Undead sexist cliche: Without affirmative action, jobs would be handed out based on merit

Okay, technically this isn’t just a sexist cliche as it applies to any minority group that benefits from affirmative action (or even anti-discrimination programs, depending on the cliche-spouter). It popped into my mind while ruminating on David Brooks nostalgia trip earlier this week.
The concept is simple: Affirmative action is bad because jobs and college admissions should be based entirely on merit and ability. No special favors. And if we didn’t show favoritism to women and minorities, that’s the way it would be. And should be. And used to be——libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan, for example (whom I’ve mentioned before) asserted in one of his columns that yes, there might have been a little bit of discrimination against women and minorities once upon a time, but then came an age of pure, total merit and openness, which affirmative action snuffed out.
Well, no. I seriously doubt that in the short span of time between the Civil Rights Act banning job discrimination in 1964 and affirmative action programs developing, there was any sort of utopia of total unbiased hiring. And prior to that, well let’s see, we have discrimination at various points against the Irish, Asians, Eastern Europeans, Latinos and of course, blacks and women, among others.
Even now, if you eliminate affirmative action it’s not going to do anything to affect legacy admissions, where college alumni kids get preference in admissions. Or the geographic rule where, for example, state residents get extra points when applying for a state college. Or the effects of networking to land jobs; if you look in any career book, it will tell you that raw merit is not going to get you jobs or promotions without self-promotion, without making yourself known to the higher-ups, etc.
Astonishingly, none of this seems as objectionable to the critics of affirmative action: I’ve never heard anyone suggest that legacy admissions are looked down on as unqualified or that geographic beneficiaries are haunted by doubts about their own ability (standard complaints about affirmative action). And while they may wring their hands in great distress over the idea of discriminating against someone based on race, religion or gender (usually not so much hand-wringing with gender) they don’t seem to find this as horribly, horribly horrible as discriminating in favor of minorities (Leo has a long history of asserting statistics showing women/minorities are under-represented doesn’t prove discrimination while asserting that they can indeed prove discrimination against white males).
That doesn’t make them bigots. Some of it may be another form of nostalgia: Back in the 1950s, after all, nobody argued for special treatment or preference in hiring. You took the best white guy who applied, fair and square. You didn’t argue over which books should be in “the canon”——everyone agreed on the great authors and nobody worried how many of them were white men. When white men ran the world and got the jobs, everything was fair!
It may be they genuinely feel that racial/gender discrimination or favoritism is a bigger issue than favoritism based on which state you live in. Fair enough; it’s not as if discrimination against Michiganders has been a huge problem in our society. But by that logic, discrimination against minorities or women should be a serious problem, not something to brush aside as unprovable or the result of perfectly natural fears about black criminals (right-winger Walter Williams has brought that idea up) or the result of women simply being unnable to compete in a meritocracy (both Leo and Williams supported Larry Summers‘ speech on women being inferior in science).
Yet somehow they brush it aside. Go figure.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

4 responses to “Undead sexist cliche: Without affirmative action, jobs would be handed out based on merit

  1. Pingback: Another reason to separate church and state « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Links with breakfast | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Gracias for inspiring me to go do my own my own scrutiny.
    Yours was way more wide-ranging than mine.

  4. Pingback: Political default settings | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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