Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Previous post has an asterisked paragraph, but no post-script to it -- that's what this is. Just a quick note since the previous post was already getting so god-awful long:

I was talking about interest groups, and how people fear/hate them. I understand this to some extent; no one wants "fringe groups" taking over our national discourse. But how do we define "fringe groups"?

I don't hear much from non-lefties on Lobbyists as a Fringe Group -- after all, they represent a significant portion of US wealth interests, but a very small part of our population.

Everyone agrees on some, like the KKK, libertarians, socialists, etc. (I have to agree that we socialists are fringe-y, though not necessarily in the derogatory "special interest" way normally imputed to the idea), etc. But when those angry about the Rutgers case (yes, I know, done and gone), or even Tawana Brawley (Al Sharpton's eternal albatross) or with revisiting the Emmet Till or Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, it's often defined as special interests.

Hmm... I don't feel like I'm getting where I want to go... so I'll cut to it. I'm just throwing this out there as an idea, but... especially in cases like Imus, does it not seem that sometimes "Special Intersts" and "Fringe" and "Pressure Groups" are the names assigned to... large minority groups? People decry "Identity Politics" these days, but I don't quite see why... one must be careful to maintain the fact that identities are malleable and multiple, and to accept well-meaning allies of many stripes, but hey, there are identities in the US, and you know what? For many of us, our identification with our country of ancestry was taken forcibly, or with little choice due to economic reasons, not for fun, conquest, riches, or land. For those of us who look a little different, we were told we were different and excluded. I don't think the remedy is to forget all that or forget our multiple identities; nor to let identity-politics-fatigue get in the way of defending our dignity and raising the standards of acceptable discourse. But I digress again -- my actual real interesting point goes back to my industry days. I had several white friends who complained that it was "impossible to get ahead as a white male" in the company, people were always looking for diversity and all. Though, of course, they said it was ok when people were qualified (now there's soft bigotry for you). I told them, look here: in our company, everyone had to take a standardized test to get hired, and there was a cut off, so we knew everyone had passed that and had basic qualifications; secondly, I don't think it was impossible to advance, because, hey, most of our managers were still... white males, and lastly, if they agreed that equality was a laudable goal, and that racial minorities and women had been unfairly excluded in the past, then assuming a zero-sum game at least within hiring and management: WHITE MALES WERE (ARE) GOING TO HAVE TO LOSE POWER. Insofar as white males have exercised unfair amounts of power, they will have to lose some of it for a fair world to exist. This was an idea they hadn't directly confronted before, it seemed, and went to the heart of the problem -- they felt they were losing power.

"GOOD," I pointed out, "Because if you seriously do believe in equality, then to achieve it you're going to have to lose some power in society in order for it to be equal... there's not a way for whites and males to retain all the societal power they've had and even have now AND still achieve equality and parity.

They didn't like that -- liked even less when I pointed out that, as engineers, they would realize that to get to parity in the long-term, in the short-term one must overhire and overrepresent the discriminated against parties, because if you want to get to average (say, 9% of all positions at all levels are Black, 55% are women, etc.), you have to hire/promote at, say 15, or 20%, or 60, 75% in the second cse, if you want to rapidly achieve parity. If you hire only AT the target, then of course, you advance only at the rate of attrition.

A counterargument is that there aren't enough qualified people to hire at higher rates, but that excuse is becoming less true and less acceptable each day. Another is that this amounts to discrimination against the majority -- reverse racism. But it's simply a mathematical fact. I, myself, would like society to address the results of past ills at higher than the rate of attrition. That means -- really, it does -- over hiring, overrepresenting minority groups.

My friends liked that not at all. Understandably so. But it's amazing how many smart people don't realize that you can't achieve equality in a historically inequal society by maintaining the status quo...

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