quotas (affirmative action)

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nanu
quotas (affirmative action)

 

nanu

-this is my first attempt at a "real" post, please be kind-
-also, given recent conversations in this forum and elsewhere, i would encourage responses mostly (only?) from folks who identify as Indigenous, FN, poc, mixed race-

i'm currently in India for an extended trip and have been following news stories about changes to reservations/quotas as per federal government decisions. i was also privy to an intense conversation between 2 cousins about the status of non-Hindus in India the day of the bomb blasts in Mehrauli (near Delhi) almost 2 weeks ago.

this got me thinking about the system that India has had in place since its creation as a nation-state (i.e. "independence," partition, when the Brits kinda left) to deal with serious inequalities - the reservation or quota system.

This is a form of affirmative action where government postings, places in schools and colleges (private and public), etc. have some specific percentage of their spots allocated to what they call "backward classes" (cringe, yes the language is super f*cked up), formally known as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST).

to be honest, i don't know enough about how this system has been functioning in India. i know that i have, as a poc, theorized that pushing for structural change includes many steps, one of which could be affirmative action policies. but, i am constantly having trouble negotiating what that would look like ...

it'd be great to hear/read others' thoughts.

Maysie Maysie's picture

nanu, this is an interesting topic, or, it can be an interesting topic.

Correcting past inequities, from the systemic level, happens differently in different countries/contexts. And those of us in Canada/US who are pro-affirmative action (terminology from the US) and employment equity (terminology from Canada) are very quick to say, and I've done it "But it's NOT the same as quotas!!!" because the idea of quotas gets most right wingers, some centrists, and yes some lefties all in a HUGE tizzy.

The most common complaint is that "unqualified people will be hired!! Oh nooooo!"

We can break that phrase down to mean "unqualified people of colour/FN people/white women/people with disabilities will be hired! Oh nooooo!" in the Canadian context.

This bothers me because unqualified white able-bodied people get hired all the time. GWB is the perfect example, and not just for his most current employment which is ending soon. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] Robert Jensen does a whole thing on his unearned qualifications as an able-bodied white man in his book "The Heart of Whiteness"

No general tizzy over this inequity. Except for crabby anti-oppression activists. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

In theory, I can see how and why quotas are established, but in the Canadian context, which is all that I know, there's so many negatives associated with the term, not based in facts or anything of course, that it wouldn't work just from that reason alone. "Buy-in", both internal and external would be impossible.

And the larger issue, for me, is that lack of representation in certain jobs is only one aspect of systemic racism/ exclusion/ classism (from the context of India you've given, this sound like a combination of those three, and probably more elements that are not in my scope). Lack of access to education to qualify for those jobs is another. Deep unexamined systemic discrimination in other areas of life is another.

So the few who manage to get out, get an education and become qualified for certain jobs (all without any state intervention or assistance perhaps?), jobs which have quotas attached to them, theoretically will have access to those jobs in ways that they hadn't before. Sounds good to me.

nanu I would be very interested if you could talk to people who support this measure, and why they do, and more of the context of who this measure is aiming to assist, and if it's effective.

I'm on the road for most of today and won't be able to be back on babble until the evening, so when I don't respond right away, that's why.

Thanks for posting this nanu, I hope the discussion goes in a positive direction.

Makwa Makwa's picture

I am not terribly fond about how so-called 'employment equity' systems are usually set up here, because the targets are so broad that truly marginalized people such as FN are left out while 'model minority,' i.e. those groups who are preferred by the white power structure, benefit. Poorly qualified white folk are hired all the time for positions, due to access to networking and associations with hiring management. I support the idea of enforced quotas - the myth of 'meritocracy' is an ideological sham designed to maintain the core of white supremacist structure in the labour market.

Moshe Rebbick

Years ago, I was approached by the government of Canada to hire an African at 50% of the minimum wage. The government would pay the other half, in order that the African learn a trade. This arrangement was to continue for 6 months.

After 2 weeks, any sensible person could see that this African was overpaid by a factor of 4, even at half the minimum wage. I was not aware at the time that the average IQ of Africans was 80, but it was manifestly demonstrated in this particular African.

Would I hire another African? Possibly, but I sure wouldn't hire one that the government asked me to, even if they paid 100% of his wage. The same goes for several white kids I've hired.

The issue in hiring is not the race, it is the competence of the worker. And AA programs are simply a way of crowbarring into the workforce people who are not, and never would find a job on their own.

josh

The KKK meeting is down the hall to the right.

Michelle

He's gone.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the problem with these threads is that trolls like that show up. [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

Thanks for taking him out, MIchelle.

nanu, when you next check in with this thread, I'd love to hear more about your experiences and thoughts.

Makwa, yes I agree. These measures are small and aren't built around the most marginalized. But even in their flawed state, they remain something I support.

nanu

thanks for the replies (save moshe rebbick's).

i've done hiring for student groups in ontario a number of times (mostly queer organizing) and we'd always had a specific policy about encouraging marginalized folks to apply. hiring queer-identified folks to coordinate a queer group seems straightforward, no? and yet, we faced some opposition one year. that experience revealed to me that even the "mildest" form of anti-oppressive work (representational hiring) is still an issue for folks with privilege.

unfortunately, i haven't been able to have many conversations with folks here about the issue of reservations or quotas. i'm in a weird spot, staying with friends who are super privileged by class and don't quite know (or, i think, care) about my interest in social justice. but, thinking back to the conversation that i got to hear almost 2 weeks ago (my cousins' debate), my one cousin (let's call him R) made reference to historical marginalization and suggested that education is the best way to make actual change. The other cousin (V) wanted tighter controls on the group, suggesting that violence is explicitly attached to "them" and "they" will not change (in fact "their" population is increasing, blah blah blah).

Of course, this conversation between R and V was about a group that is not even considered part of the "SC/ST" group!

But, to get back to the issue of reservations and quotas, i feel that the issue of inequality cannot be divorced from India's colonial history, as it has been noted that the Brits did little to abolish marginalization and much to encourage those practices.

So, we have a system of inequality and marginalization in place that is supported by social convention, religion, and much else. And the response to this inequality is a bureaucratic one - for example, there is a federal ministry of social justice and empowerment that runs a number of schemes, see [url=http://socialjustice.nic.in/about/welcome.htm]ministry of social justice and empowerment [/url]

i don't believe this system is functioning well (i've read a few stats), and the reasons for that are multiple and complex. the interesting thing, for me, is to consider how in India this system may or may not be supported by folks with privilege but it is accepted at the same time (given the fact that it's been around for so long, etc.) and in canada, it is unlikely, as indicated by bcg, that it would even be considered.

While an uncle of mine said with certainty that Muslims, for example, are treated just the same as Hindus in India, i thought about how many times i have heard the same rhetoric in canada (for women/pocs/immigrants/Indigenous folks/FN folks): people just need to work hard.

This f*cked up, oppressive, classist approach to viewing difference makes me so frustrated! In canada, i thought that this was tied to the protestant work ethic and model minority discourse (which is simplistic, i know, i have much learning to do), and generally to capitalism. i know it's more complicated than that - it's interesting to feel overwhelmed by how little i know about "this" place (India) and the fact that the reasons for exclusion and marginalization are so complex.

People still get missed here. In spite of the specific targets, people are missed all the time. This bureaucratic system is not a well-oiled machine - and percentages, grants, etc. do not really address the fact that day-to-day living is one characterized by marginalization and exclusion, if for example you are a [url=http://www.slate.com/id/2201466/entry/2201469/]manual scavenger[/url].

sorry i've gone on so long.

AfroHealer

WHat is an "SC/ST" group?

Maysie Maysie's picture

From the OP:

quote:

nanu: scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST).

nanu, thanks for your response.

quote:

the issue of inequality cannot be divorced from India's colonial history, as it has been noted that the Brits did little to abolish marginalization and much to encourage those practices.

Yeah, they're clever that way, those imperialists, linking into local animosities, playing up differences, and rewarding the elites. The U.S. has copied that quite well. Canada too. [img]mad.gif" border="0[/img]

quote:

So, we have a system of inequality and marginalization in place that is supported by social convention, religion, and much else. And the response to this inequality is a bureaucratic one - for example, there is a federal ministry of social justice and empowerment that runs a number of schemes, see ministry of social justice and empowerment

As I said before, quotas, AA, EE, are a solution I support, but to be clear, they are one of many other possible ideas that can go on simultaneously. I'm a community grassroots gal myself.

Jullrah

Moshe's rant is a good example of the work that still needs to be done.
I don't mind poeple like that spouting off, 'cause it can fire one up. Racism is such a fact that people who experience it/fight it can sometimes become jaded to it. A Moshe like rant is often just the juice needed for recharging the batteries.

Seddig

I support employment equity while do not agree with how it is implemented. As Makwa mentioned the employer chooses certain people for that.

In may experience if they choose a person of colour or Aboriginal Peoples they choose the ones that serve their white agenda and keep culture of white supremacy alive and going.

Look at the rate that people of colour and Aboriginal peoples leave their jobs in comparison to their white counterparts.

Just look at Rabble and how people of colour and Aboriginal peoples who try to speak out are being treated.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Moshe's profile needs to be deleted, because every single word of it(and the graphic on it as well) manages to be offensive to somebody(which is an impressive display of verbal ugliness, but not one that needs to be preserved for historical purposes.)

Stargazer

I have to agree. That post should go.

Makwa Makwa's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Ken Burch:
[b]Moshe's profile needs to be deleted[/b]

Done. There is yet no consensus on the post.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Thanks, Makwa.

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by nanu:
[b]i would encourage responses mostly (only?) from folks who identify as Indigenous, FN, poc, mixed race-[/b]

Not being one of the identified groups, I have a question rather than a response.

quote:

Originally posted by nanu:
[b]This is a form of affirmative action where government postings, places in schools and colleges (private and public), etc. have some specific percentage of their spots allocated to what they call "backward classes" (cringe, yes the language is super f*cked up), formally known as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST)

. . . the issue of inequality cannot be divorced from India's colonial history, as it has been noted that the Brits did little to abolish marginalization and much to encourage those practices.

. . . the interesting thing, for me, is to consider how in India this system may or may not be supported by folks with privilege but it is accepted at the same time (given the fact that it's been around for so long, etc.)[/b]


My first question is what drives the continual extension of these "reservations" (quotas)?

It started with the run-up to independence, and continued with the first Parliament. Reservation of seats for the "Depressed Classes" was incorporated into the Government of India Act 1935, which came into force in 1937. The Act brought the term "Scheduled Castes" into use, and "Scheduled Tribes" (a term which more or less corresponds with "Status Indian" in Canada) followed.

In the Constitution of India this was continued, and extended to positive preferential treatment in allotment of civil service positions and access to higher education, as a means to accelerate the integration of the SCs and STs with mainstream society. Compensatory discrimination is also popularly referred to as Reservation.

Reservation of parliamentary seats was, and still is, sunsetted. It was to cease after 20 years. This was repeatedly extended. The last extension was in 1999, when it was extended to 2010. "Although the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes have made considerable progress in the last fifty years, the reasons which weighed with the Constituent Assembly in making provisions with regard to the aforesaid reservation of seats and nomination of members, have not ceased to exist. It is, therefore, proposed to continue the reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and the representation of the Anglo-Indians by nomination for a further period of ten years."
I assume it will be extended again soon.

Far from being ended, reservation of seats has been extended to women, at the municipal level (one-third of seats being reserved), and has been proposed for state assemblies and the national parliament. City councils have seats for SCs, for STs, for women, for women SCs, and for women STs. These are all geographic single-member seats on the old British model, but one-third are arbitrarily reserved for female candidates. (The ST seats are easier to assign, since the STs tend to live in defined areas.) Women win a few general seats too. While European democracies have moved to at least 1/3 women, then to 1/2 women, by parties adopting quotas for party lists, or in Belgium and France by legal quotas for all parties, India has never adopted a proportional representation system, and simply copied the SC system and applied it to women.

As for civil service positions, rather than ending the reservation system, again it has been extended to other groups: the OBCs ("Other Backward Classes").

Which all seems to work well and be well accepted. But reserved seats of this kind are found nowhere else in the world that I know of. (Reserving a percentage of places in colleges is common enough -- such as China reserving spots for their 57 "national minorities" -- but not single-district seats.)

What is unique about India which makes the reservation system thrive?

[ 25 October 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

Brian White

quote:


Originally posted by Makwa:
[b]Done. There is yet no consensus on the post.[/b]

I think the post should go too. The name sounds jewish. My guess to slurr jews at the same time as slurring africans.

djelimon

Post should go because

quote:

the average IQ of Africans was 80

Is a debunked myth. The data that this claim derives from is a series of English language tests delivered to non-english speaking africans, with culturally specific questions such as ones requiring knowledge of tennis.