Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, June 24, 2011

Argument for Affirmative Action

I stopped writing about affirmative action in my last post, because if I were to argue against Goodkind's argument I would be essentially arguing that slavery was bad. Listen people. If we as a society haven't moved beyond the concept of white exceptionalism and are still taking the slavery as a positive good argument seriously, we're fucked, I find humanity entirely repugnant, and am moving to my secret arctic base to get as far away from the rest of you as I can. You sicken me.

If we have, then we can have a calm rational discussion about the effects of and reasons for our nation's use of affirmative action policies.

To start off I have some basic beliefs and will try to argue that they are true. These are the things that lead me to believe we still need affirmative action.

  • From before the founding of the country until about 1955 give or take a decade depending on where you lived, (I can't help it if Chris Rock said all this better.) the country systematically disenfranchised minorities and women politically, economically, and socially.
  • Resources of institutions, individuals, and governments, particularly local governments are often affected by the policies affecting them in the past as well as the accrued factors of production (I mean a general term for resources, human, material, and economic and I apologize for sounding snooty. Ah who am I kidding. I don't.) of the generations before them.
  • While not as pronounced as it once was there is still a disparity in political power, wealth and education between minorities and whites. (This in my opinion is the cringer. Which side of the line people stand upon tends to depend on how much stock they put in this one.)
  • Affirmative action policies were put into place in the 1950's and 1960's as a way of bridging the disparities aforementioned in the previous bullet point.

Let's go.

Racism sucks.
Do I really have to argue that not being able to vote, legally own property, marry, sue and the U.S. Supreme Court saying, that blacks were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect," qualifies of disenfranchisement. And don't get me started on discriminatory hiring practices and Jim Crow.

I'll do it if I have to but read the first paragraph again before you ask me to.

We are all products of the past
Society depends on the fact that resources outlive us as individuals. We die. The world doesn't. Knowledge, wealth, buildings, infrastructure; we all use these things and never really give thought to how much of it was put into place before we were born. Think of what would happen if each generation started as a tabula rasa, without the technology, scientific knowledge, and wealth created by the previous. Watch the tribe.

Hell, the house I grew up in is about 30 years older than me.

Anyway the point I'm trying to make is the current state of society is directly linked to its previous states. As much as a liberal I am and how much I cry about individual freedom bladdy blady bla I have to admit the person I am today is a result of the circumstances and decisions my parents made and their parents before them made. Decisions I had no part in can and do affect me. I didn't just spring out of the ground fully formed exactly as I am. Nobody did.

This is true on an individual scale.

According to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

"The likelihood of enrolling in postsecondary education is strongly related to parents’ education even when other factors are taken into account.

"As parents’ education increases, so does students’ likelihood of enrolling in
postsecondary education. Among 1992 high school graduates whose parents did
not go to college, 59 percent had enrolled in some form of postsecondary education
by 1994 (table 1). The enrollment rate increased to 75 percent among those
whose parents had some college experience, and to 93 percent among those
whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree."

This is also true on a municipal scale, and can be seen in the numerous catch 22's hindering Detroit's Renaissance. Due to many of the circumstances of Detroit's past the city has a lack of resources that make returning it to former glory incredibly difficult. (I don't mean to start a flame war so note I didn't say impossible.)

There was and is a wealth gap.
One of the results of that disenfranchisement was that the policies instituted prior to the civil rights movement were created to primarily benefit white people. Minorities had limited economic, social, and political power which overall reduced quality of life and wealth. (Again I will smack someone if I have to say being a slave, not being able to vote, and having limited work and living options sucked.)

All of this lead to an education and wealth gap that the country is still suffering from. I don't harp on it because I am relatively well off. I mean I'm broke, but I'm broke because the economy sucks and I'm in my early 20's, with little work experience. We're all broke, but I've seen some folks way worse off than me.

Which leads me to my next point.

Affirmative action was created as an imperfect solution to close those gaps.
I'm a hippie and the reason why I'm a hippie is because I have a fondness for the attitudes of the 60's. It was a time when people said look here are some problems. Here are some things that we don't like about society. What can we do to change them? In a lot of ways they succeeded. The civil rights movement happened. The EPA was created (Miles that happened in 1970, I'm counting it). A crap ton of sunshine laws were passed including the ones my trade depends on, the Federal Freedom of Information Act and Michigan Open Meetings Act (Again Miles '70's. Shut up.) How the justice system looks at the rights of the accused changed. I love the idea that if we have a societal problem we don't just shrug and say that's just the way it is. Affirmative action polices came out largely due to people in the 1960's saying that the system was unfair and going let's fix that as best we can, and it is working. Do I see a day when we will no longer need affirmative action? Yes. I just don't think we are there yet.

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