Responding to questions about affirmative action

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dw_ptbo

Tonight an aquaintance of mine in passing was complaining that he felt lesser qualified people were getting jobs in his field because of their colour. Today I also heard another aquaintance complain that they could not find scholarships that were not for people of colour or single parents. Both times I explained politely that it was simply policies used by some employers/schools to balance out the unfair practices of denying these people employment/scholarships in the past (and present). Although my explanation seemed to be understood, I left feeling inadequately prepared to explain such things. How do you best explain/justify such programmes?

Slumberjack

It needs no justification at all. It's a necessity, to ensure that the staffing of various professions and institutions adequately reflects the society in which they operate.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

You should ask them why they feel this way?

dw_ptbo

....and then what [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

martin dufresne

This issue is one of privileged folks being used and still trying to have social policies "run past them", because the dominant group they happen to be identifying with (be it males, Whites, Xtians, settlers, abled, heterosexuals, etc.) has traditionally been in power. Democracy and eqaulity are all very fine but they want us to accept that if they are "uncomfortable" with any policy, it ought to be shelved - or at least justified to their personal satisfaction (subliminal message: or else). The game is lost as soon as one accepts that one ought to, and allows their unspoken threat to define our attitude toward policy...

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Sineed

It might be worthwhile to ask if the person is certain that there actually is an affirmative action policy in his field. Maybe he's assuming there is when in fact the best qualified people for the positions were people of colour.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]The game is lost as soon as one accepts that one ought to, and allows their unspoken threat to define our attitude toward policy.[/b]

So anything that looks like "affirmative action" doesn't need to be justified?

martin dufresne

True. But isn't that conceding implicitly that if an affirmative action policy or effort is indeed in place, than that is unfair? Or that if they are for some reason dissatisfied, then that indicates unfairness and requires action?
I want a world where it becomes natural to answer any privileged group member who complains that h/she is "uncomfortable" with anything: "Good."

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Unionist

I don't understand why a "lesser qualified" person should not get the job. If both are qualified, who cares that one is more qualified than the other?

Jobs should be handed out fairly - not to the "best". Where did this notion come from anyway?

Do we send the "best" kids to school?

Do we provide health care to those who can "best" afford it?

Maybe our society does some of these things - but should it?

If we have deprived some individual or group unfairly of certain rights or advantages for a long time, should we not temporarily give them more in order to right the balance?

These are the things I would say to your friend. Everyone needs a place in life. Not just the "best".

martin dufresne

quote:


Jobs should be handed out fairly - not to the "best".

Excellent point. But you can see where this is finds its justification: the drive to maximum productivity... for the bosses.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]True. But isn't that conceding implicitly that if an affirmative action policy or effort is indeed in place, than that is unfair? Or that if they are for some reason dissatisfied, then that indicates unfairness and requires action?[/b]

No, not at all.

quote:

[b]I want a world where it becomes natural to answer any privileged group member who complains that h/she is "uncomfortable" with anything: "Good."
[/b]

This is a recipe for creating a large and unnecessary amount of resentment against the underprivileged minority. Most fair minded people will understand and accept the need for such policies wehen they are explained properly.

An "in your face" response to legitimate questions is completely counterproductive.

martin dufresne

Who says we have to agree with their conceit that these questions are "legitimate"? You are ceding the ground from the get-go. Can't we understand and integrate to our strategy that such questions come from within a false consciousness that accords excessive importance to the uncomfort of the privileged, that throws up constinuously paranoid false truths about the oppressed, especially when they start making inroads in the dominants' privilege? We DON'T have to run things past them unless we are simply scared of their might? But if we "fold" before even trying to call their unconscious bluff, the game is lost, without even impinging on that false consciousness.

Unionist

Martin, with all due respect, has it ever occurred to you that the enemy of the minority isn't necessarily the majority? Of coloured, the whites? of females, males? Of Jews, Gentiles? That the liberation of one comes through the liberation of all?

That doesn't mean the "dominant" have to be kept "comfortable". But it does not mean either that they have to be constantly convinced that the rights of the oppressed are their downfall.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Every working class person has an interest in combatting all forms of oppression, including racism. When someone asks "Why does this particular policy exist?" I think it's reasonable to give them an answer. If they don't accept the answer then move on.

I don't look down my nose at anyone who dares to question why things are the way they are and tell them to fuck off because I don't think their question is legitimate. That's petty-bourgeois elitism.

Robespierre

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]This is a recipe for creating a large and unnecessary amount of resentment against the underprivileged minority. Most fair minded people will understand and accept the need for such policies wehen they are explained properly.

An "in your face" response to legitimate questions is completely counterproductive.[/b]


Hell, yes.

FOAD responses to legitimate questions make the person who issues them feel good for a few minutes. I'm glad that the OP has a sense of duty to humanity rather than only to himself.

martin dufresne

quote:


When someone asks "Why does this particular policy exist?" I think it's reasonable to give them an answer.

Of course, and I do. But that is pointedly not the 'complaining' situation described by the OP and which we all very well know. To acknowledge this dynamic of the privileged complaining about the little rights the underprileged have is IMO paramount to answering his or her question. And yes, unionist, I do believe that the privileged are - objectively, if not in their mind that refuses to clutter itself with anything approaching responsibility for its position - the enemy of the underprivileged: I believe that the only times where things have changed is when this has come closer to being acknowlkedged, over and above defense/denial reactions.

dw_ptbo

Thanks Unionist and M.Spector for your responses. I don't want to be confrontational, I want to be able to educate people so that they don't resent other people. I appreciate your putting it into words so well Unionist. I think I'll find it much easier to explain next time. Thanks.

martin dufresne

Hey, even if we didn't make the 'thank you' list, you may want to look into sineed's suggestion when she wrote: "It might be worthwhile to ask if the person is certain that there actually is an affirmative action policy in his field. Maybe he's assuming there is ..."

A friend tells me that "...Ontario (i don't know about the rest of Canada) has never had an affirmative action policy, it was called employment equity, and it was legal for a time, then just for government and gov't funded places, now it's voluntary. So not much has been done in terms of raising women's wages, so really, the powers that be, and their dupes on babble, have nothing to fear. those nasty people of colour won't be coming for "their" jobs."

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Unionist

Martin, your friend is truly an ass. Not only does s/he know less than nothing about Employment Equity (which s/he confuses with [b]pay[/b] equity, an entirely separate and absolutely mandatory rectification of gender-based salary discrimination), but s/he needs to get on babble and post a little, rather than hurling around stupid insults. Please send her/him this message for me, will you?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

You have a "friend" who talks about "the powers that be, and their dupes on babble"?

Instead of just spreading second-hand smears of the entire babble community, why don't you invite your friend to post on babble and we can deal directly with his/her concerns?

ETA: yeah, what unionist said.

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: M. Spector ]

Robespierre

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]Hey, even if we didn't make the 'thank you' list...[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ][/b]

Don't feel so special, neither did I---and mine was the the most uber-arrogant reply, too!

Wut-oh, my FBI beeper just went off...this reply will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: Robespierre ]

martin dufresne

quote:


unionist: ...pay equity, an entirely separate and absolutely mandatory rectification of gender-based salary discrimination...

Gee, a lot of women must be not only underpaid but clueless about it.

quote:

M.Spector: You have a "friend" who talks about "the powers that be, and their dupes on babble"? Instead of just spreading second-hand smears of the entire babble community, why don't you...

Who said anything about the "entire" community?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b] Who said anything about the "entire" community?[/b]

Why? Does it sound better if I say "second-hand smears of the babble community"?

Why don't you respond to the substance of what I posted instead of just criticizing my choice of words?

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b] Gee, a lot of women must be not only underpaid but clueless about it.[/b]

Women as a whole are underpaid as compared with men.

With friends like yours to advise them, they would definitely stay that way. Employment Equity is a mild-mannered form of affirmative action. It basically involves tracking the hiring of women, disabled persons, so-called "visible minorities" (their word, not mine), and workers of Aboriginal descent. The only mandatory thing about it is usually reporting and keeping stats. It's essentially useless.

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/newsinreview/Dec%2099/Pay%20Equity/Intro.html]Pay equity[/url], on the other hand, is legally enforceable federally and in other jurisdictions. It is, at bottom, the prohibition against discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, as per the CHRA. It has meant billions in judgments and settlements for women subject to historic job ghettoization and pay discrimination.

If you know "a lot of women" (as you say) that are "clueless" about this simple distinction, I strongly urge you to refer them to any of the tens of thousands of women trade unionists who have fought and won these battles over the years.

martin dufresne

M.Spector, I addressed the substance of the OP; there isn't much substance to be found in your whine about bablers being smeared. (If you think there is, take it to the mods.) I relayed what I felt was an appropriate comment about the few of us who would indulge reactionaries whining about the few measures that claim to get us close to equality between women and men, non-whites and whites. etc.
Unionist describes pay equity as an unmistakable reality; I think that some women have made some gains, but that many more remain underpaid and locked in jobs that pay little money - if any - vis-а-vis men. I doubt he will deny that and some women's disaffection for his blanket optimism.
He makes the point that pay equity is different than employment equity, which he calls useless. (Women and other minorities who got jobs thanks to EE will appreciate.) The point is that OP is the one who raised EE schemes and selective scholarships. We all know that opponents of such equity measures will whine about either, so I see no problem in discussing opposition to EE and PE and what to tell such opponents in the same breath (even if it makes some heads spin).
G'nite, folks.

dw_ptbo

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]M.Spector, I addressed the substance of the OP; there isn't much substance to be found in your whine about bablers being smeared. (If you think there is, take it to the mods.) I relayed what I felt was an appropriate comment about the few of us who would indulge reactionaries whining about the few measures that claim to get us close to equality between women and men, non-whites and whites. etc.
Unionist describes pay equity as an unmistakable reality; I think that some women have made some gains, but that many more remain underpaid and locked in jobs that pay little money - if any - vis-а-vis men. I doubt he will deny that and some women's disaffection for his blanket optimism.
He makes the point that pay equity is different than employment equity, which he calls useless. (Women and other minorities who got jobs thanks to EE will appreciate.) The point is that OP is the one who raised EE schemes and selective scholarships. We all know that opponents of such equity measures will whine about either, so I see no problem in discussing opposition to EE and PE and what to tell such opponents in the same breath (even if it makes some heads spin).
G'nite, folks.[/b]

As much as I am pessimistic about society, most people are simply ignorant, not willingly oppressive of the groups who equity policies are directed at. A polite explanation of why we have these policies is for many people all it takes for them to understand the importance of these measures. I do not see the value in unnecessarily making people uncomfortable, although when it becomes clear that they do not wish to change their assumptions about others, a more aggressive approach in dealing with them does indeed become necessary.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

It is a good ploy to delay implementation of progress. We have to 'splain it to folks. If they haven't figured it out yet, I'm not wastin' my time.

I guess I should suggest they take time to learn about history if this is high on their priorities and not a fleeting moment. And genuine concern would lead to genuine discourse.

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by RevolutionPlease:
[b]It is a good ploy to delay implementation of progress. We have to 'splain it to folks. If they haven't figured it out yet, I'm not wastin' my time. [/b]

No, RP, you don't have to delay implementation of anything, but you must explain it to folks while it's being implemented - if you actually have anything to do with real live folks, that is. Otherwise, you can just arrogantly sit with your superior understanding, and then throw your hands up in dismay when you and your cause are incomprehensibly left without any allies.

Everyone needs allies, or else they need potential enemies neutralized. Arrogance doesn't work.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Thanks for leaving out the rest of my post where I admitted my faulty thinking.

And yes, my real life is such that I witness, educate and repeat as many times daily as possible. Doesn't leave as much time to post here as I would like but hey we all don't have that luxury.

Glad you think I'm arrogant and will be left without allies.

If it was about allies for me it would be much easier to play the uninformed white dude.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Also thought I'd point out that Ontario's Pay Equity legislation also benefits a privileged white male like me so it's not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

double post

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: RevolutionPlease ]

Unionist

quote:


Originally posted by RevolutionPlease:
[b]Also thought I'd point out that Ontario's Pay Equity legislation also benefits a privileged white male like me so it's not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread.[/b]

The same could be said of the 40 hour week and health and safety legislation and medicare. But in the real world, we learn to distinguish between progress and regress, and we learn not to mock progress.

Anyway, the only way a "privileged white male" could benefit is if he were doing a job which was mostly or traditionally performed by women. You won't find too too many "privileged white males" in such jobs, otherwise the struggle for pay equity would never have been necessary in the first place.

Since a number of posters appear to have no clue about these concepts (and claim that others are "clueless" as well), why not [url=http://www.payequity.gov.on.ca/peo/english/faqs.html#equity]take five minutes[/url] and look before you leap.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I'm well aware of the legislation since I administer it. Why doesn't it target woman specifically and get them above 80% of male's earnings? But enough thread drift.

Back to the OP. 2 incidents in 1 day is troubling but not shocking. However, the first case, even though anecdotal, doesn't even shed light how they thought they were more qualified. The second is blatantly ignorant as there are plenty of scholarships available to white folk and going back to my arrogance, I'm not going to waste my time doing the simple google work to show that.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Unionist, I'd like to thank you for pointing out that I do need to do a better job of learning and not lobbing comments. I'm just disappointed that even trying with my loved ones, it's frustrating.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Why must you conflate it to be a "virtue". I get what you're saying, no need to be hyperbolic.

Unionist

Fine. Any views on the rest of my post?

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

quote:


Originally posted by unionist:
[b]Fine. Any views on the rest of my post?[/b]

I agree, 100%.

To clarify, I'm upset with the OP and the audacity of saying there's no scholarships for white folk.

Unionist

quote:Originally posted by RevolutionPlease:
I'm well aware of the legislation since I administer it. Why doesn't it target woman specifically and get them above 80% of male's earnings?

It can't target women specifically, because then a male sewing-machine operator working alongside 50 women would get paid less than the women doing the identical job after a favourable pay equity analysis comparing the operator's job to some clerical or cutter's function etc. You should understand that, given your familiarity with the application of the legislation.

As for bringing women above 80%, that can't happen through legislation. The very fact that there are so many female-predominant job ghettoes is the biggest part of the problem, given that in light of human rights legislation, most employers don't dare pay different wages for the same work (although the real challenge continues to be, "work of equal value", a questionable concept but better than SFA).

The issue for women (as for the disabled and Aboriginals and workers of colour) is to eliminate the real less tangible barriers to employment in better-paying jobs. That requires combatting sexism and racism and "able"-ism in society as a whole. It also necessarily means affirmative action, which has never been legislated in this country (contrary to some not very well informed comments upthread). But it can't just be "legislated", as for example we legislate against blatant discrimination in hiring or promotion etc. on the basis of the prohibited grounds in human rights legislation.

A really good example of the challenges involved is found in Action travail des femmes v. CN. In short, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found systemic sex discrimination by CN Rail in hiring in its rail repair shops in the St. Lawrence Region (basically Quebec). These are better-paid skilled trades positions. In an unprecedented ruling (probably before or since), it ordered CN to hire one woman for every four men in that region.

That was 1984. After court appeals, the Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1987. One in four may not seem like much, but considering that the ratio of women in these jobs was probably around 1% (that's a pure guess - you'd have to read the original decisions), it was enormous.

Well, 20 years later, there are still a tiny percentage of women in the CN skilled trades. Why? Layoffs by inverse seniority over the years have surely been one reason. But the principal one is that not enough women apply. They are "screened out" by vocational schools, by their churches, by their "boyfriends", by their families, by their education, by Cosmo and Strut and music and movies and art and... by society as a whole.

Our society needs "affirmative action", but not in the heavy-handed wash-our-hands approach of legislators and jurists. We need a social revolution. We need to free people from the shackles of economic, psychological, physical, social, and I don't know what other kinds of discrimination.

And it won't happen without lots and lots of talk and laws and marches and strikes and movements and more talk.

 

quote:Unionist, I'd like to thank you for pointing out that I do need to do a better job of learning and not lobbing comments. I'm just disappointed that even trying with my loved ones, it's frustrating.

Don't thank me. I suffer from exactly the same problem.

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: unionist ]

Unionist

In 1996, California banned affirmative action based on race in college admissions. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court held that voters do indeed have the right to ban such programs.

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ethnic-politics-public-opinion-forcing-a-se... politics, public opinion forcing a second look at U.S. affirmative action[/url]

 

Unionist

*bump*

Red Winnipeg

Unionist wrote:

*bump*

Interesting CBC News piece, Unionist.

I can understand why preferences are given over whites, given their long history in dominance in America. But I don't think the same logic applies to Asian Americans. Who have they oppressed in America? More likely than not, they were among the oppressed in that country historically.

Red Winnipeg

*bump*

Sean in Ottawa

This is what I say to people who tell me they don't like Affirmative action.

Affirmative action is a compromise. It is used when there is an understanding that previous bias has created unfair disadvantages for some and advantages for others.

The only reasonable alternative to affirmative action is when you see that biased hiring or admissions has preferred some groups in the past, you go and undo all that. So for hiring you fire everyone and then hire back a representative group on merit without bias.

For admissions you withdraw all the benefits make refunds and admit based on merit from the start.

That is catastrophic so we have a compromise: affirmative action, where you prefer more of those from the previously disadvantaged group until you balance things out.

The disadvantage of affirmative action is of course that it can take many years for that balance to be achieved and real people wait and a generation may lose opportunity waiting.

The upside is the stability.

Affirmative action is a very reasonable compromise given the need to get that balance and acknowledgement of previous bias while still maintaining job security and stability for those previously hired in what was a biased environment.

It can be difficult for new generations of the previously advantaged group as they may have to take less than their share for a bit just as the previously disadvantaged group still has to wait for their justice. But the previously advantaged groups collectively must understand that the disadvantaged groups are also held back unable to immediately achieve the fairness that was denied them in the past.

In an ideal world we would have a time machine to go back and undo the previous bias but since we don't have that we are left with these compromises to protect job security etc. while we do the best to provide delayed justice compromising current applicants to some degree from both advantaged and disadvantaged groups.

So affirmative action is not perfect but it is the best we have. By far.

 

6079_Smith_W

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Affirmative action is a compromise. It is used when there is an understanding that previous bias has created unfair disadvantages for some and advantages for others.

Though not even a previous bias. The uneven playing field, the uneven access and unfair advantages, and the prejudices are still very much alive.

And I see it as a compromise not in the sense that it inconveniences those who fall back on the false claim that we should all just be equal, but rather that it is only a half measure. It only scrapes the surface.

It is not perfect only because shouldn't have to be necessary to compel people to be a bit more fair, but because of systemic problems, and people who refuse to change their attitudes, it is.