Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Trivializing Rape

Diversity sucks. (Politically-informed diversity, not the different-people-getting-along-nicely kind.) But it doesn't rise to the level of rape, not even rhetorically. "Ideas" like this one are simply counterproductive. (H/T The Corner).


emily1 said...

what exactly is 'politically informed' diversity?

Robert said...

You guess and I'll tell you if you're right.

emily1 said...

it's an honest question. really.

Robert said...

It's an honest response. You define the terms.

emily1 said...

i'm not the one using the term. you are. i don't understand what you mean by 'politically informed diversity.' since you wrote the post, i thought it was fair to ask you what you meant.

nobody.really said...

Oh, geez. Of all the complicated issues, THIS doesn’t have to be one of them. I understand Robert to say that he has no problem with different people getting along nicely (Bold move, Bob), but has qualms about Affirmative Action.

(While I’m writing, I won’t miss the opportunity to recall Robert’s defense of the Electoral College system on the grounds that it strengthens the vote of a rural minority at the expense of the urbanized majority. “Affirmative Reaction,” anyone?)

Fundamentally, when is it appropriate to treat people as members of groups, rather than as individuals? Consider national security. War means that concern for individual rights largely goes out the window: I try to kill you because you’re wearing the wrong uniform, not because of any specific knowledge about you or your conduct, and visa versa. Counterterrorism guys engage in “profiling,” judging people not on individual behavior but on a list of characteristics. Federal agents screen every passenger on an airline without any individualized grounds for suspicion; why that doesn’t violate the 4th Amendment, I don’t know. Passengers are judged to be suspicious as a group.

Consider the future. People who argue for lower deficits or cleaner environment are basically arguing to favor people in the future at the expense of people in the present. Group vs. group.

Consider Congress. Sure, I may like one candidate better than another. But in an era of ridged party discipline enforced with massive PAC contributions, what differences do a candidate’s attributes make? Unless the candidate is in the leadership, the only attribute that matters is party affiliation. Yellow dog group vs. group.

I’ve tended to favor individual liberties and freedom of conscience. But I can’t help acknowledging a growing group-think on my part.

emily1 said...

if he meant affirmative action, then why didn't he just say, "i think diversity is great, but i don't like affirmative action."

'politically informed diversity' could referred to any number of ideas about diversity that piss off conservatives, and it wasn't clear to me which one he was talking about. this was not an attempt to be deliberately obtuse on my part. 'politically informed diversity' is not an instantly recognizeable political phrase the same way 'affirmative action' is.

that said, i actually agree with the statement that race-based affirmative action is flawed and unfair -- try being of east asian ethnicity and applying to MIT, for example. i would whole-heartedly support affirmative action based on the student's family income, so poor kids get a leg up in college admissions.

middle class parents who can afford to live in communities with good schools are never going to be happy with other kids getting *any* advantage over their own. even so, it's really difficult to argue that a kid that grew up in poverty did not also face greater obstacles in their lives. some might argue that thems the breaks, but i'm not one of them.

income-based affirmative action probably would produce a diverse student body, but minorities who get an advantage would not be middle class as they tend to be now. it would also help poor white kids a lot.

mythago said...

I see that the person at Robert's link is speaking in English, but they're still making no sense.

nobody.really said...

Well, I think I understand the linked site. It looks like a pretty traditional argument to me: 1) By focusing on a finite set of variables (race, gender, class, etc.) you exclude consideration of other variables that make each of us unique, not merely the member of a class. Also, 2) by focusing on these variables, you re-emphasize them rather than de-emphasize them. Why not stop using these labels and simply use the label "people" or maybe "Americans"?

I think the argument has logic, but limited application, because it does not account for how the human mind works.

Psych research suggests that people tend to think in terms of archetype rather than boundaries. For example, I know what a bird is. I think. Admittedly, I don't have a list of testable criteria for determining whether any given object does or does not fall within the category "bird." That is, I don't know the boundary conditions of "bird." Yet when you say the word "bird" to me, I have no difficulty imagining an archetype. A bird is a sparrow, or anything sufficiently close. If you want me to design public policies for birds, I will design them for sparrows. If you want me to include penguins, you'd better use some additional adjectives with the word "bird," e.g., "birds, including arctic bird." Perhaps logically the statement "including arctic birds" is redundant, but not practically.

Similarly, when you talk about an "American," the archetype that jumps to mind is of a white, male, young, able-bodied educated heterosexual Christian professional who speaks English. If you ask me to design crosswalks for Americans, I'll design one for that guy. If you also want me to consider the needs of blind elderly lesbians in wheelchairs who don’t understand English, you'd better say so explicitly.

Consequently discussions of public policy are littered with modified nouns that may logically seem redundant, but have practical benefits. We talk about "unwed mothers," because there's an unstated (archetypical) assumption that mothers are wed. Similarly, we talk about African Americans, acquaintance rape, pro-choice Republicans, and so on.

The linked website suggests that modifiers reduce the opportunity to appreciate each individual’s uniqueness. And I expect they do distract attention from the subtle, unique attributes of each English-speaking white, male, young, able-bodied educated heterosexual Christian professional. But in the absence of policies specifying the people OTHER than English-speaking white, male, young, able-bodied educated heterosexual Christian professionals deserve consideration, they won’t get it, any more than the needs of penguins are considered in international bird treaties.

For purposes of public policy, modifiers are necessary to ensure consideration of the needs of a diverse population.