One of the few victories for conservatives yesterday was the passage of Proposal 2 in Michigan, which banned the use of affirmative action in the public sector. I'm not sure it can even really be considered a victory for conservatives per se, since the same voters who voted largely Democratic and even voted against a proposal to permit dove-hunting nevertheless voted overwhelming (58-42) against affirmative action. The point is, affirmative action seems to be losing its liberal base. White people are getting fed up.
I used to be in favor of affirmative action, when I was just a wee lad--before I had to deal with it, really. But the older I get, and the increasing frequency with which affirmative action affects my life, the more I find myself opposed to it. Quite frankly, I find it offensive. Job applications that say in big capital letters MINORITY APPLICANTS ONLY. Or even "Women and minorities strongly encouraged to apply." Imagine the uproar if you applied for a job that said, "White men strongly encouraged to apply."
The difference is, what, white men weren't an oppressed group for hundreds of years. Honestly, I just don't care about that anymore. Affirmative action just drives the cycle of black entitlement and white guilt, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being made to feel guilty, tired of being punished, for something I never did. And that's what affirmative action is, by the way. It's a punishment for being white. Oh, sure, it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be a benefit to minorities for years of oppression, and I think that's nice. But you can't give one group a benefit without punishing another group. It's like when you get a tax break for buying a hybrid car. It's the same result as taxing everyone else for NOT buying a hybrid car. And I don't think punishing whites for something people who had the same skin color as them did decades ago is sound social policy.
Newsweek has an article this week about Proposal 2 and affirmative action generally. The article discusses California's experience with race since banning AA in 1997:
This is not to say Proposition 209 had no effect. In two areas—minority enrollment in the state's top public universities and contracts awarded to women and minorities—the vote was a watershed event. In 1998, the University of California, Berkeley, admitted less than half the number of blacks it had the previous year and nearly half the number of Latinos. At UCLA, the numbers of incoming "underrepresented" minorities also dropped precipitously. At the law schools, the falloff was startling. In 1997, Berkeley's law school enrolled only one black first-year student out of a total of 268. UCLA did not fare much better.
This summer, UCLA projected its lowest black enrollment (96 prospective students out of nearly 5,000 freshmen) in more than three decades...
The impact of Proposition 209 on small entrepreneurs was even more striking. In the preproposition years, it was easy to find minority firms to work on major transportation projects, said Frederick Jordan, founder of F.E. Jordan Associates, a civil and environmental engineering firm. But "all the firms were wiped out. In 1996 in San Francisco I could've produced 10 or 15 African-American firms that could do any kind of work. Today, I can't find anybody—zero, zero." A study released by the Discrimination Research Center confirms that only a third of minority enterprises certified to do business with the California Department of Transportation in 1996 are still in operation.
The author seems to think this bad: that minority enrollment is down, that minority businesses are going under. But isn't this, really, the great argument AGAINST affirmative action? Don't these stats just confirm that those who are anti-AA are right? When race wasn't a factor, the top public schools accepted less minorities; in other words, all those kids who got in because they were black WEREN'T QUALIFIED. Same with the minority businesses. Are we really going to try to argue that the Calfornia Department of Transportation is actively discriminating against minority-owned businesses? Please. They just couldn't compete sans preferential treatment. Isn't this supposed to be the way it works? Isn't this supposed to be a meritocracy?
The point, really--and the author of the Newsweek article concurs--is that affirmative action doesn't deal with the problem. If we want to solve race disparities, the only solution that will actually solve the problem is through equality of education at the K-12 level. Giving unqualified minorities college admission preference is like giving someone a cast after their arm's been broken for ten years. It's too late.
It's also the other reason I'm against AA. AA is institutionalized discrimination. It is. This can't be denied. But the argument is that it's discrimination designed to remedy other forms of discrimination. First of all, I'm not sure two wrongs make a right.* But beyond that, I'm just not convinced. I'm not convinced AA really accomplishes the things it's supposed to. Does preferential treatment in college and employment really address/remedy the (supposed) injustices minorities faced and will face in life? It probably helps. But when measured against a clear discriminatory effect against whites, I'm not convinced these fuzzy goals it may or may not accomplish balance out.
* But I am pretty sure two Wongs make a White.