I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Race 2

I described in race I, my understanding of how powerful the American version of racism was and that the reason for its power was because it involved the bringing together of race, slavery, and dehumanization.   After two centuries the nation paid a heavy price in blood and treasure to formally abolish slavery.  But it was replaced (in the South) by a share-cropping economic structure married to a segregated social structure that amounted to an American apartheid.  This lasted another century.

Then toward the end of that third century the nation set about to finally deal with its race problem.  In the words of Martin Luther King, “…to live out the true meaning of its creed, that all men are created equal.” That story is well known.  The end of segregation, the expansion of voting rights, and access to opportunity came to the forefront of the American agenda.  But it was not going to be easy.  

I expect that now we have come to the end of the general agreement about how we got where we were in 1965.

Fighting the very strong American racism would take very strong measures.  Affirmative action – use discrimination to fight the effects of previous discrimination.  Laws against racial discrimination in the workplace that were strong enough to actually achieve their purpose.  If the victim was being discriminated against by an institution or a large group of people within an institution, then it would be very hard to prove it.  Since the group was stronger than the individual, we shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.  It is now true that even appearing to be a racist is one of the worst things that can happen to you in this society.

Why do I call them very strong?  Because following them takes you outside of normal American jurisprudence.  You have created a protected class of people.  How do you prove that your hiring practices are fair?  Show that the relevant demographic of your hiring comports with that of the general population.  Some call it “quotas”.  Some don’t.  But did you notice how easily you passed over the sentence:  “How do you prove that your hiring practices are fair?”  How easily we accept the idea that the accused has to prove their innocence rather than that the state has to prove their guilt?

How can you justify such special treatment?  My friend Tom Brieske, from South Carolina by way of Wisconsin, used to offer the following metaphor for why 300 years of oppression might justify a bit of special treatment.  He imagined two guys X and Y who were going to get into a fight.  X had a large gang with him who grabbed Y and held him down for several minutes and beat the hell out of him.  After they were through, X then offered Y the opportunity to have that “fair” fight.

I believe that the argument for special treatment because of prior oppression is valid and sufficient, because I see no other way to overcome the results of the prior treatment.

However, there are some concomitant questions that ought to be answered.  Such as:
1.  How much?
2.  For how long?
3.   a.  Will there be special interest groups that grow up around the protected classes?
      b.  If so, how will you deal with them?
4.  How do you deal with rogues among the protected classes?

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

1 comment:

  1. For me the Guys X and Y argument loses relevance when punitive actions as a result of Guy X’s actions are visited on all citizens of his race and their descendents.

    I am in full agreement that racism in America following the civil war financially suppressed Blacks for 100 years, and that affirmative action has had a positive impact in that regard. I would add that we (the US) seem to be addicted to special treatment (affirmative action included) by race and other groups. I like the remark by Chief Justice Roberts and I interpret it as addressing discrimination both for and against a race.

    I can agree that special treatment as a solution is valid and sufficient due to the absence of another viable solution. And, even thought we got there by different routes I join Wayne in justifying its use in this instance.

    US patent law gives an inventor special treatment for 18 years or approximately 1 generation. Affirmative action should have had a sunset requirement as well.