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November 14, 2007

Comments

Jes, you're having the wrong argument with me. I can call it racial discrimination because it is (and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing). If you're discriminating among applicants on the basis of race, even if it's only one of many considerations, it's by definition racial discrimination. Don't deny it. Justify it. Then it doesn't matter so much what someone calls it.

I completely understand what Wonkie's point was. I hope Wonkie would think so after reading what I wrote. Why do you think I was trying to dimiss the inferiority argument?

Incidentally, why are qualified students of any background rejected at any university?

What's stopping Harvard or old Miss or whatever from enlarging their infrastructure and accepting all of those who meet their qualifications?

Just because the scarecrow's head was full of hay doesn't mean he wasn't smarter than the Wicked Witch, who got all of the scholarships and the endowed chair.

Brett, I don't think you can tell the content of character from an application. You might be able to spot the obvious sociopaths, of course, but beyond that...

Also sure it is arbitrary to decide to have some of this ethnic group and some of that. Bout it is also arbitrary to have some from here and some from there, some from public and some from private. How come those sorts of criteria don't register with you as discriminatory? They also have nothing to do with content of character. As Hairshirt notes, it's all a process of discriminating. The only way to choose row without discrimination is to weed out the truely unqualifieds and throw the rest of the files down the stairs a la that prof of Jes's.

So it is discriminatory to give a black student 20 points. it is also discrimiatory to favor the one with the 3.8 gpa over the one with the 3.3 gpa. It is also discriminatory to choose the one the quirky, humorous personal essay (because you like the style) over the one with thhe serioous thoughtful essay.

I'm not kneejerk in favor of affirmative action. Some plans are well written and some are clumsy and crude. Also situations differ. The Ivy League schools, which are the trainning grounds for the ruling class, must have, in my opinion, a diverse student body. A small state community college in central Iowa, not so much. For one thing the state is overwhelmingly white (or it was when I lived there).

I don't think people should ever be admitted if they cann't do the work. But I do think we should get over the idea that it is possible to determine who the very best students are. It can'tbe done. It can only be determined that a pool of studens has, in general, a combination of attributes that are a little more appealing to the committee of a certain school than thhe attributes of the students in the next pool down. So discrimination in favor of race in a well designed affrimative action program willnot result in a great student being displaced to accommodate a poor one.

Brett's point now is, I think, that discrimination on race is bad regardless and my response is that discrimination in favor of race under some circumstances, when the studnets in question are qualified for the program inquestion, is no worse than the other types of discrimination to which Brett is ont objecting, and has a positive benefit.

"the key point in wonkie's comment was: everyone in the pool of possible successful applicants is qualified."

For suitably flexible values of "qualified", yes. It's not like being qualified for college is a binary function, after all.

A study of U of M admissions back in 2005 showed that black applicants with an SAT score of 1240, and 3.2 GPA, had a 90% chance of be admitted. Non-black applicants of the same acadmemic qualifications had a 10% chance of being admitted.

If your surname was Hsu, you had to be a freaking genius to have the same chance of admission as a moderately qualified black applicant, all else being equal.

"We"can learn to live without racially diverse campuses? Well, that's mighty white of you, Brett!!

Is this the part where I have to explain to you why excluding blacks from public universities is just as "dangerous" as you seem to think letting them in is?

hairshirthedonist:

Exactly. Here was the point scale:

100–150 (admit); 95–99 (admit or postpone); 90–94 (postpone or admit); 75–89 (delay or postpone); 74 and below (delay or reject).

So a minority with a score of 80 would be an automatic admit with the 20 point bonus where otherwise would have been considered minimally qualified and not likely to get in. There was no individual consideration given.

Where is your evidence that the U of M admitted students who were inferior over the students who were rejected?

Hairshirthedonist already made the point. It's common sense. According to the opinion, virtually all minority applicants were admitted. Some of these statistically speaking would be at the lower end of the scale but were elevated to automatic admit whereas the plaintiffs were in the "hold" category but would have been automatic admits with the 20 point bonus.

A quota system is usually a bad way to do that, but some kind of "points system" can work flexibly and well. And eventually, we hope, race-related points won't be needed, because the 1000 applicants from whom 800 will be chosen will be 25% black, give or take.

I have trouble with any goal that includes an "exact" representation based on race itself. Why? Why sell the minorities short? That does not, IMHO, represent true colorblindness. No content of character, but only the color of skin.

My biggest problem with affirmative action is who decides when to shut it off? When will it not be necessary? Is discrimination a valid answer to past racism? Will it get us to a level playing field that much sooner? What about the resentment it creates? Will that eventually undue whatever good it might create?

I appreciate and respect the views of those who have been subjected to discrimination and believe the only way out is through affirmative action. I don't exactly agree, but they have some license in my view. But the UofM's policy IMHO was simply wrongheaded. Had the committee made individual consideration of minority applicants at least minimally qualified (in the "pool" that Jesurgislac speaks of) I might feel differently.

I am not going to defend or attack the U of M speciffically, mostly because I don't know enough about it.

I don't like systtems that rank students numerically because that kind of system perpetuates the myth that the student with the gpa of 3.2 is actually qualitatively different than the student with thhe gpa of 3.8.

No, admissions is not binary. It is usually a matter of rating students along a whole series of axis (axi? axeses?). So the best way to rank the students is in groups. Of course there are the quirky ones, too: the kid with the great gpa but no clubs, no friends, generic references, or the kid with the mediocre gpa who worked thrity hours a week to support the family.

It is easier to determine who will fail then to determine who will be outstanding. My point is that there really isnn't a good way to tell that one student is mediocre and another a future genius. Geniuses can be lousy students. Kids who ace every class are sometimes just workhorses who do every assignment, not creative or insightful thinkers.

Affirmative action has been frequently critisized unfairly as a system for replacing good students with poor ones. It is much more likely that an affirmative action program will replace one studnet who is highinn onne attributewith a studnent who is high in another attribute. The attributes don't necessarily have that much to do with academic success. One kid gets into the top pool from the next tier down for being black. Another gets into the top pool from thenext tierr down for doing volunteer work in a food bank. A student doesn't make the top tier because the personal essay strikes a committee member as snobbish. It isn't a binary process but it is also not a process whereinn you can state definatively that this students is good but that one is mediocre.

Again, I'm not writing about the U of M specifically.


Also Brett, could you respond to the issue of discrimination by region, type of school, sports participation, relations to alumni,etc?

Also Brett, could you

If they're not getting in because they've just flat out got lousy academic qualifications, then they're not being excluded, they're just not making the cut. If this troubles you, maybe you should be concerned about why they haven't got the academic qualifications, rather than insisting on rigging the system to hide that lack.

We've finally reached the sticking point here: I think racial discrimination is wrong, and for government agents, constitutionally prohibited. You folks think whether or not it's wrong depends on who benefits.

I don't think that's a disagreement we're ever going to bridge. But at least we've gotten past all the pretense about racial preferences not really being discriminatory, to the real heart of the matter.

bc: My biggest problem with affirmative action is who decides when to shut it off? When will it not be necessary?

It will not be necessary when people no longer discriminate. When a state that has a population that is about 25% black will also tend to have college students about 25% black.

I see Brett has now raised a new strawman and is busy arguing with it.

I see we're right back to that unsupported assumption that, in the absence of racism, blacks would of course, apply for and objectively qualify for college in strict statistical partity with all other groups.

Tell me, are whites discriminated against, that they are disproportionately less likely than asians to apply for, and qualify for, college?

What we see here is the Procrustean approach to racial statistics: The population MUST do everything in the exact same proportions as their numbers, and if they fail to do so for ANY reason, they must be forced to.

Brett I don't think it has been established thhat thhey ( the U of Mich students) just flat out lacked the qualifications. SAT's are usually only one factor in determining a student's qualifications. Also a student who is low in the math area could have a lowered average but still be competent to study literature. Indeed their scores in the language area mighht be outstanding. The SAT's would have very limited relevance if the student wanted to study art.

Undergraduate schools, especially the competitive ones, rarely accept or reject exclusively on test scores because the people involved in admissions understand the limitations of such scores. If black students who would "otherwise been rejected" were deficient across the board in all areas required on the application process then there would truly be a case of poor students substituting for qualified ones. perhaps that is what happened at Michhigan; I don't knnow. So far the admissions discussion has only mentioned test scores and I'd be surprised if Mich based their admissions exclusively on them. I admit it: I didn't follow the link ( I tried but had one of those computer meltdowns)

Also you haven't answered my question about discrimination.

I do think that it is a legitimate concern that affirmative acgtion could get entrenched annd extend beyond its usefulness. My own prefence is that schools move to discrimination in favor of students of limited inncome.

I do think thatwe have to get over the myth thhatschools, especially competitive ones, try to admit "the best" and that affirmative action has the effect of replacing the best with the not best. Schools try to admit students who will succeed. They try to admit students who be the kinnd of students the school wants to have. A dental college, for example, looks for students who are empathetic and able to work well with other people. Also they need good hand eye coordination and a strong sense of ccraftsmanship.

it's not the Olympics. You don't get in by having the best fastest speed in downhill racing. It just isn't that easy to quantify who is top, next tier down, and so on.

My biggest problem with affirmative action is who decides when to shut it off? When will it not be necessary?

There are two issues at work here, but one of them, I think, can be addressed by using socio-economic bases for affirmative action as opposed to racial bases. If a given group, racial or otherwise, is disadvantaged, socio-economically based affirmative action will assist that group in proportion to that group's degree of disadvantage at any given point in time.

Diversity is, to some extent, another issue. Some degree of diversity will be achieved through socio-economic affirmative action, but not necessarily the kind that a given institution might deem to be in the best interest of the students. It might not create the desired campus environment. That issue has less to do with compensating for discrimination than to do with making the students' experiences more rich, rewarding and worthwhile.

I see we're right back to that unsupported assumption that, in the absence of racism, blacks would of course, apply for and objectively qualify for college in strict statistical partity with all other groups.

Um, you HAVE to start somewhere. And statistically speaking, that's generally the null hypothesis---you have to have that unspoken assumption before you get into the test scores and whatnot.

Throw that out and you're basically throwing out the test scores that so many people are basing their arguments on.

We've finally reached the sticking point here: I think racial discrimination is wrong, and for government agents, constitutionally prohibited.

This is simply not true. To remedy past discrimination and if there's no other viable solution that is less problematic, racial yardsticks ARE allowable. That's part of the case law.

Whether or not that's wise or ethical is a separate, though related matter.

"To remedy past discrimination"

And there's the point: If present discrimination is acceptable only as a remedy for past discrimination, not just for incidental statistical disparities, then you have to establish that the disparity IS a result of past discrimination before resorting to that remedy. You can't just use discrimination as your null hypothesis, and place the burden on people who object to racial discrimination to prove the case.

And doing it for reasons of "diversity" is right out.

There are two issues at work here, but one of them, I think, can be addressed by using socio-economic bases for affirmative action as opposed to racial bases. If a given group, racial or otherwise, is disadvantaged, socio-economically based affirmative action will assist that group in proportion to that group's degree of disadvantage at any given point in time.

By the way, I have absolutely no problem with relying on socio-economic factors as the major basis for affirmative action and equal opportunity programs. I'm not sure how many people would.

Diversity is, to some extent, another issue. Some degree of diversity will be achieved through socio-economic affirmative action, but not necessarily the kind that a given institution might deem to be in the best interest of the students. It might not create the desired campus environment. That issue has less to do with compensating for discrimination than to do with making the students' experiences more rich, rewarding and worthwhile.

In my experience with elite universities (as a student and on selection committees), admissions committees has always taken diversity (on a number levels--geographic, socioeconomic, rural/urban, etc.) seriously.

It will not be necessary when people no longer discriminate. When a state that has a population that is about 25% black will also tend to have college students about 25% black.

This "equality of results" argument is getting a little grating. I cannot fathom how you can say that any one ethnic group "must" be represented in exact mathematical proportion to the general population in college and that then-and only then-will discrimination been wiped out. Why? What if one minority group is doing better than another? Should we then discriminate against them in pursuit of the mathematically perfect mix?

We are already discriminating heavily against Asian Americans. Unfairly. After Prop 209 in California, Asian American admissions rose 6% at Berkely. The same article notes that Asian Americans, representing only 4% of the population, comprise 20% of med. school students.

Having lived in Korea Town in LA (miss the Bulgogi!)and having attended physics classes at UW, I can tell you Asian Americans have a highly respectable work ethic and drive to succeed scholastically. I guarantee you they drive up competition in school! Should we limit their admission to med school? On what basis? As has been repeatedly pointed out here, Asians are hardly free from past discrimination with the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese internment.

I believe we should instead work on instilling the Asian American drive to succeed in other traditionally disadvantaged populations.

There is not an easy answer here. It is not as easy as saying "once 25% of African Americans are attending college (and only 4% of you Asians!) then discrimination will be conquered once and for all in America."

If present discrimination is acceptable only as a remedy for past discrimination, not just for incidental statistical disparities, then you have to establish that the disparity IS a result of past discrimination before resorting to that remedy.

That's not as hard as you may think, you know. Alumni affinity admissions reaching back to the days of de jure racial discrimination is evidence of continuing racial discrimination (though, of course, not nearly as major a factor as other factors.)

And doing it for reasons of "diversity" is right out.

I believe that is incorrect, both on a legal and an ethical ground.

"I cannot fathom how you can say that any one ethnic group "must" be represented in exact mathematical proportion to the general population in college and that then-and only then-will discrimination been wiped out."

I can't speak for Jes, but I think she was just saying that it would be an indicator. In any case, you're overstating her point by saying "exact proportions".

I think discrimination is a confusing thing to talk about because it's partly an indicator and partly a cause of the real problem, which is socio-economic disadvantage.

"I believe we should instead work on instilling the Asian American drive to succeed in other traditionally disadvantaged populations."

I think this is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it assumes that having the drive will result in success. It doesn't. Second, it makes it sound like this drive is separable from other social, cultural and economic factors. It's not.

On the other hand, I think it's the right perspective not to just look at discrimination. That's why the old survey question, "Do you feel that your personal success is inside or outside your control?" is also a good indicator.

Brett, if past and present discrimination is not the primary reason for the disparity in educational achievement, what is? Poverty is not an answer, as that merely bumps the question one step back, why are so many blacks so poor? I see only two other possibilities:

1) cultural norms not primarily caused by present and past discrimination; and
2) genetic variation.

The second is, I trust, not what you are suggesting, as the history of that belief is uniquely ugly, and there is no good evidence for it (the Bell Curve, even if we ignore critiques of its methodology, did not IIRC even purport to factor out non-genetic causes associated with race). I mention this logical possibility only to eliminate it.

That leaves cultural norms not themselves a result of discrimination. As described upthread, there are mainstream black cultural norms that work against educational achievement, but it seems offhand very straightforward to trace those back to learned hopelessness, poor role models, poverty, and other effects of discrimination. I would put the burden of proof on those who say that the majority of the cultural problem has little to do with the effects of past and present discrimination.

This doesn't mean that affirmative action is the best way to deal with the problem. But it probably is primarily caused by discrimination, one way or another.

I say we all go (re-)read Guns, Germs and Steel to get to the root of all of this.

This thread has been far too heated for my taste, but I do wonder if those who are holding up the example of Asian American admissions as proof of the problematic nature of the admission process are Asian Americans themselves. To my knowledge, there is no broad based movement among Asian Americans protesting the discrimination involved in the admissions process. In fact, I'd like to think most Asian Americans realize that having a student body that is diverse outweighs the loss of preferred status, though it is probably more a case of Asians-Americans feeling that a majority Asian-American student body would stand as proof that Asian-Americans are unable to assimilate. And while it is impossible to prove the case that certain elite schools would be less attractive if the student body contained the proportion of Asians that SAT scores might dictate, there is a notion of not joining any country club that would accept me as a member...

dkilmer: I can't speak for Jes, but I think she was just saying that it would be an indicator.

Correct.

I think this is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it assumes that having the drive will result in success. It doesn't. Second, it makes it sound like this drive is separable from other social, cultural and economic factors. It's not.

Well, that sort of achievement disappears after a generation or two in the country, so it's strictly a temporary phenomena. Too, it smacks to this wizened child of the 60s and 70s of the old divide and and conquer tactics (not that it's being used for that now...just that it was used in that fashion back then). I'd be careful in using a tactic that could easily pit group against group, diverting focus from more pertinent problems (this, of course, applies to affirmative action).

This thread has been far too heated for my taste, but I do wonder if those who are holding up the example of Asian American admissions as proof of the problematic nature of the admission process are Asian Americans themselves. To my knowledge, there is no broad based movement among Asian Americans protesting the discrimination involved in the admissions process. In fact, I'd like to think most Asian Americans realize that having a student body that is diverse outweighs the loss of preferred status, though it is probably more a case of Asians-Americans feeling that a majority Asian-American student body would stand as proof that Asian-Americans are unable to assimilate.

There are some in the community (at least, in how I see it) who rankle at the process; there are just as many who reason they would like to see the diversity.

Personally, I thought I benefitted greatly from having a campus full of sharp minds that also had cultural community centers (Asian American, Chicano, black, Native American). I learned far more from that environment than I did from my classes. But....YMMV.

This may be generational, locational or personal, but to me, the rankle-ing was not so much at the system, but that it was being assumed that our intelligence was the product of some freaky work ethic, and the assumption of connected personality points. Of course, I'm 3rd generation, and there are 5th and even 6th generation Japanese-Americans out there, so I'm sure that there are some that feel that the system is unfair, but I haven't seen the Asian-American equivalent of Bakke yet.

it was being assumed that our intelligence was the product of some freaky work ethic

Well, lj, this is anecdotal, but many years ago, when I worked in the Science Library, this East Asian girl kept coming to the desk and asking for the books that were on reserve for her class. Eventually there were no books left, and when other students came by looking for the books, I had to lead them over to her table where there was this huge frigging pile of texts. Like she was going to read them in one sitting.

Not even Evelyn Wood could do that.

it was being assumed that our intelligence was the product of some freaky work ethic

If that was aimed at me, I said nothing of some innate intelligence or freaky work ethic, just a culture that values hard work and scholastic success. (I said "highly respectable work ethic and drive to succeed scholastically")

I do wonder if those who are holding up the example of Asian American admissions as proof of the problematic nature of the admission process are Asian Americans themselves.

No, I'm not Asian American. I wasn't trying to say that there is this hue and cry among Asian Americans. But I bet there would be if that 5x-the-general-population percentage representation in med school were cut back to what Jesugislac sees as proof of non-discrimination (4%).

I think she was just saying that it would be an indicator.

The question was "when would we stop affirmative action." Her answer was when the numbers were equal "more or less." She clearly sees equal numbers as the goal.

I think this is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it assumes that having the drive will result in success. It doesn't. Second, it makes it sound like this drive is separable from other social, cultural and economic factors. It's not.

First, it will in the long run. I will grant that it will be harder given the discrimination that still exists. And I will also grant that accommodations can be made, just not the ones UM used. Second, I agree. I'm saying the "drive" is largely social and cultural. I don't completely buy the economic, but it certainly makes things harder.


"The question was 'when would we stop affirmative action.' Her answer was when the numbers were equal 'more or less.' She clearly sees equal numbers as the goal."

If I said, "I'll know the cake is finished baking when it's brown on top", would my goal be to make the top of the cake brown? You're stretching what was said.

"I don't completely buy the economic, but it certainly makes things harder."

When you're poor, it's extremely hard to imagine success. You don't know what it looks like or how it works. When you're surrounded by poverty, you don't have any exposure to the mechanisms of success. You don't have access to the information that will tell you how it's done. You are detached from the network.

Not to sound like Al Gore, but it's just like attachment theory.

If that was aimed at me, I said nothing of some innate intelligence or freaky work ethic, just a culture that values hard work and scholastic success. (I said "highly respectable work ethic and drive to succeed scholastically")

No, my apologies, just my first comment was, the second was to gwangung, who is a fellow Asian-American. DaveC's example fits alongside your observation of the "5x-the-general-population percentage" point: if it is a white person acting in some way, it is not perceived as being indicative of the caucasian gene pool, but if it is an asian, ta-dah! proof of genetic factors. I hasten to add that DaveC did say it was anecdotal, but it provides a textbook indication of the asymmetry in treatment. I'm not complaining, just observing that it exists and suggesting that it need to be taken into account.

She's willing to end racial preferences when the world on it's own decides to spontaneously generate a demographically uniform distribution of people across all activities and roles.

"Affirmative action now. Affirmative action tomorrow. Affirmative action forever." As Nietzche said, "He who hunts dragons must beware, lest he become a dragon himself."

"She's willing to end racial preferences when the world on it's own decides to spontaneously generate a demographically uniform distribution of people across all activities and roles."

So you disagree with the premise that if real social equality is achieved, you'll tend to see a uniform distribution?

Like bc's use of "exact", your use of "all" overstates what was said.

"Affirmative action now. Affirmative action tomorrow. Affirmative action forever."

I think the problem is the opposite. You can't truly test whether it's worked until you phase it out.

Yes, I do disagree. That's you guys' wonderful vision of "diversity"? A kaleidescope of people who look different on the surface, but all think and act the same? Can't quite wrap your heads around the difference between "equal" and "identical", maybe?

How long are we talking for this vision to arrive? Hundreds of years?

Look, the goal is, or at least at one time was, equality of rights. Not that everybody have equal interests, equal natural endowments, equal attainments.

Not, in short, a world of clones with different paint jobs.

That's why I call this vision of the world "Procrustean"; You just can't accept the world not matching your vision of it, and somehow feel entitled to chop and stretch it into agreement. Too bad that world is made up of people with minds of their own, eh?

I'd get up at 6:00am for breakfast in the female dorm one year where I attended college just to be served eggs and french toast by a girl on whom I had a gigantic crush.

I'd go back for seconds and thirds, no doubt depriving other students looking for eggs and french toast.

Maybe the East Asian girl had a crush on you, Dave.

Tell me something, folks. I'm so liberal I think even stupid people of all races, creeds, colors, and incomes should be permitted admission to college. Maybe they'll read a little Milton Friedman and Emily Dickenson, preferably the latter. What's the harm?

What, is everyone afraid there won't be anyone to pick up their garbage once the Republican Party manages to close the borders with their demagoguery?

Then, of course, we have the problem of legacy admissions ..... something I happen to share with Al Gore and George W. Bush. And yes, legacy is alive and well, as I found out when my son started receiving cushy offers from my alma mater. That they would give him a scholarship on my meager account is a source of great amusement to my friends and family, the comedians.

Three folks of some color or other didn't get the education they deserve because of we white noble three. That Bush kept right on going to the Presidency is evidence that mediocrity and some sort of "negative" action practiced with gusto by the Republican Party.

Who says life is fair? Probably Tom Delay, the scholar.

I hasten to add that DaveC did say it was anecdotal, but it provides a textbook indication of the asymmetry in treatment. I'm not complaining, just observing that it exists and suggesting that it need to be taken into account.

I think it's more an indication of confirmation bias, if anything. So too, if Democrats think that Reagan was a race-baiter, then they are going to see or "remember" some sort of evidence for that more than evidence against. It's like premonitions. We never remember premonitions that we had that didn't come true.

By the way, it's not like I had to daily fend off hordes of earnest Asian students by wielding a giant volume of Chem Abstracts, and threaten to pound them with the book. It's just an anecdote.

Brett:

"How long are we talking for this vision to arrive? Hundreds of years?"

Tell me how long it took James Meredith to gain admission to the U. of Miss and I'll give you a timeline.

See, impatient white people like me would have burnt the place to the ground long before the vision was permitted, oh so slowly, to arrive.

Brett - Sometimes a bed is just a bed.

When race isn't a factor, you tend to see distributions in economic classes, college attendance, etc. that match the race distribution in the whole population. Nothing more to it than that. It's an indicator that race isn't preventing achievement.

"How long are we talking for this vision to arrive? Hundreds of years?"

I'd say, as long as it takes.

"You just can't accept the world not matching your vision of it, and somehow feel entitled to chop and stretch it into agreement."

You've just defined humanity.


Dave, I had a premonition that you wouldn't bring up the Reagan race-baiting, so that shoots that theory.

I remember it. I just had it 10 minutes ago.

Someone seriously needs to put up a new post.

Now look here, John. I started off being against quotas. But then, I gave the anecdote, and got the "Aha!" reaction.

I also have pointed out elsewhere that there are many more women than men on campus. One thing I'm not about to do is stand in the door of "Old Main" and declare that, for diversity's sake, if any more young Asian women want to get into college, they'll have to go through me.

Well it depends on how hot they are.

That's you guys' wonderful vision of "diversity"? A kaleidescope of people who look different on the surface, but all think and act the same?

No, and I don't think you have much of a future as a mindreader.

I do note that you're not having that much success with people who are thinking differently from you, either.

I also have pointed out elsewhere that there are many more women than men on campus. One thing I'm not about to do is stand in the door of "Old Main" and declare that, for diversity's sake, if any more young Asian women want to get into college, they'll have to go through me.

Now, now...that's racial thinking for you. I am completely color blind when it comes to tackling multiple young women for the good of the campus.....

Here's the weird thing on this thread: everyone has a pretty good point.

Here's a handful of things that seem obvious to me about all of this:

Racial discrimination is always unfair, period.

Sometimes a completely fair option is not available.

Fifty, forty, or even thirty years ago, the idea of blacks attending elite law schools in numbers exceeding the single digits wouldn't even have come up. Period.

Lots of eminently qualified blacks, hispanics, and women have achieved well-deserved positions of responsibility and influence because of AA. Without it, they would never have gotten their shot. Period.

I think Brett's right. Without something like affirmative action, we'd all just have to accept things like law schools having significantly more homogenous populations.

Is that worse than deliberately favoring some applicants based on the color of their skin?

How long do we do things like that before we say "We've done enough?"

I don't know the answer to either question, because there is no clear answer.

The real answer is that it shouldn't matter what color your skin is. Unfortunately, that isn't available to us right now. So, we either have to ignore or accept it and let one set of folks take their lumps, or we have to try to ameliorate it and let another set of folks take theirs.

You pay your money and you take your choice.

Thanks -

DaveC,
let me apologize for the 'a-ha' moment, my point wasn't a-ha-ing you, it was just attempting to point out that there is an inevitable asymmetry involved.

And I should add, teaching at a university in a country that has got a birth rate dropping like a lead balloon, I got nothing against quotas. If we could just fill them...

"I think Brett's right. Without something like affirmative action, we'd all just have to accept things like law schools having significantly more homogenous populations."

Look, my comment on that score was a direct response to Jes's hypothetical, what if we couldn't achieve diversity without racial preferences. Doesn't mean I don't think we can.

The availability of racial preferences makes people who want 'diversity' lazy. No need to address underlying causes of poor academic performance, just rig the game until the numbers come out right, and if they don't graduate either, rig the game some more.

But you'll never be able to stop rigging the game, if you don't do anything about the underlying causes of the poor academic performance. And that's where things get ugly, and hard for liberals to address.

Hundreds of years of racism. Ok, supposing that's the cause, what's the mechanism? Because nobody has lived through three hundred years of racism, something has to deliver the effects of those hundreds of years to a teen.

Chew on this: The mechanism is black culture. (And, yeah, I'm not an idiot, I know there isn't just one black culture. I also know that not all blacks do badly in school... Think maybe there's a connection?) So, what are you going to do about that?

But you'll never be able to stop rigging the game, if you don't do anything about the underlying causes of the poor academic performance.

You won't get any argument from me on that.

Chew on this: The mechanism is black culture.

There's something to what you say. There are a lot of toxic, self-destructive elements of black culture.

I'll even go further, and agree with the generally conservative position that if black folks want to really change their position in this society, they're going to have to do it for themselves. Not because they ought to be required to do so, but because nobody else is really going to do it for them.

All of that said, American black culture doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's not just the centuries-long history of being treated first as nothing more than property, then as the literal whipping boy of white arrogance and spite, then as the servant class of white privilege.

It's also the pervasive, ubiquitous level of suspicion and basic lack of respect and simple decency that black people have to live with, every day, here and now. If you think that isn't a reality, and isn't a frustrating, corrosive, poisonous burden, I'm here to tell you you're wrong.

To be dead honest with you, I believe the white majority in this country owes black Americans nothing but thanks for their patience and long-suffering under our ill treatment of them. We owe them a debt that won't be paid by 40 acres and a mule, financial reparations, Great Society handouts, or affirmative action programs.

The only possible thing we can do to repay them for their patience is to treat them with the respect and consideration that is their due, as equals.

When that happens, affirmative action or any other program will be unnecessary. I have no idea if they will then all run out and become lawyers, or not. It really doesn't matter.

That kind of transformation of the relationship between blacks and whites in the US ain't gonna happen anytime soon, sorry to say, so if, in the meantime, a law school decides to give blacks a leg up, I really don't have a problem with it.

You're right, it doesn't solve the problem. It is, at best, a band aid, and a clumsy one. It might even be harmful, in that it is, in some ways, a continuation of the god-damned, self-righteous, patronizing behavior of American whites towards American blacks.

But, you know, it's something, rather than nothing, and a few black folks get to go to law school. So, there's that.

Thanks -

Because nobody has lived through three hundred years of racism

Not for nothing, but I'd like to put a point on this.

I'm 51. No spring chicken, but also not quite ancient yet.

Emmett Till was mutilated and murdered the year before I was born, all for calling a white woman "baby". He was beaten, shot, his eye was gouged out, and he was thrown into the river with a cotton gin tied to his neck with barbed wire. Everyone knew who killed him, but the men who did it never did a day of time for it. The jury acquitted them after deliberating for a bit more than an hour. He was 14.

When I was a kid, I saw pictures in the paper and on TV of black people being sprayed with fire hoses, beaten with clubs, and attacked by dogs, all for the crime of asking to be treated like fellow human beings.

My old man was raised in the pre-Civil Rights era south. When I was a kid we used to go visit my family in Georgia, where my aunts, uncles, and cousins would treat their hired black domestic help like crap. We'd drive past shacks made of scrap lumber and tar paper where poor black folks lived.

I once got to meet an older black man who had worked as a share cropper for my grandfather. The deal with share cropping was that you'd get an advance from your employer, which you'd pay off when the harvest was in. The guys my grandfather would hire were illiterate, so he'd cheat them. My father told me this.

My grandfather, that sorry, evil son of a bitch, rode with klansmen, and apparently kept a black man's knucklebones in his dresser as a trophy. I never saw them, my uncle told me.

I'm a well educated, upper middle class, white, northeastern blue state coastal liberal with a German car and a fondness for French cheese, and that's my personal history. Is it that f*cking hard to imagine what kind of crap the average black person has lived through, personally, or what kind of immediate family history they have been steeped in?

What would it be like to be the guy who's grandfather's knucklebones were in my grandfather's drawer?

There are lots of toxic elements in current-day black culture, but that's far, far, far from the only "mechanism" in play.

Thanks -

Russell puts it strongly, but I'll put it more strongly. If an occupying nation treated a subject people the way American institutions public and private treat black Americans, we'd say they have grounds for revolt. When the Soviet Union treated Warsaw Pact nations that way we [i]did[/i] say they had grounds for revolt. Black cultures - plural, there's not just one - might well improve in some ways if their inhabitants didn't have to deal with the constant reality of unjust treatment at law, discrimination in lending and housing, and all the rest. Blaming black people for noticing that they'r e subject to discrimination every day of their lives and not feeling glad about it is stupid at best, collaborating with the evil at worst. As it now stands, black people know that no matter how educated they are, no matter how they toady to racist authorities, they'll continue to suffer routine discrimination every damn day of their lives.

It's a tribute to the collective good will and decency of black Americans that they haven't yet risen en masse to give us whites a taste of our own medicine.

Although this whole thread may be past its sell-by date, and I have no particular expertise on the question(s) as posed, allow me to offer a slight variant hypothetical.

Let us talk med school, rather than law, because there's probably a stronger consensus here that doctors are, in general, good for the community as a whole than lawyers. (Apologies to the Good Lawyers lurking out there, but I'm trying to simplify this example.)

We know that among the health problems faced by this country, some of the most important stem from a shortage of doctors willing to live in, and serve, minority areas, particularly (though not exclusively) the inner city.

Most doctors, quite understandably, prefer the better working conditions and higher salaries of more affluent zones, and we are not suggesting they be denied that choice. (Although in some countries, where all medical education is state-sponsored, the state may demand that one serve, at least for a while, where it determines one is "needed.")

Nevertheless, as director of admissions of a medical school in some hypothetical state, I am conscious of this situation. I have reason to believe that although any medical graduate should continue to have the right to live and practice wherever s/he wants, the odds of a doctor choosing to serve the inner city are significantly greater if s/he comes from that community, or from the ethnic group(s) most heavily represented there: African-American, Latino, etc.

If my assumptions are correct, it would be in the interest of the common weal - not just institutional diversity, or racial fairness, or reparation of past injustice - to maximize the number of qualified doctors who are likeliest to serve there.

If (and only if, I hasten to point out) the pool of applicants is such that - as described in previous hypotheticals - there are 1000 qualified applicants for some 800 positions, may I not use the discretion of the application process to ensure the acceptance of the maximum number of these qualified applicants from ethnic backgrounds most likely to serve where most needed? Is this not a legitimate goal of a state institution - the general betterment of the health of the people of that state?

(I stress "qualified" because there was a whole lot of nonsense around the time that Bakke was originally argued that by accepting those whose test scores were not at the very top, Berkeley was accepting "unqualified" candidates. What most of the objectors failed to note - whether through ignorance or through malice - was that ALL of the candidates in question had scores well above those required of an earlier generation, which suggested that if these "affirmative action" doctors were not qualified, many of their own physicians were probably, on the same scale, even worse. It's a bad faith argument unless one is willing to posit that a few points on the MEDCAT [or LSAT or SAT or whatever] can clearly distinguish capability from incapacity for particular educational or professional purposes - which even the promoters of such tests would not argue.)

Chew on this: The mechanism is black culture.

Actually, there is an excellent analogue, the phenomenon of buraku culture in Japan. Yglesias recently posted about it, but I would highlight the Kristof article MY cites noting the progress that has been made. While you might attribute lack of black progress to the fact that black culture has held black people down, there is a buraku culture and it doesn't seem to be as effective in holding the buraku down. Why is that? Rather than some mystical differences in culture, Kristof suggests it is the upward mobility that prevents people from telling them from the mainstream, so perhaps it is less black culture than actual black skin. I myself would highlight the strong hand that the government has followed strictly enforcing anti discrimination laws, but that would probably have Brett curl into a fetal position. Still, I'd be interested to know what Brett thinks is different and if it can be distilled down to something for us to chew on.

To add to russell's comments above, I am only 38, and in my lifetime (hell, when I was in college), the largest suburb of Cleveland -- and the seventh-largest city in Ohio overall -- had black residents driven out by having crosses burned on their lawns, and the entire city had to operate under a consent decree for more than two decades because of pervasively racist policies of keeping blacks out of home sales and rentals.

In my lifetime, a black man was tied to a truck in Texas and dragged to his death for no other reason than some white person's amusement.

russell and I could probably both go on and on, but I'm not sure how much education a man who persists in believing that, since nobody alive today is 300 years old, it's black people's own damn fault for not having more CEOs and presidents and senators, is capable of achieving.

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