Kilroy Was Here
December 20, 2002
'Color blind' Racism
After reading up on the Lott issue (and affirmative action in general) over the last few days, I've been surprised at the level of outrage expressed by the right against affirmative action.
This post is an attempt to identify the differences between the right and the left on race issues, and to detail why the left feels that the rights opposition to remedies for past racial injustices amount to racism.
The differences between the right and the left are where they focus their attention in the subject of race.
The left tends to focus their attention for race matters on results and the large scale where the weapons of large populations, statistics, and history come in to play.
If the system provides equal opportunity regardless of race, so the left argument goes, then the distribution of social goods (political power, jobs, salaries, access to health care, etc.) across different racial populations should be about the same, all other things being equal. In fact, social goods are not distributed equally. Therefore, the system must not provide equal opportunity.
The cause of this lack of equal opportunity, the left argument continues, must be the results of institutionalized racism that existed in this country at least until the Civil Rights movement and the social, individual racism that persists across our society to this day.
Therefore, the left argument concludes, we must provide legal remedies to counteract the effects of the past. These remedies will provide balance to a system that is already weighted against minorities. Without it, social goods will always be unfairly distributed in America due to race.
The right,on the other hand, tends to focus their attention of racial matters on the rules and the small scale. The weapons of their argument are the individual anecdote, strict rationality, and the present.
Yes, the system was bad, argues the right, but that was a long time ago. We've removed those Jim Crow laws from our system. The rules are equal now.
Affirmative action is an attempt to bring back 'racism' into the system by making the rules unequal in favor of minorities. If it wasn't good for whites way back when, why is it good for minorities now.
Plus, my brother/friend/sister/cousin lost their job or didn't get a job due to this affirmative action thing even though they were more qualified. That's not fair.
To summarize, the left says, "The system is inherently racist. Look at the results. We gotta fix it!" while the right says, "The system is fair. Look at the rules. We gotta leave it alone!"
The problem with the right argument is that taken to its conclusion, it is racist. That is, taken to its conclusion, this argument assumes that whites are inherently superior to other minorities.
Before you hit that reply button, let me go through the argument.
1. The measurement of a system that provides equal opportunity regardless of race is that two people with equal merits should have similar distribution of social goods all other things being equal.
2. Currently, the distribution of social goods is unequal across the races all other things being equal. Here are just some quick stats as examples:
- Unemployment rates are much higher for blacks than for whites even after normalizing for levels of education. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Salaries for blacks and for women are less than for whites and for men even after normalizing for education levels. (Ibid)
- Blacks and women are severely underrepresentated in leadership positions in either business or politics.
- Minorities are far likelier to be in poverty.
3. Since our we've passed laws to make our system fair, this disparity in social goods must be because on average blacks do not have equal merit to whites. This argument comes out in a couple of different ways:
- Whites (and/or men) take more personally responsibility for their actions than blacks. Because minorities (and/or women) spend their time complaining of perceived injustices rather than improving themselves, learning English, etc., minorities (and/or women) don't get as much as they should.
- Whites (and/or men) have more intelligence, or a better nature to succeed, etc than minorities.
This leads to an unavoidable conclusion; the right believes that whites and men succeed in a fair system because they are in some way better than other minorities and women. This is a nearly textbook definition of racism and sexism.
Affirmative action and other race and gender based remedies, on the other hand, does not assume the superiority of minorities and women over whites and males. It just assumes that the system is unfair because the results of the system are unfair. This is not racist.
More to come later.
Kilroy Was Here
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