Creative Destruction

October 23, 2007

Huge Numbers of Unqualified Students Attend Elite Colleges…

Filed under: Education,Race and Racism — Robert @ 2:41 am

and it isn’t who you might think. About 15% of the freshman slots at the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education are going to students who do not meet the institutional criteria for admission – specifically, athletes and legacy admits, the bulk of whom are white.

Consistency time. I’m opposed to strong (quota-based/preferential) affirmative action. This is no better – worse, in fact, since at least preferential AA can be plausibly motivated by a desire to help people who are behind the eight-ball. Admitting unqualified students to boost a sports team or placate donors is cronyism and hypocrisy.

It’s bogus either way. If the institution is going to have standards-based admissions, then publish the standards and admit students who reach them – and nobody else. No more preferential AA – not for the “disadvantaged” sons of upper-class blacks, not for the genuinely disadvantaged in the slums, not for the talented but dim football star, not for the well-connected scion of privilege.

Admit by merit – or acknowledge that the institution is not interested in merit, and has some other agenda in mind.

A fair liberal (or conservative, for that matter) might then ask, “ok, but then how do you help the genuinely disadvantaged?”

My answer is, by providing a first-rate education to every student who wants one in the primary and secondary grades, ensuring that the disadvantaged have a shot at learning things of value and increasing their human capital. And then create scholarships for the poor – of whatever “race” – but worthy student. Not perfect, but it gets us 80% of the way there without hurting anyone at all – a Pareto optimal situation, or close to one.

(I have an old friend on a discussion list who is an absolutely devastatingly good scholar on proving that Pareto optimality never really happens, in the service of arguing against the unbridled market’s efficiency. She’s right; it almost never does. But we very often get what I’d call a “Pareto good enough” – a situation where there’s a big benefit and most people aren’t hurt by it.)

In the case of affirmative action of the preferential variety, there is a definite benefit. Though we may quarrel about the existence and magnitude of the ratchet effect, I agree with liberals that strong affirmative action does help the people it is designed to help, overall. Unfortunately the negatives to specific people are large enough, I think, to break even my relaxed standards for Pareto goodness.

August 28, 2007

The Ratchet Effect at Work in Law Schools

Filed under: Blogosphere,Race and Racism,Science — Robert @ 12:14 am

A while ago we had an interesting set-to at Alas about the ratchet effect, with me saying it was real and pretty much everyone in the universe disagreeing with me. Scroll down to around comment 70 if you’re not interested in the post’s original topic. It drifted. ;)

Universe 0, Robert 1!  Wish I’d known about this guy’s work when we had the original argument.

January 27, 2007

Study: Skin Tone A Factor In Salary

Filed under: Economics,Immigration,Race and Racism — Robert @ 1:04 pm

A Vanderbilt University study sez that skin tone appears to be operative as an independent factor in salaries received by immigrant workers.

The study compared 2,087 immigrants to the United States, and the author claims that ”On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education.” The differences between the lightest and darkest skinned immigrants of similar backgrounds was between 8 and 15 percent.

Discuss.

January 16, 2007

Racism in the Electoral College: Not So Much

Filed under: Blogosphere,Debate,Race and Racism,Statistical Method — Robert @ 2:25 am

Rachel of Alas has a post about structural racism up for MLK Day. In the discussion section of that post, we get into it hot and heavy about the Electoral College and how it is, per Rachel, a “very good example of structural racism”. Why? Because more white people live in the small states, which are proportionally “whiter” than the rest of the country. In Rachel’s words, “It proves that whites votes count for more.”

Not really. Aside from the obvious logical flaw of assigning a weight based on skin color when it is in fact based on a geographic distinction (a black man who lives in Wyoming gets the same overweighted vote in the Electoral College as a white man), the numbers do not, in fact, support Rachel’s position. In the spirit of the “blue states give less” and “red states are dumber” statistical simplifications that go around the Web every time there’s an election (I’ve posted one or two myself), in a follow-up post she comes up with two tables purporting to show that all the small states are heavily white, and all the big states are less white, and thus the Electoral College deprecates the black vote enormously. (The actual quote from the first post is via a source who she cites approvingly, stating that “The Electoral College negates the votes of almost half of all people of color.”)

Again, it turns out, not really. In fact, not only not really – it’s pretty much a wash. Here is an exhaustive table of the states which have votes in the Electoral College. The first six columns are self-explanatory. “EV Weight” is an inverted factors showing the significance of a single person’s vote in that state, compared to the hypothetical “fair” number of people who should get 1 electoral vote if everything was even-steven. Numbers lower than one indicate that a person voting in that state has more than their “fair share” of input into the Electoral College; the winner here is Wyoming, at 0.31. The worst-off state is Texas, at 1.24. The “EV Over/Undercount” column indicates how many EC votes the state would gain or lose if everything were perfectly proportional (and if we could have fractional EC votes). The “White” and “Nonwhite Over/Undercount” columns indicate how many of those over or undervotes would be distributed among the racial balance of the state; if a state “should” have 10 more EC votes and is 80% white, then 8 of those votes are credited to the white column, and 2 to the non-white.

The point of all this was to come up with a picture of how the distribution of Electoral College votes would change if everything were proportional to population. That final number is damning for Rachel’s view of a world where the Electoral College is a huge structurally racist institutions: 4.80 electoral votes would shift, relative to population. That’s about 0.89% of the EC vote total. Check out the figures for yourself below the break.

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January 1, 2007

Is This Image Anti-Semitic?

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 9:18 am

Antisemitic - Or is it?Racialicious writes:

Apparently there’s been a lot of anti-semitism in Seattle lately, prompting their alt-weekly to devote an issue to Jewish issues. But check out the graphic they chose to illustrate one of their regular columns. Textbook hipster racism.

That’s the graphic over to the right. Racialicious is one of my very favorite blogs, but I’ve gotta say, this case doesn’t look so textbook to me. I asked about it in Racialicious’ comments, and Lyonside wrote:

The drawing is reminiscent of the hooked-nose portraits of Jewish men so common to the medieval and modern era. A more subtle dig may be the thinning hair on top, but in general, the nose that was longer than the cartoon’s HEAD (in profile) is the obnoxious part.

I’m sure it was meant to be ironic, but I see it as a lack of taste. And awareness.

It’s just not true that the nose is longer than the profile’s head. It’s a big nose, but it’s not that big. And although the nose is exaggerated, it’s not distended and freakish, like the noses in “classic” antisemitic cartoons often were. Look at the noses (especially the husband’s) in this German cartoon from 1934, for example:

1934 antisemitic cartoon

Look: I have a big nose. And it hooks. Many of my relatives also have relatively big, hookish noses. It’s a common trait among Jews whose folks came to the US from Eastern Europe. Are cartoonists supposed to pretend that me and thousands of Jews like me don’t have this nose? And how will wiping out representations of Jews with a classic Jewish nose — those Jews, in other words, who are least likely to be mistaken for gentiles — be a blow against antisemitism?

December 9, 2006

Watch the hands, people

Filed under: Ethics,Race and Racism — Tuomas @ 10:30 pm

There has been lot of back and forth on affirmative action in this site. As an outside observer, I have noted something:

Affirmative action is supported from the premises of:

1) Whites (or white men) are historically privileged

2) Blacks are historically and currently oppressed [added the word currently as an edit]

3) In addition, other groups are sometimes supported with the point 1 while replacing “Black” with something else

4) Whites, and the government, are responsible for fixing points 1 and 2.

Okay. Let’s assume this is true (to some extent, I think it is). Now, the government, and thus whites via proxy are going to compensate this to Blacks.

This compensations is called “affirmative action”, or “positive discrimination”. It is argued that it doesn’t hurt Whites as a group. This is strictly speaking true, depending on how one defines group.

Let me demonstrate this with an example (names via this (pardon the male-centredness, for the sake of example).

Now that the audience is led to believe that whites and the government are going to give something to blacks to compensate for past and present injustices, and this is exactly what the audience thinks they are seeing. Watch the process:

***

Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody decide that they feel bad for treating DeShawn like crap , and decide to compensate this to DeShawn.

As a result, Fred who was in the closest competition with DeShawn loses his place to DeShawn.

DeShawn is happy, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody are happy, having shown their generous nature to each other and DeShawn. Only Fred is not happy.

Even if Fred agrees that DeShawn should be helped, but wonders what exactly Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody gave up, and why should he be the only one who suffers, they can answer:

“Sorry Fred, we already did our part. We decided that DeShawn should get your place. Now shut up and don’t be so darn entitled.”

***

The fact that neither the government, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt or Cody haven’t actually given anything of their own is obscured in this process. The collective moral responsiblity — that is established in premises 1 and 2 — is externalized to inviduals who are then scapegoated for the whole process should they dare to complain.

The system is perfect. Only a tiny minority of whites have to actually give up something, while the vast majority of whites get to feel moral about it. And they also get to feel morally superior to the tiny minority who actually have to do something if they are not being “team players” about it.

Or, in leftspeak:

Anti-affirmative action lawsuits are not put forward by whites who would have gotten in to a selective college if only affirmative action didn’t exist. They’re put forward by whites who have such a strong sense of entitlement that they can’t admit they failed to gain admission because, on the merits, they didn’t deserve admission.

Add to this the fact that the cost is also externalized to Asians.

Added: In the surface, Affirmative Action is is about giving “points”. This is a smokescreen, the points can be adjusted just as needed. They are the acraba dabra of a magician. The only thing that changes hands in the real world are the college admissions of Fred (or Ling) and DeShawn.

[edited to make the thing clearer and addendums]

[fixed the allegory]

December 6, 2006

Affirmative Action: How much does it cost whites?

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 8:20 am

[This post was originally written and posted in January of 2003, but it got dropped from the database in some blogmove or other, so I'm reposting it now.]

One of the benefits of affirmative action in college admissions, it seems to me, is that it offers a really substantial benefit to blacks at a tiny cost to whites. Not everyone agrees with my rosy view; Michael Lind, for example, once wrote that “in order to accommodate a few less-qualified black students, the University of Texas Law School, like other leading schools, must turn down hundreds or thousands of academically superior white students every year.”

So does the existence of affirmative action bring about a substantial harm to white students applying to selective colleges? Goodwin Liu, in the March 2002 issue of the Michigan Law Review, argues that the cost to whites is actually quite small; and the tiny number of whites who actually are rejected because of affirmative action policies are the least likely people to sue.

Liu calculated how much the odds of whites being admitted to five highly selective universities would change if affirmative action programs did not exist:

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November 26, 2006

Affirmative Action Doesn’t Increase Minority Drop-Out Rates. (Also, a Cato Institute report is less than honest – there’s a shocker.)

Filed under: Debate,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 10:18 pm

In the comments of an earlier post, Robert Hayes has been arguing that racial preferences in college admission are bad because they harm minority students through what Robert calls “the ratchet effect.” But “the ratchet effect,” as Robert describes it, is dependent on what social scientists have called the “fit hypothesis” or “the mismatch hypothesis.” If mismatch isn’t true, neither is ratchet.

So what is the mismatch hypothesis? Robert describes the mismatch hypothesis perfectly when he writes:

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November 23, 2006

The Word “Race” Is Bad

Filed under: Race and Racism,Science — Tuomas @ 11:36 pm

I’m puzzled by the insistance of “race doesn’t exist except as a social construct” coming from folks on the left (/generalization) who then right after acknowledge that there are differences between “population groups” on “hereditary basis”.

Ahem.

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Colouring Gender

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Race and Racism,War — Daran @ 5:15 pm

brownfemipower, toysoldier, I, and others have been having a three way discussion at her blog, about the issues I raised in my post about how gender-selective atrocities are represented in the media and how feminism interprets those representations. TS’s part in the discussion ended with me slapping him down. I feel a bit of a rogue for that, because he was, after all, supporting me in the face of ad homs from some of the commenters there, (though not from BFP herself).

But it was necessary. The (false) suggestion that I wanted to centre the discussion on white males was becoming self-fullfilling, and I didn’t want that to happen. TS posted a response back at his blog

Any ideology or philosophy that purports whites cannot experience violence, discrimination, marginalization or oppression to the same extent as other racial groups should never be tolerated. That is part of the very foundation of racism.

That was not her argument. Although she did not use the word, I understood her argument as saying that whites are not victims of genocide.

I can’t argue against that proposition. There certainly have been white genocides. The history of Europe is one genocide heaped on another. Europeans colonised Europe before they colonised anywhere else. All that ended in Western Europe sixty years ago.

The whitest genocides in recent history were in the former Yugoslavia and in Armenia. But were they white? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t think it’s my business to decide who’s white and who isn’t. The race element comes in as an “us/not us” calculus, and in those cases, I think the Armenians fell clearly on the “not us” side. Ex-Yugoslavia is less clear, but I think it was more “not us” than “us”.

So, BFP goes on, without in any way denying the crap things that happen to white men, she doesn’t want to centre them.

That’s a deal.

That said, the real issue is that instead of addressing the misandry within the media and within feminism, it was utterly dodged and unaddressed.

It was. And it would have beem no chance of ever addressing it, had we gotten into an endless fight over whether we should or should not be talking about whites.

To a certain extent, when Daran acquiesced to the position that his post failed to acknowledge race as a prominent, if not the, component of this biased treatment, he also conceded that the overall issue of male marginalization, which affects all males, is inherently less important than any other issue. But if this is what the proper response should be, this notion that one should ignore the larger issue/issues that affect an entire group of society and rather focus a smaller subset of that group, then what is the point of bringing up the issue at all? Why call it marginalization or misandry if the “real” problem is racism?

This misrepresents my acquiescence. Firstly I didn’t say “my post”. I said my “analysis” was inadequate. I wasn’t referring to a single post, but to my entire hitherto race-blind conceptual framework. Secondly I did not concede that race is “the” component of this biased treatment. It’s “a” component, and one I should pay attention to.

Regardless of what role, if any, race plays in the media’s coverage of violence, the fact remains that when the victims are male, the media coverage “exemplif[ies] incidentalisation and displacement which, together with exclusion are the three strategies commonly used in the media to marginalise and conceal the gender-selective victimisation of men.”

All men? Or just dark men?

I don’t know, because it’s never occured to me before to ask the question. I think it’s worth trying to find out.

November 15, 2006

Crack Cocaine Sentencing: Systematic Racism At Work

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:19 am

It’s been a little over 20 years since Basketball star Len Bias died of a drug overdose. The publicity following Bias’ death, which was (wrongly) attributed to crack cocaine, helped push through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which established a wildly disproportionate punishment for crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. To quote a recent ACLU report (pdf file), “distribution of just 5 grams of crack carries a minimum 5-year federal prison sentence, while for powder cocaine, distribution of 500 grams – 100 times the amount of crack cocaine – carries the same sentence.”

The law, in practice, is racist and does incredible damage to the Black community. From the ACLU report (emphasis added):

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November 14, 2006

Step Away From The Damned Blackface, Already

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 12:19 pm

Blackacademic points out yet another case of young whites deciding that putting on the blackface is just, y’know, hilarious. And she also points out that the University President’s letter, which is mainly about saying “it was just a few bad apples, there’s no larger problem to be addressed here!,” manages to avoid ever using the word “racism.” Because using that word would apparently be in bad taste or something.

Look, it’s not that complex: If you’re white, put the blackface down. Whether you’re a frat boy or a liberal blogger, put it down. If you’re not white – well, even then, you should probably put it down. (Ebogjonson has a very fine blackface appropriateness test that bloggers of all colors who considering blackface should consult.)

Because if you happen to be an artist of Spike Lee’s caliber, then maybe you’ll be able to use blackface in a way that is both genuinely interesting and genuinely anti-racist. But you know what? Odds are very very high that you’re not Spike Lee.

Just leave the goddmaned blackface alone, already. It’s not… that… hard.

More reading: Zuky, Wampum, Dark Sun, Prometheus 6, Slant Truth and Pen-Elayne.

November 9, 2006

British Government Sure Is Smart

Filed under: Political Correctness,Race and Racism — Tuomas @ 4:28 pm

The British government is rising the Council Tax for some localities.

People who live in areas with good schools, clean streets and low crime rates face huge increases in their council tax bills.

Home owners and tenants will be charged hundreds, and possibly thousands, of pounds extra if they live in a “locality” deemed by ministers and officials to be more desirable than others. The rises could be as great as four times, sending some bills spiralling from £1,000 to £4,000.

In other words, if your kid does well in school, if you or your neighbors don’t throw garbage (or urinate, defecate or puke) in the streets, and if you don’t commit crimes nor does any of your neighbors, you pay more taxes.

Conversely, street-litterers, parents whose kids don’t get good grades, and criminals essentially get a tax cut.

Leaving aside the pure lunacy of that, what is really interesting about this:

For the first time, data provided by the national census, school exam results and crime statistics will be fed into the calculations. Householder income, cohabitation and, in what many MPs will regard as a highly contentious move, ethnicity will be taken into account. The information being used by the Government distinguishes between “farming communities”, for example, and “multi-ethnic, crowded flats”.

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October 16, 2006

Who Is Oppressed By The Hijab?

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Political Correctness,Race and Racism — Tuomas @ 3:26 pm

About that feministe…. Following Jill’s previous post covered by bobhayes here, I’ll make some pointers on the headscarf debate matter. Or rather, a single extended point. It is pointed out that wearing a hijab frees religious women to act on the public sphere and:

What we shouldn’t do is support policies which, in the name of “modernism,” only serve to limit the mobility and the public rights of certain women and girls.

(on banning hijabs)

But, on the other hand, should we, in the name of “religious tolerance” support a behaviour that sends a message: “I am pure. I choose to not provoke men with my hair.” When in reality, such behaviour has de facto created a class of women* who are considered to legitimate targets for sexual harrassment by Muslim men (in Muslim countries, and in Western countries with significant Muslim minorities, where Imams encourage this behaviour) After all, if they didn’t want to be treated like whores, surely they would cover up like decent women, right?

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Expecting Muslim Employees to Do Their Job: “Bigotry”

Filed under: Current Events,Political Correctness,Race and Racism — Robert @ 1:51 pm

Jill is up in arms regarding Aisha Azmi, the Muslim teacher’s assistant in Britain in danger of being let go because she refuses to teach without a headscarf if there could be men around.

Ordinarily I would side with Ms. Azmi. Although I hold no brief for Islam, and my response to the idea that we need religious diversity is “why?”, she’s a citizen (I assume) and so has the same right to religious expression as any other Briton. (Unfortunately, that quanta of rights is apparently diddly-squat if you want to wear a cross. But there OUGHT to be such a right.)

However, Ms. Azmi teaches English to immigrant children. Anybody who has ever learned a foreign language can tell you that being able to see the mouth of the person teaching you is critical to the process. Language acquisition is partially visual. Being able to see the face of your teacher is a bona fide occupational requirement for teaching English.

Jill either doesn’t know this (which, given that her source for the story is another feminist blog which reports Azmi’s assertion that no student has complained but leaves out the statements by the school that students have complained, is not impossible) or she doesn’t care because “evil Western civ oppresses defenseless Muslims” is already congruent to her views. (Or, although I’m reluctant to think it, Jill participates in the surreptitious liberal racism of lower expectations for Others.) Either way, bad show.

(Updated: removed an unfairly generalized “standard” prefix for liberal racism and replaced it with “surreptitious”.)

October 10, 2006

Diversity Destroys Trust, Study Says

Filed under: Race and Racism — Robert @ 3:46 pm

An interesting study by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (author of “Bowling Alone”) finds that the more ethnically diverse a community is, the lower the level of trust in the community – even trust between members of the same ethnic group. Putnam is not anti-diversity and notes that immigration is beneficial for countries that send and receive immigrants. However, his study finds that “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down…[w]e act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”

Common sense to conservatives, probably a very distressing revelation for many liberals. Putnam believes that the answer to this problem is not assimilation, but cultural adjustment by majorities. “What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us.”

Pass.

September 18, 2006

Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites. Also, Firedoglake sucks.

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 1:25 pm

Bill Clinton poses with bloggers

I’ve been mostly offline for the last several days, so I’m late in commenting on Bill Clinton’s lunch with some lefty bloggers at his Harlem office. Notice something missing from this photo?
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September 12, 2006

Prison Sentencing Study: Whites, Women, Non-Poor, and U.S. Citizens Are Given Lighter Sentences

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:34 pm

I’ve just been reading a 2001 study by David Mustard, of the University of Georgia, called “Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal Courts.” ((The Journal of Law and Economics, vol. 44, no. 1, pages 285-314. Pdf link.)) Mustard’s study appears better-designed than other sentencing studies I’ve read. His sample is large and comprehensive: he essentially includes every federal sentence handed down for three consecutive years (1991 through 1993) in his analysis. Rather than focusing only on sex or on race, he simultaneously controls for the effects of race, sex, U.S. citizenship, and class on federal sentencing. (Legally, none of those four factors are supposed to have an effect on what sentence a judge hands down.)

The results aren’t pretty. Especially for drug crimes and for bank robberies, being white is a big advantage if you’re being sentenced for a federal crime:
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September 5, 2006

Most Black Americans Oppose School Vouchers

Filed under: Debate,Education,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 3:10 pm

When an argument comes up multiple times in comments, it’s probably worth making my response a post of its own, if only so that I can link to the response in the future rather than having to write it again. A few months ago, in “Alas” comments, Bob Hayes (who later backed down from this position, to his credit) wrote:

If you want to talk about black disenfranchisement, how about this: most black people want school choice and they want it bad, and most people on the left won’t even talk about it with them. How non-racist can a political movement be, if it won’t even address the issues that the minority group wants to address?

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August 16, 2006

The Connecticut Mastery Test. – Ampersand is Wrong.

Filed under: Education,Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Daran @ 9:28 pm

In his recent post here (also duplicated at Alas), Barry takes issue with the claims made in this news report.

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June 27, 2006

Do white men really benefit from ‘privilege’?

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Daran @ 12:47 am

I recently indicated that I wanted to criticise the concept of ‘privilege’ as articulated by feminists independent of the various framing devices used by them. The substantive portion of my recent comment over on Alas in response to Barry covers some of what I want to say, and, with a little minor editing, seems worth promoting to the status of a blog post.

Ampersand:

Thinking seriously about systematic racism means that Whites have to admit that even if they don’t personally hate black people, they have almost certainly benefited from racism in some manner.

I’ve asked before how I’ve benefited from my alledged gender/race privilege, etc. The answers usually fall into two categories:

Firstly, I don’t suffer as much (or at all) as women/PsOC from things like racial abuse, the risk of rape, etc. I would dispute the ‘not at all’ contention. Even if I am not directly harmed or at risk, anything which directly harms or threatens my non-white and female friends and family is an indirect threat or harm to me. Also many of the identified ‘privileges‘ describe lower levels of direct risk and harm to me which are not zero.

I don’t dispute the ‘as much’ part with regard to race – I can not think of a single systemic comparative advantage enjoyed by PsOC over whites (other than initiatives such as AA, which are intended to ameliorate their comparative disadvantage) – however there are many systemic comparative advantages enjoyed by women over men which are trivialised and excluded from the discourse by framing devices such as ‘disadvantage’ vs. ‘privilege’ used by Barry and other feminists.

However not suffering as much as another person can hardly be considered a “benefit”. It’s a smaller disbenefit.

The other category is one of alledged positive benefits, such as enhanced educational and career opportunities. The argument usually goes that systemic racism/sexism tends to exclude women and PsOC, whether directly (an equally capable and qualified woman etc., isn’t given the position because she’s discriminated against directly) or indirectly (she never becomes qualified, and/or she doesn’t apply for the job, etc). Therefore there are more places available for white men such as myself.

I accept the premise but not the conclusion. It seems to me that for this argument to be valid, there needs to be another premise – namely that the total available opportunity is fixed, or at least is not significantly diminished by the systemic racism/sexism. This I do not accept. I would argue that giving women and PsOC, greater access to the productive economy would create more educational and career opportunities for everybody.

The argument I make here also appears to be logical equivalent to a position taken by some (many?) feminists and liberals (I believe Barry is one of them) with respect to immigrants/migrant workers. In response to complaints from opponents that these people are “taking jobs from American citizens and sponging off welfare”, liberals respond that they make a net contribution to the productive economy and thus do not harm the prospects of American citizens.

If you agree that allowing immigrants etc., (mostly PsOC if you so class Hispanics), access to the US productive economy would improve it to the net benefit of American citizens, then it is incoherent to simultaneously argue that allowing women and PsOC., who are already citizens greater access to that economy would not benefit white men too. And if you allow that white men will benefit overall, then you abolish the second category of alledged benefit from systemic racism and sexism. These -isms do not give white men men greater educational and career prospects. They just give us a larger share of a much smaller cake.

Update: Dianne points out, that “not every immigrant is the classic immigrant from a poor/oppressive country looking for new opportunities.” My understanding is that it is just this class of (im)migrant which is at issue in the immigration debate, so my substantive point stands. Mia Culpa, however, for an egregiously classist and racist stereotype.

Update 2 Originally in the above I used “POCs” as the plural of “POC” – Person Of Colour. I mentally sounded it as “pee-oh-sees”. It honestly never occured to me that it might be read as “pocks”, or even worse, “pox”. “POC” appears to be fairly standard in these discourses and I shall continue to use it, but I have amended the plural to PsOC – Persons Of Colour. I apologise for any offense this may have given. Thanks to JR at Feministe for pointing this out.

Updated (27 September) to add this list of links to the entire ‘Privilege’ series of posts, which I shall keep updated from now on:

“Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices
Do white men really benefit from privilege?
More on Privilege
Comments (35)

June 4, 2006

No, the Electiion in Ohio Wasn’t Stolen

Filed under: Politics,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 6:56 pm

A few days ago, I linked to a Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy Jr., in which he argued that Republicans successfully cheated in Ohio in 2004, throwing what should have been Kerry’s election to Bush.
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June 3, 2006

All Else Being Equal, I Vote for Women of Color

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Politics,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 12:49 pm

Hugo posted his endorsements for various political races in California, including the Democratic Party primary race for Lt. Governor in California. Hugo endorsed John Garamendi over his two opponents, Jackie Speier and Liz Figueroa. One of Hugo’s readers, Kyle, objected in comments:

How can you call yourself a feminist and vote for Garamendi? No one in that race has done more for women than Jackie Speier. She created the Office of Women’s Health in the Department of Health Services, she authored the Contraceptive Equity Act, and even carried the resolution adopting the ERA in California. Her list of accomplishments in this area goes on and on, unlike those of her competitor.

Kyle’s criticism is over-the-top; “How can you call yourself a feminist and…” type criticisms should be reserved for serious acts of sexism or anti-feminism, and I don’t think that voting for one feminist-friendly candidate rather than another qualifies.

In a new post, Hugo replied to Kyle’s criticism like this:
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June 2, 2006

Rolling Stone Article: Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Filed under: Politics,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 3:31 pm

This Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy Jr. – arguing that if it weren’t for Republican dirty tricks (mostly aimed at preventing Black voters from voting) and other forms of cheating, John Kerry would have won Ohio in 2004 and thus, won the Presidential election – is sure refresh the rage a lot of lefites (not just Democrats) have for the Republican party. The article is very long (and, refreshingly, well-footnoted), but if you want there’s a “highlights” version posted on Daily Kos.

But you should also read this Mother Jones artcle by Marc Hertsgaard from November 2005, which examines much of the same material from a more skeptical view. Although Hersgaard is convinced that the Republicans tried to suppress the vote in many instances, it’s not clear that anti-Democratic acts by the Republicans added up to enough votes to have turned the election. It’s possible that the Republicans cheated, and that Bush legitimately won the 2004 election.

For instance, the Rolling Stone article makes much of an incident in which a non-existent terrorist threat caused ballots to be counted in secret:
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May 26, 2006

A Lesson In Unintended Ignorance

Filed under: Debate,Race and Racism — Off Colfax @ 3:41 am

Of all the bloggers on the left-hand-side of the political road, I have to place Armando (Yes, that Armando. As in, formerly of the blog known as DailyKos and currently teaming up with Josh Trevino [of former Tacticus fame] over at Swords Crossed.Yes, the same Armando that I really can't stand.) fairly within the 90th percentile.

So when I find him using this sort of argument, I blink in shock. How could he actually say this and think he's actually proving a point? From Swords Crossed:
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May 22, 2006

Regarding the US’s High Infant Mortality Rate

Shortly before Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual report on the state of motherhood and infant mortality worldwide. As usual, the US does worse than almost every other industrialized nation when it comes to infant mortality (pdf file – see page 38).

The philosopher John Rawls suggested, as a thought experiment, imagining a “veil of ignorance.” The idea is, we sit around planning how to organize society from behind the veil; and none of us planners know what position in society we will hold, what race, what gender, how wealthy our parents will be, etc.. If the people planning society knew they might be born any race, any class, what society would they plan?

I don’t think they’d plan one in which infant mortality by race looked like this (source – pdf file):

US Infant Mortality, among whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and American Indians

As you can see, if you’re a newborn American infant, it kinda sucks to be an American Indian, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and the suckitude is simply enormous if you’re Black.

* * *

Unfortunately, the racial aspect of infant mortality in the US is usually ignored in the mainstream media. Instead, the focus is on how bad the US does, compared to other countries. The QuandO blog, like many right-wingers, responds that it’s not that the US does any worse at caring for newborns. Instead, it’s that other countries give up on low-weight and otherwise unhealthy newborns more easily, counting them as “stillborns.” In contrast, doctors in the US work hard to save those infants – but since not all of them live, the result of the superior care here in the US is that our infant mortality rate appears higher.

In an op-ed piece, critics of the Save The Children statistics suggest that we should forestall trying to correct the US’s poor results:

If we want to lower our infant mortality rate so it compares better with that of other countries, maybe we should align our rules with theirs to better determine the actual extent of the alleged “problem.”

(Does calling the problem “alleged” and putting the word “problem” in scare quotes create a sort of double negative problem?)

My first question is, how does this critique account for the enormous racial gap in infant mortality within the USA? (It seems unlikely that in the US, doctors try harder to save babies of color while categorizing similar white babies as stillborn.)

My second question is, how much truth is there to QuandO’s critique? Some truth, but not enough to justify calling the US’s infant mortality rate, compared to other wealthy countries, an “alleged problem.” The OECD Factbook explains:

Some of the international variation in infant and neonatal mortality rates may be due to variations among countries in registering practices of premature infants (whether they are reported as live births or fetal deaths). In several countries, such as in the United States, Canada and the Nordic countries, very premature babies with relatively low odds of survival are registered as live births, which increases mortality rates compared with other countries that do not register them as live births.

Yet Canada and the Nordic countries all have better infant mortality rates than the US. So the difference in reporting practices doesn’t account for all of the US’s dismal performance in this area.

If it’s true that the U.S. does just about as well as other wealthy countries in infant mortality, and we only do worse because other countries move count as stillborn cases that we count as an infant death, then that should show up in higher stillbirth rates for those countries than for the U.S.. This is something we can check; a World Health Organization report issued earlier this year (pdf link) gathered statistics for stillbirths. So lets look at the WHO stillbirth numbers next to the infant and newborn mortality statistics from the Save The Children report:

Infant mortality, newborn mortality, and stillbirth rate per 1,000 live births in seven wealthy countries

The graph includes the five countries Save The Children credited with the lowest newborn mortality rates, plus Canada and the USA. Including stillbirths does make the US look better, and is consistent with the claim that other countries may be count some infant deaths (by US standards) as stillbirths.

However, most of these countries are doing as well or better than the US in all categories, including stillbirths. That’s incompatible with the claim that the US’s infant mortality problem is a statistical illusion caused by different standards for categorizing stillbirths.

To make this clearer, look at a graph combining infant mortality and stillbirth rates. (Newborn mortality is not included because the newborn and infant mortality categories overlap).

Combined Infant Mortality & Stillborn Rates Per 1,000 Live Births In Seven Wealthy Countries

Even when stillbirth deaths are included, the US is still doing significantly worse than countries credited with low infant morality rates. It is therefore impossible that the US’s poor standing is caused entirely by the exclusion of stillborn children from infant mortality statistics (although this exclusion may be a contributing factor). The US’s terrible track record, compared to other wealthy countries, is not an “alleged problem”; it is an atrocity, and one that shouldn’t be swept under the rug rather than addressed.

May 5, 2006

Diversity? Please.

Filed under: Political Correctness,Race and Racism — Adam Gurri @ 3:48 pm

I'd like to take the time to mock this article, with no offense to Ampersand.

We have a president with the most ethnically and racially diverse cabinet in history, and when the people he hires or fires tips the balance in the other direction, then he is clearly a racist?

Come on.  There is plenty to criticize Bush for, but this is just absurd.  The man appointed the first black secretary of state, followed by the first black woman to be secretary of state, and replaced a white male attorney general with a hispanic one.

But all of this should be irrelevant.  Why are we measuring the proportions of any given ethnicity?  Why can't we just criticize the choices we feel are bad ones, without these self-indulgent race-based smears?

When idiots like Rush Limbaugh make offensive comments about a football player only making it because he is black, we rightly marginalize him and give him the boot from the gig he had picked up.  So how is it that we can stand out in the open and call someone a racist for appointing white people without much fear of being considered politically incorrect or prejudiced?

May 3, 2006

Bagels yesterday, burritos today

Filed under: Current Events,Politics,Race and Racism — mythago @ 11:50 am

Anyone with some knowledge of American history ought to be looking at the anti-immigrant backlash and musing about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.*

The only difference between the anti-immigrant sentiment of our grandparents' time and the sentiment now is that, today, people occasionally feel stirred to preface their comments with a disclaimer about how racist they aren't. Everything else is the same: Those People don't respect our culture, speak our language, look like us, or have any loyalty to America. They live in their own neighborhoods, run their own businesses instead of just patronizing ours, send money home, take our low-wage jobs and flood our cities.

That last sentence is true, by the way, and it was true then. Eastern European Jews who immigrated in large numbers formed their own neighborhoods with their own businesses. They set up immigrant-aid societies and brought over their families and friends. They spoke Yiddish and printed Yiddish-language newspapers and broadcast radio shows in Yiddish. They were one of the immigrant groups who, in their time, filled the same space in the nativist mind that Mexicans and Central Americans do now.

We like to forget all that because, of course, we absorbed them into American culture, as we have done withevery single group of immigrants to "flood" America. Bubbe Plotzky never learned English, but her children did, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren probably learned all the Yiddish they know from Seinfeld, a mainstream American TV show. Bubbe and her nephew still live on the Lower East Side, but she has kids in Florida, California and Wyoming. And their Gentile neighbors eat bagels, knishes and challah they buy at Safeway, not at an 'ethnic' market or a 'specialty' bakery.

The people who hate and fear immigrants are insulting America and refusing to believe in the promise that's been proven time and time again: America is a country of immigrants, and when we welcome them in, we become a little like them as they become a lot like us. Mexicans are not the one group whose presence will destroy the melting pot.

Who knows, I may someday have machatunium named Humberto or Blanca, and we'll marvel at how one of the grandkids got Great-Grandma Thorlund's blue eyes and Great-Uncle Ortega's straight nose. And I'll tell them the stories of how their mother's father's parents made their way over from Russia and slipped over the border into America.

*"Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose" is the traditional formulation, but you know how people are about all things French these days.

April 27, 2006

Nothing Has Changed Since The Rodney King Verdict

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:30 pm

I’m late with this, but the three Wisconsin police officers accused of attacking Frank Jude Jr. and Lovell Harris were found not guilty on April 14. The three were accused of being among a dozen off-duty cops, all white, who dragged Jude (who is biracial) and Harris out of a truck. Harris successfully fled after being cut with a knife, but Jude was pulled to the ground and beaten to a pulp.

I’ve never heard of the Jude case before today. Am I ridiculously out of it, or has the media severely underreported this story?

Frank Jude, Jr., after being beaten by off-duty police.

Here are some details. For a much fuller account, read the newspaper story reprinted at Thefreeslave.
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April 26, 2006

Stop Genocide

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,Race and Racism — Robert @ 4:33 am

Ampersand of Alas! and Creative Destruction lists some suggestions for stopping the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. They are all very nice suggestions and no doubt seem very effective in the parallel world inhabited by the earnest left. They are good people, the earnest left. God keep them.

Here's an idea for stopping genocide. Let's take a page from the history of the last racist imperialists to go around practicing genocide: smash their stuff and kill their thug overlords. I don't know what level of force it would take to persuade/demonstrate to the small tyrants of Africa that maybe peaceful co-existence is better for the actuarial tables. I have my suspicions that it would take a pretty high level, but a level we're capable of achieving.

"Never again" implies "whatever it takes". A strong word, "never".

One wonders if we're as strong as a word.

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