America has an appalling history of racism, even though geneticists assure us that there is only one race — Homo sapiens. Scientists say that distinct races literally do not exist. But racism still does, because it is a social, not scientific, conception.
Insisting there are races requires ignoring science and cramming people into spurious categories such as black or white. But cram them we do, often with savage results.[i]
But “race” is not the only characteristic that triggers discrimination. Disability, gender, LGBT, and religion are old reliables. Plus you can be: too pretty, too smart, too poor, too ugly, too short, too fat, lack “good breeding, and so forth. In short, people are surprisingly resourceful when it comes to excluding and mistreating others.
Laws help some victims of discrimination. But only those who have gained enough political muscle to have their plight recognized by lawmakers. This improves their particular opportunities. But it does little or nothing for other victims. Plus too often such remediation is accomplished at the expense of middle class “white” males, who are repeatedly short-changed in order to make America “fairer”
Meanwhile the nation’s plutocrats are safely above all of this. They can simply price out “undesirables.” For instance, they can afford to send their kids to exclusive private schools where their kinder need not mix with the great unwashed. In fact, some of the otherwise unqualified, are admitted to the nation’s most prestigious universities solely because they are “legacies” or their Dad, uncle, or what have you, are big-time “donors.” This particular kind of discrimination, while absurdly unfair, is still perfectly legal.
Then there are those secret societies at these exclusive universities that ruthlessly exclude the “common” people. Yale’s Skull and Bones, for instance, offers a lifetime of unfair advantages based largely on wealth and priviledge. Yet there are absolutely no legal strictures on this kind of discrimination. Why? Because of whose kids benefit.
Now, let’s get back to race. In the 1960’s, when African-Americans were demanding their civil rights, an ugly racist “joke” was circulating in the south where I lived at the time. It went like this: “What do you call a good looking, 6”4” black guy with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics?” The answer: “A nigger.”
The point of this bigoted “humor” was that no matter what an African-American’s attributes and accomplishments, he or she was still inferior to the most unattractive, ignorant, red neck. Why? Because in that era “race” trumped everything.
The table below invites you to consider whether race still reigns supreme. The left column combines “whiteness” with a non-“racial” characteristic that triggers discrimination. The right column combines “blackness,” with that negative characteristic reversed.
|Which would you rather be:
|WHITE AND UGLY||or||BLACK AND GOOD-LOOKING?|
|WHITE WITH DISFIGURING ACNE||or||BLACK WITH A CLEAR COMPLEXION?|
|WHITE AND OBESE||or||BLACK AND SLENDER?|
|WHITE WITH NO INHERITANCE||or||BLACK WITH A $10M INHERITANCE?|
|WHITE AND STUPID||or||BLACK AND INTELLIGENT?|
|A 5’4” WHITE MAN||or||A 6’4” BLACK MAN?|
|A FLAT CHESTED WHITE WOMAN||or||A VOLUPTUOUS BLACK WOMAN|
|WHITE AND AWKWARD||BLACK AND GRACEFUL|
|A 64-YEAR-OLD WHITE WOMAN||or||A 24-YEAR-OLD BLACK WOMAN?|
What’s the point? That there are a lot of ways to classify people as disadvantaged besides “race.”
Let’s not forget; scientifically there is only one race — the human race. But we’re so hung up on black vs. white that we lose sight of that which is absolutely critical, Namely, individual differences. Instead of focusing on that, we institutionalize racism via affirmative action.
Diversity takes many, many forms. So do advantages and disadvatages. So let’s quit cramming people into racial categories and recognize that each and every individual is unique. That is what is wrong with affirmative action and related attempts to achieve “diversity?” They are rooted in, and reinforce, racism. Thus they do the wrong thing even though it is for the for the right reason.
[i] For another angle on this process see “Reification: Conjuring Up Spirits,” http://www.newfoundations.com/Analyzing/Reifications.html