with AA. Again, women are the primary beneficiaries, yet the focus is on minorities. Why? Could it be the perspective is based on confirmation bias and/or outright racial prejudice? And if that is the case, why should society care what these people think? It’s pretty telling that any attempt to debate AA always turns into a discussion about what to do about brown people. People thought we were stupid and inferior before AA, and they will likely continue to do so for a while. Trying to blame AA, which attempts to counteract the impact of those prejudices, for the presumption of inferiority is pretty galling.

If you have an open mind to the concept of institutional racism, then you should be able to see the need for affirmative action. The damage done to the collective psyche by the aggressive practice of enslavement and oppression for over 400 years is not easily overcome.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is only 48 years old. This means African Americans in their 60’s have a personal memory of the legacy of segregation. There remains vast communities across the nation that exist in de facto segregation. These are many cultures within our nation that we as a whole should be seeking to uplift.

Huge segments of our national community were held back in their pursuit of property - is it any surprise that their property values are lower? Lower property values = lower tax base = a community and a school system with less opportunities.

Is it any surprise that generationally privileged children do better than less privileged cultures on tests that were designed by the generationally privileged? Thank goodness higher education seeks to better the nation by promoting diversity in learning.

Preferential treatment is not what AA is about. It is about affirming, with heavy heart, that our history has its horrors, the effects of which still ripple through our society. I bet that most of the white people on this thread know too many people that will joke (or not) about dumb n****rs. They might not be your friend, but you know who I’m talking about.