Whaddya want? A cookie?

Yesterday, as I was walking to class, I came across the now infamous Affirmative Action Bake Sale, sponsored by the Georgia Tech College Republicans. Cookies were sold at prices ranging from 25 cents to $1, depending on the customer's race, ethnicity, and gender.

As anyone would expect, this attracted a lot of attention. The sale was open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, and although I could not observe the event in its entirety because of my classes, there were at least 15 people hanging around discussing the issue at any one time. I was told that at some point during the day, a public policy professor brought her entire class outside to observe and debate the Republicans.

One of the most common complaints I heard from people who disagreed with the sale is that it is offensive. Which is precisely the point. It's supposed to be offensive, in the same way that many people, myself included, find Affirmative Action offensive.

Others tried to distinguish between preferences given in college admissions and preferences given in the sale of cookies - and they certainly are different, in the sense that no two things that are not entirely identical in every way are necessarily different - but the distinction between admissions and bake sales is not large enough to negate the overall point. If blacks, women, or other minorities are unable to purchase as many cookies as white men (relative to their overall proportion of the population), either because of socio-economic status, prior discrimination, or plain bad luck, it only makes sense - according to advocates of Affirmative Action - to engage in a bit of social engineering in order to rectify this inequity.

Affirmative Action.jpg
In fact, this argument proved especially useful. One of the critics of the sale argued that Tech and most colleges in general were not diverse enough and did not accurately represent the makeup of society as a whole. While this may or may not be true, it entirely ignores the question of whether we want the student body to be a mirror image of the general population in the first place.

Like any wise debater involved in a controversial argument over identity politics, I used myself as an example. Since I wear a yarmulke in public, it is obvious to anyone familiar with this religious garment that I am Jewish. I mentioned that Harvard, and many other Universities in the 1930s, maintained what we would today call a "reverse preference system" for Jews. Their justification for this policy was that Jews make up an incredibly small portion of the overall population, yet we are overrepresented on college campuses. In order to achieve racial equity and diversity, it is only fair that colleges should use quotas and reverse preferences to reduce the number of Jews on college campuses. For the bake sale equivalent, consider a situation where too many Jews and too few Gentiles purchase cookies. The logical response is to raise the price for Jews and/or lower the price for Gentiles. Fair and balanced, as always.

Sadly, though, someone who could not deal with diversity of viewpoints (and aren't we often told that viewpoint diversity is the goal, while racial diversity is simply the proxy?) decided to call the police. Instead of shutting the bake sale down on the grounds that it was offensive or that it "created a potentially unsafe situation," as was the case with Southern Methodist University, or that it violated the "university's nondiscrimination policy," as was the case with UC Irvine, the three very large police officers (Why do police officers always seem to be very large? When was the last time you saw a midget police officer? Perhaps some body-size Affirmative Action is in order?) simply asked to see the College Republicans' event permit. The Republicans had a permit, but did not bring it with them. They offered to go get it, but since it was past 3:00 pm anyway, they simply agreed to shut down. Keep in mind, though, that this is probably the first time in Georgia Tech history that police officers demanded to see the event permit of a recognized campus group.

So it seems that Affirmative Action supporters are willing to sacrifice the 1st and 14th Amendments on the alter of "diversity." I wonder which part of the Constitution they will discard next?

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Affirmative action

Affirmative action proponents don't understand the principle of self-selection. Even without any discrimination by employers or school admissions, business firms and academic departments will not be statistically representative of the population unless both sexes and all ethnic groups have the same job and academic preferences.

In fact, black students are disproportionately enrolled in majors like sociology and communications. Some history departments even use an athletic-style "farm" system to recruit black history majors with the promise that if they successfully finish a PhD program, they'll be given tenure.

The same is true for the proportion of women in legislatures and corporate boards. Fewer women choose to go into politics or management track for reasons that, short of biological reengineering, are unlikely to change. Of course, I wouldn't put it past the social engineers to resort to a little genetic tinkering.

the argument goes: 1. given

the argument goes:
1. given the presence of discrimination by race and sex
2. given the empirically verifiable inequality between earnings at the same education level, of certain ethnicities and sexes
Then it is important to take steps to achieve equality "as a fact and a result" because discrimination is unfair, and intolerable.

WRT to the Jewish example, I'd not heard it and it's interesting but that was clearly not the real reason that Jewish people weren't admitted to harvard (as I'm sure you'd admit)- so unless you're claiming that people irrationally hate the poor, oppressed white man then the fact that an argument was used to justify terrible doctrines does not mean it's false.

As far as cookies are concerned, the college republicans would have to show that the discounted cookies were provided for a group that consistantly gets overpriced cookies relative to everyone else. That is, the cookie example clearly overlooks the "need" aspect, and the fairness aspect.

ps- i think it's about time to use one the "markets preclude discrimination" argument. That's cool, cause the categorical imperative forbids murder, so we don't have to worry about that either.

Discrimination = Murder?

Discrimination = Murder?

no, silly. I was pointing

no, silly. I was pointing out that abstract theories don't make good defenses, and I was using an analogy. I better one might have been a theory of Karma or "Indra's net" or something- the idea that since we'll be punished for our deeds in a future life, we don't need murder laws is similar to the idea that if everyone acting completely rationally in a perfectly efficient market (with no Brands, natural monopolies, or draconian intellectual property rights) would eliminate discrimination, then we don't need discrimination laws.

matt, Of course markets

matt,

Of course markets don't "preclude" discrimination, except in a very crude "economic man" model of human behavior. Racism may very well be a preference for some actors in the market; for them maximizing utilities may mean that they sacrifice some other good for the sake of the "good" of not having to be in contact with someone whose skin pigment is darker than theirs.

The matter of principle for me is the right of free association. Nobody should be forced by the law to hire, serve, accept as members, or associate with, anyone they prefer not to, on their own private property--even if they're a nasty bigot.

State-enforced discrimination, like Jim Crow, is an entirely different matter.

I agree, abstract theory is

I agree, abstract theory is not a defense against truth on the ground. The abstract can inform our decision making, of course, as well as our ethics.

Along those lines, I think it is interesting that often newspaper writers (among others) seem to believe that the act of passing a law will stop X, Y, or Z from happening. I was reading the Washington Post today at lunch, and on the front page there was an article on reimportation of drugs from Mexico. After describing the situation, the writer said: (paraphrase)

This illustrates a national contradiction: While federal law makes it illegal to import almost any drug, millions of Americans cross the borders to buy them anyway.

Contradiction? How? Only if one believes that federal law regulates behavior by itself...

Matt, I'm familiar with the

Matt, I'm familiar with the various arguments used to justify racial discrimination. Incidentally, the Supreme Court already ruled years ago that Affirmative Action cannot be justified under restitution theories; rather, it must be justified insofar as it contributes to diversity, which is a much weaker defense, in my opinion.

And while I agree that discrimination still exists in various contexts, it is overstated. The wage disparity between men and women is actually fairly small; the large disparity commonly cited doesn't take into account differences in experience, seniority, etc. Another important factor that is ignored in both models is the fact that we live in a society where more women than men take time off from work to have children. Whether or not this is a just social practice, the fact is that it remains and has effects on wages accordingly.

As for taking steps to rectify educational disparities, the source of the problem occurs long before students go to college; inner city public schools, to take but one example, suffer from lack of competition, overbearing teachers unions who oppose change, etc. Implementing school choice programs would be a step towards solving this problem, which is one reason why a majority of blacks favor school choice programs (but of course, they may be suffering from "false consciousness").

As for the Jewish example, many of the same arguments that are now used to justify Affirmative Action were then used to justify reverse preferences for Jews. Harvard's admission policy discriminating against Jews spoke in terms of the cultural values of diversity:

    "Race is a part of the record. It is by no means the whole record, and no man will be kept out on grounds of race; but those racial characteristics which make for race isolation will, if they are borne by the individual, be taken into consideration as part of that individual's characteristics under the test of character, personality, and promise."
    - Cato Amicus Curiae to the Supreme Court in Grutter and Gratz

So the question remains - if the goal of admissions policies is to make the makeup of the student body identical to the makeup of society as a whole, then Jews should be excluded.

If, instead, the purpose is to rectify discrimination, then attack discrimination at its source, rather than create even more of it. Don't assume that all blacks have the same experience with discrimination - treat people as individuals, not members of groups.

And as I said, of course the cookie example isn't identical to admissions policies. That is precisely why it is an analogy - it focuses on the most offensive part of Affirmative Action: judging people by color rather than by the content of their character.

And as Kevin said, markets don't "preclude" discrimination; markets place a cost on discrimination, and costs tend to discourage costly activities.

The NTR (North Texas

The NTR (North Texas Republicans) planned a bake sale a few weeks ago. The administration did not grant them the permit and warned that any display would be shut down by force if necessary.

Following this, I read at least three poorly-written editorials in the NT Daily about how wonderful, just, and necessary AA is.

On another note, when I have time, I'd like to write about a class I'm taking -- Business Ethics (my fun class) -- and the amazing views being expressed in said class by my fellow students. I seem to be the only person not in bed with the anti-capitalist tendencies of the professor and (to a lesser extent) the materials. Some folks (business students, mind you) seem to believe a firm should not be able to make a profit, that globalization must be stopped!!, that a "living wage" must be paid to every employee in any country (or: a wage based on the same wages the company would pay to someone living in the US), and that there ought to be laws strictly controlling the racial makeup of every company's work force to ensure "diversity."

I mumbled something today when we were shifting papers around after a student presentation on why the Coke company is evil because of its not-diversified-enough workforce (the solution: Coke needs to become an EOE by limiting the number of white people it hires). I said, "how is it equal opportunity if their written policy is to give preference to certain groups?" It was probably the wrong time for me to say this, and I probably spoke a little too loudly, because the professor heard me and asked me to repeat it so the discussion could continue (read: a few students could hurl softball insults at me). Next week, I am going to keep my lips zippered shut.

HERE was my hash on

HERE was my hash on Affirmative Action (comments).

I find it very interesting

I find it very interesting that the organizers of the cookie sale knew exactly which prices in descending order to ascribe to different ethnic and gender groups with Blacks being on the bottom. Even though there is an explicit denial of the extent of structural racism in this country, I bet that when the posters were being drawn there was very little debate about who got assigned what prices in the descending price range. I saw an interview on the news with one of the organizers of the sale, a person who's name I forget. He was adamant that it should be offensive to anyone to lower the standards in the name of racial diversity. As a proponent of Affirmative Action programs, I agree. What is interesting to me is that no one ever thinks about the fallacy of assuming that affirmative action programs are synonymous with lowering standards. The fact that this assumption is always advanced and rarely refuted has this implication which for me reaffirms the very need for aff. action: any active programs focused on inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities and gender minorities must necessarily be programs of lower standards. In other words, the only way that you get a large number of minorities into certain places of employment or educational institutions is by making sure that the standards are low enough to admit them. This racist and discriminatory assumption is the very reason why we need affirmative action in the first place. Furthermore, those people, particularly white males who feel the ever encroaching threat of reverse racism(as if me, a Black person, saying that all white people are bad really has power to exclude any white person in this society from participating in some meaningful social, political, or economic interaction), never acknowledge the fact that structural racism in this country has denied and continues to deny Blacks and other minorities access to the jobs and opportunities that are necessary to become qualified and to meet the very high standards that secure Whites control of the marketplace. White Americans also fail to acknowledge that America is not, nor has it ever been, a meritocracy. Affirmative Action programs were not the cause of this nor does their presence solely perpetuate this fact. White folks in this country got a little scared when 40 years or so of affirmative action started to work. But the sad part is that they think that 40 years of programming will undo centuries of discrimination. That argument wouldn't even be viable if all the discrimination had stopped forty years ago.Legislation cannot erase the psychological effects of racism on White or Black people. My last point is this. Affirmative Action programs are not zero-sum between white and minority representation and inclusion. Absence of aff. action as has been proven is a zero-sum game. The structures of this country if they are not interrogated by effective rather than piecemeal aff. action programs will lead us back to a lily white society, with Blacks, poor people and women being on the bottom of the social latter. Though many of you say that this is not what you want, that you are not racist because you have Black friends and are not members of the KKK, your consistent failure to acknowledge the very real benefits of "White privilege" in this country suggest that you are complicit in a kind of racism that is arguably worse than any ever perpetuated by the KKK; at least back then minorities and racists alike acknowledged who the racists were.

Britney, you said: What is

Britney, you said:

What is interesting to me is that no one ever thinks about the fallacy of assuming that affirmative action programs are synonymous with lowering standards. The fact that this assumption is always advanced and rarely refuted has this implication which for me reaffirms the very need for aff. action: any active programs focused on inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities and gender minorities must necessarily be programs of lower standards. In other words, the only way that you get a large number of minorities into certain places of employment or educational institutions is by making sure that the standards are low enough to admit them. This racist and discriminatory assumption is the very reason why we need affirmative action in the first place.

The facts of the matter are that any program which aims to produce admissions in elite universities or hiring for cometitive jobs requiring a lot of education at with a racial distribution similar to the population at large has no choice but to demand lower standards of blacks. Proportionally fewer black people than white people reach any particular high level of academic acheivement in this country, so much so that "outreach" will only allow a small number of institutions to acheive racial parity without lowering of standards for black people.

It's ridiculous to blame the racist practices of 45 years or more ago for the academic underacheivement of 18-year-old blacks. Affirmative Action, which is really only an euphemism for Quotas, merely covers up existing problems with predominately black-run school districts, and with a black culture which disvalues education.

Brittney Cooper: Your posts

Brittney Cooper: Your posts reflects that very assumption that is often cited as the reason for minority success in America. Where as one of the only places in society that is usually absent of Affirmative Action, I'm referring to athletics, we don't get bombarded with accompanying racial diatribes flaunting the fact that the last 18 NBA MVP awards have gone to Black Males. And whereas minority success is acheived through vis a vis minority victimization, Thurgood Marshall for example, an individual is pegged with the title of "success by means of complusive force".

Statutory interpretation of the Constitution and legislative practice to force equality has been affirmed and struck down throughout American history. Present interpretation affirming the "compelling state interest" for diversity will join its Jim Crowe counterparts and erode into the oceans of failed and unconstitutional policies of the past.

AA as a policy seeks to remedy or treat an existing problem, one in which in historical terms has established a clear gap between ethnic groups. However, this policy also overlooks the facts that not all minorities were damaged or wronged when slavery and Jim Crowe were laws of the land. In clear misappropriation, AA has mutated into much more than simply a means to create equal, and instead been enforced as way to take from the majority ethnic group what is assumed to have been created by self promotion of racial superiority. Again, any obstructions always have cracks that people find their way through and history shows that the majority ethnic group was not entirely subjective to people of other ethnic groups.

Since AA was created just after the peak of the civil rights movement, we have an incomplete statistical case to indentify if at all there is a propagation of racial superiority in America. In the end, you don't end discrimination against the man with a broken leg by breaking the legs of all the men around him. You don't end discrimination by forcing everyone to walk with a limp and use a crutch either.

After reading Brittany's

After reading Brittany's comment, what I want to know is: where the fuck do I go to get my white male club card? I must have missed the white male oppresssor society meeting where the cards were handed out.

If we white males have this system in place to keep all the power and exclude women and colored people, how did I get left out? And how did my parents get left out? This just stinks... I want my privilege... I want my power... Cause I've had to work for it just like every black and female, and since I am white and male that just ain't fair.

So, you know that SNL skit where Eddie Murphy disguises himself as a white guy and finds out that everything is free when there are only white people around? IT WAS A JOKE, DUMBASS!

Brittney, What is

Brittney,

What is interesting to me is that no one ever thinks about the fallacy of assuming that affirmative action programs are synonymous with lowering standards.

Perhaps this is because, in practice, a system of racial preferences necessarily lowers standards for the preferred race. This was the case in the recent Supreme Court decisions of Grutter and Gratz: preferred minorities received a 20-point bonus in the admissions process - more than the score awarded for a perfect SAT and an outstanding essay combined. In other words, if non-minority applicants need a score of X points to get accepted, preferred minorities need only X-20. This is a lower standard.

Furthermore, those people, particularly white males who feel the ever encroaching threat of reverse racism (as if me, a Black person, saying that all white people are bad really has power to exclude any white person in this society from participating in some meaningful social, political, or economic interaction), never acknowledge the fact that structural racism in this country has denied and continues to deny Blacks and other minorities access to the jobs and opportunities that are necessary to become qualified and to meet the very high standards that secure Whites control of the marketplace.

I am a white male who believes that Affirmative Action is reverse racism, and yet I certainly acknowledge the existence of structural racism. Although we can argue about how large an affect structural racism may have today, no matter how large you believe it may be, it cannot justify racial discrimination in the university admissions process, even if the discrimination is directed against whites. Racial discrimination is wrong, end of story. And it is an absurd cop-out to claim that anti-white discrimination cannot exist because whites are more powerful than blacks. Any time you treat people of different races according to different standards, you have engaged in racial discrimination.

Well, let's see. The White

Well, let's see. The White Males got cookies for a buck, other people got cheaper cookies...

In order to make the bake sale true to life, I'm sure that the College Republicans gave every white male who walked by 3 dollars before they made a choice about buying a cookie, right?

Oh, yah. And isn't it just

Oh, yah. And isn't it just maybe possible that rather then AA being quota's in disguise, it makes up for the fact that black (and other minority) kids tend to go to sucky schools.

Stay with me now.

Let's say from grade 1 to 12 you have a horrible school. You don't get what you should in terms of literacy, numaracy, or anything else. Your SAT scores therefore suck.

Then you apply to college.

If you are smarter then a white kid with a GOOD education, you will have a lower GPA, a lower SAT score, and so on. But because you are smarter then that other kid, you would be able to catch up and surpass him (maybe with some extra tutoring, or peer support like the Posse Program).

But without AA programs, you don't get the chance.

And how might we determine

And how might we determine whether the black kid is actually smarter or in some other way more deserving of admission than the white kid without some kind of objective standard by which to judge?

And even if, for the sake of argument, we do agree that attendence at a sucky highschool is grounds for admissions preferences, that does not justify preferences on the basis of race. Not all blacks go to sucky schools and not all white go to good schools.

This is interesting... a

This is interesting... a liberal colleague of mine told me that some friends of hers at some small lib-arts school up east did the same thing... but with a different aim. The women's studies department cobbled together a bake sale, and as in these examples, established a sliding prioe scale determined by gender, sex, and so on. But the emphasis was different... it was seen as a way of "rewarding" the minority students for their long suffering.
In other words, the tactics and strategy were basically identical, but deployed in the service of a politics diametrically opposed to Young Republicanism (if I can be allowed that neologism.)
Of course, they weren't shut down.
What a difference context makes, nu?
-anonymous graduate student

Why is it that blacks need

Why is it that blacks need special preferences and not Asians?

Why is it that blacks need special preferences and not Jews?

Are my black friends saying that Asians have NOT been subjected to discrimination in this country?

And have Jews NOT been the subject of ongoing discrimination? Did the holocaust never happen? Let's look at a few example of Jewish discrimination and bigotry among black leaders:

1) Did Jesse Jackson not call New York City "Heimy Town"?

2) Did Al Sharpton not refer to Jews as "diamond merchants."

3) Did The Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan not call Hitler a "great man" and Judaism a "gutter religion."

MY POINT: Jews, Asian, AND blacks have been subject to discrimination (as have tons of other people). Yet Jews and Asians have overcome this discrimination to be highly successful in America. Is this because Jews and Asians are the "white" majority who have special privileges? I never thought of either groups as being the WASPs who rule America.

So if other minority groups overcame bigotry, why can't blacks? It is because blacks undervalue education. Black high school students aspire to become athletes and not university professors (note that 70% of NFL athletes are black).

Blacks say they need AA to "level the playing field" because they blame whites for keeping them down. A renowned black author and professor at UC Berkley states "It?s black attitudes, not white racism, that?s to blame [for blacks under performing]" http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_1_whats_holding_blacks.html

For blacks, it is not "cool" to be intellectual. Any aspiring black student comes up against the taunts of "acting white." Black students know this. Until blacks, as a culture, acknowledge the benefits of education and aspire to achieve academically as well as on the sports field, blacks will continue to lag Asian students...oh yeah, and white students.

Yes, it does mean that

Yes, it does mean that standards are lower for one group than another, if they have to adjust the scores in order to value the diversity. Overrepresented ( the stipulated meaning of non-diverse, perhaps ) groups will have racial quotas set against them, as in the much deplored discriminations of a hundred years ago in several countries. Racial equality is not an appropriate priority for the gov't, not if it involves aggression or official acts of racism, as it currently does. Officials need ever-intensifying racial strife in order to aggrandize their power. This is not about money, but power-seeking and some alternative welfare-grabbing. Additional comment at jsbolton below...