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Affirmative Action

Anglachel was three great posts up on Affirmative Action (AFAC). Hey, Ds, strip mine these for talking points, wouldja?

Easy Rollins fans:

this one is for you.

NOTE Anglachel and Leah should get together on the war on poverty....

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badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

Anglachel's articles fit very nicely with the list below from FrenchDoc's article of last night:

Effects of Groupthink

1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
2. Incomplete survey of objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4. Failure to re-evaluate rejected alternatives
5. Poor information search
6. Selectivity in reviewing information
7. Failure to work out contingency plans

Submitted by lambert on

Do they exhibit groupthink? Or expose it?

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

One of the Affirmative Action issues I have read in comments on the blog, have read in various publications and newspapers, and have discussed with the spousal unit is the perception, accurate or not, that AFAC (to distinguish from AA) will not help anyone who is white and male, regardless of his family background. It has been described as everything from an unforseen side-effect to a deliberate reverse discrimination objective. I think this is the biggest area of failure in the equal opportunity measures and is what Democrats should have been addressing all along.

Even in the least controversial allegations, you have:

"unforeseen side-effect" <=> failure to examine risks, poor information search, probably selectivity in review of information

"should have been addressing all along" <=> failure to re-evaluate rejected alternatives, selectivity in reviewing information, failure to work out contingency plans.

... and you can do the same for more sections from both articles if you look for it.

There's a reason for AFAC's failure - as a Democratic political policy, even if you believe it was a successful program - and it stems from those reasons. Whether you want to assign it to "groupthink" (which I certainly think I've encountered) or just sloppy program design, there are reasons why it failed politically. Those reasons need to be examined and generalized so they can be avoided in future policy.

Doing this stuff right is hard, but we're supposed to be the creative class.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

was never properly explained to the public and was butchered by the courts even before it got off the ground by conservative groups screaming "reverse discrimination."

That failure to explain is particularly visible in the argument that white males are placed at a disadvantage... or whites arguing that their class position places them at a disadvantage and that they never benefited from or engaged in discriminatory behavior.

The problem lies with not grasping the distinction between individual discrimination and institutional discrimination

Individual discrimination: I don't like blacks, I refuse to hire them or rent them an apartment... one on one discrimination.

Institutional discrimination: when the system as a whole places an entire category of people at a disadvantage even in the absence of individual discrimination. The "normal" workings of the system puts minorities at a disadvantage. This form of discrimination is much more pervasive but mush less visible than individual discrimination.

AFAC was NEVER designed to correct individual discrimination, it was designed to correct and compensate for the historical and cumulative disadvantages created by a racist and sexist system.

IF you're white, no matter what your social class, you're privileged. IF you're male, regardless of your class or race, you're privileged. These privileges are unearned, just like the disadvantages that women and minorities inherit as part of the system.

A working class white male may be economically disadvantaged in terms of class, but is privileged in terms of race and gender.

Redistribution mechanisms (such as FDR's) are institutional ways of correcting for social class disadvantages. AFAC is a redistribution mechanism to correct gender and race disadvantages. Both types of redistribution work on the system, not individual cases.

Can anyone find a peer-reviewed study that shows that white men are no longer a privileged class? That they have been systematically hurt by AFAC? (Rhetorical question)

Go Global!

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

Decades of de jure discrimination in higher education meant that the vast majority of graduates were white.

Legacy admissions to colleges (guaranteed acceptance to the children & grandchildren of alumni) perpetuates that discrimination.

It's also annoying that all the posturing that grades and SAT scores are of primary importance in college admissions becomes irrelevant if the black applicant with lower academic credentials happens to to be an outstanding football or basketball player.

“Payback is a PUMA”

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

Legacy admissions are guaranteed acceptance for the children and grandchildren of alumni who meet the minimum admission qualifications.

But decades of discrimination means that most alumni are white. Legacy admissions perpetuate the discrimination.

It is also annoying that all the posturing about grades and SAT scores being of primary importance in admissions disappears if the black applicant with lower academic credentials is an outstanding football or basketball player.

“Payback is a PUMA”

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

I think it's rather silly to describe a homeless white male as "privileged" - you may be able to find some privilege he has, but it won't buy a meal or even a cup of coffee. Just like the fact that I'm "tall" (6' 0") won't get me a lucrative NBA contract. It's a privilege that the cliche "distinction without a difference" was invented for.

Nevertheless, that doesn't address at all what I read Anglachel to be saying. Nobody (that I can tell) is arguing that AFAC is wrong, or even talking about whether it worked or not. It's about communication and the perceptions you create when you pursue a policy you believe is right. It's about implementing AFAC at the same time you ignore the concerns of your traditional working class and middle class base.

AFAC is a failure in perception for Dems for certain, whether the program worked or not. In fact, calling any homeless male privileged is a failure of the same order, regardless if you can find peer reviewed data to prove it.

To put it in contemporary terms, we have to choose from two factions of the D party: the faction that thinks we can sell out the Constitution or the environment as long as we win the White House, and the faction that thinks we should do what's right, regardless if it costs us the White House.

Those are both impotent positions. The function of a political party is to get it's candidates elected AND to do the right thing. Quite often, Dems succeed at neither.

If that combination isn't possible, then it's because the party's leadership and membership lack the brains and creativity to do it, are unwilling to do the work to do it, or democracy is fatally flawed and needs to be abandonded in favor of a system that does a better job delivering for everyone in the country. I don't believe the latter - yet.

Submitted by lambert on

And that would be restoring democracy. For the Democratic Party, abolishing the caucus system in favor of genuine secret ballot primary elections would be an excellent start.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

Whatever you want to call the particular failure to construct solutions that do the right thing and still win elections, that failure in the party exists independently of the quality of the democracy.

Democracy never guarantees a desireable outcome, but only that outcomes are some representation of the will of the people.

But I agree about caucuses and secret ballots (and I used to defend caucuses at one time).

Anglachel's picture
Submitted by Anglachel on

You're both right.

I am dicussing the role of institutions in crafting socio-economic outcomes at a reasonably abstract level and I am talking about the inability of the Democrats to think and communicate clearly about Affirmative Action. The Republicans have set the ground rules. I am also trying to put some historical perspective on it so people can see it is not just "weakness" on the Democratic side. There are serious, deep, systemic problems with the wealth distribution in the country. Attempts to ameliorate one issue run headlong into the need to manage another.

It is far easier to destroy and rob than to create and share. Liberal democracy ain't easy.


badger's picture
Submitted by badger on

that easy. Part of the reason is that I lived through it and find now that I was probably on the wrong side in the sense of wanting purity on the issue (not that I had much impact).

The other reason is a closely-related issue - school busing. There's an excellent book documenting busing in Boston - J Anthony Lukas' Pulitzer Prize winning Common Ground.

There are instances in the book where the Democrats involved (Boston mayor Kevin White, his aide Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, a Kennedy-friendly judge) were handed opportunities to address some of the frustrations of working-class whites and not only let them slide but were actively antagonistic (Including a snub to a women's group).

If you go beyond Lukas' narrative and investigate things like the Coleman Report, you find that Dems staked out their positions more dogmatically than scientifically - they chose a course of integrating poor blacks with poor whites which was likely to fail, while Coleman's research (and some research since) has demonstrated that integration by economic class (eg poor blacks or whites with middle class whites) would have been effective and integration by race alone wasn't. In fact the presiding judge refused to re-visit the busing plan to implement it in terms more in line with Coleman's report. (In 1991, James Coleman was elected president of the American Sociological Association).

The end result, not entirely due to busing, was that in cities like Boston or Milwaukee, where integration was forced, school populations are now 80% or more non-white district-wide - segregated again. Dems lost politically, and lost in practice too. What's the point of that? To feel good?

Again, you can run down FrenchDoc's list quoted at the top and find examples of each of those effects. Whether that's groupthink I won't guess, but it is poor system design and not even intelligent politics. In a well-planned system you can even screw-up royally up front and fix it on the backend - something else that rarely happens.

I agree that liberal democracy isn't easy, which is all the more reason to want people to be creative and make the more difficult choices in crafting programs and to use processes that make success more likely. In terms of the blogosphere, or even writers like James Howard Kunstler (to take another issue arena), it's easy to toss off simplistic solutions which in practice are virtually guaranteed to fail, engender reaction, or both. It's forgivable on the internet, but not in Congress.

And at the time AFAC was created, the Dems had complete control over all three branches of government - something we're usually reluctant to let the GOP off the hook for.

I think as Anglachel noted, it wasn't only AFAC as such that was off-putting (for some maybe, but not nearly all) - it was the simulataneous, continuous abandonment of working class issues and the creation of the conditions in which demagogic populism usually thrives - the middle class/working class against the lower class on one side and the upper classes on the other.

Again, whether that was reality or perception isn't relevant, as we don't get a do-over on the Nixon/Reagan/Bush years if it wasn't reality.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

it was shocking to see all that as a kid --and to see so much hatred and viciousness coming from moms. (and what's weird is that i was in 5th-6th grade when Boston erupted, and in 7th grade Bakke was a giant deal--even in class we discussed it)

you reminded me of Zinn's American history book too--since even before we were a nation, those with power have been pitting one lower-class group against others to further their own ends.

The GOP has used it for decades successfully--but we're all naturally tribal, and less connected than ever--communities are more segregated now all over the country in various ways, and schools as well--the net too, has exacerbated it.

Affirmative Action in itself pits groups against each other--and all government action tends to do so too, i think--but as long as there's not an equal playing field and opportunities, it's necessary.