Once again, reading Crommunist’s blog has me thinking. This time, it’s an article entitled When should we stop? which is about Affirmative Action. It’s a frustrating topic, because we really aren’t in an equal society. The points made in his article are totally valid and I find them difficult. I’m going to provide my rather uncomfortable comments, and I’m going to overuse the word honky to mask my discomfort.
Sometimes I forget that I live in a city that has a great deal of race troubles. I’m a honky, and we aren’t exactly having trouble being represented in government, but it isn’t just my white guy naivete, we’ve made some actual progress. Our mayor isn’t a white guy, and race really didn’t seem like it mattered in the election, although I’m sure some hate the fact that our mayor is brown. But if you look at our Aldermen, only one is a visible minority (John Mar, alderman of Ward 8). According to our 2006 census data, we’re still a very white city, so perhaps this is legitimately representative. It’s a little hard to tell with this data the exact breakdown of ethnicity. It would appear that we have nobody from Africa living here, which seems highly suspect, and tells me that I probably don’t have all the information.
My problem with Affirmative Action is that I view it as inherently racist, the pendulum swinging back the other way. In college, we had a discussion on the topic, and my friend Dondon phrased it rather well when he said, “My house burned down last night, but what a diverse group of firefighters.” Equality shouldn’t mean hiring based on proportion, it should mean hiring the best possible applicant for any position.
That said, there seems to be a disproportion in favor of us honkies. There could be a large number of reasons for this, but none of them are good. For example, it’s possible that white people have better access to a good education. I find this at least a little more plausible than I did when I was in college given the changes that took place in the interim with student loans. I felt that these changes were disgusting, and they make it harder for anyone coming from a tough financial background to get a leg up in the world, and if we’re accepting that the majority of good jobs are in the hands of honkies, that means that non-honkies are primarily among the people with those tough financial backgrounds. To me, this seems unfair.
Another reason there could be more honkies in positions of power is that other honkies already in those positions of power don’t want to share the wealth with non-honkies, the race equivalent of an Old Boy’s Club. I find this less likely as time goes by, because more and more non-honkies are being promoted into those roles, but I’m sure there are plenty of examples that back this up despite my not seeing it as much.
I’m sure there are millions of reasons, some benign and some horrible, but disproportion isn’t beneficial to society. I don’t know that the answer is setting up hiring ratios so much as putting more legislation and effort into rooting out discrimination. Things like the aforementioned student finance changes should be corrected to ensure that all citizens despite any of the adjectives that may apply have equal opportunities. Equality is not about tipping the scales the other way, it is about ensuring that we’re doing our best to guarantee opportunity for everyone.