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Category: Affirmative Action

Minority-Owned Business and the Law

I feel compelled to ask: How, exactly, does a requirement to report all “beneficial owners” of businesses to the federal Treasury impact minoritybusiness owners any more than it does business owners generally?

What does being a “person of color” or an “immigrant” or a “non-English speaker” or a “low-income individual” — or not — have to do with it?  Why must everything be viewed as a construct of race or gender or class?  Is there nothing left in the world of the universal human condition…?

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The Sledge Hammer

In your article, you predict 3 things that are likely to happen “…when people feel they cannot talk openly about a subject…”.

Here is another prediction: The Sledge Hammer.

That is the name I have given to a phenomenon I have observed many times in the last 40 or 50 years — prototypical examples are the passage in CA of proposition 209, outlawing affirmative action, and propositions 13 (CA)  and 2-1/2 (MA) limiting the rate of property tax increases.  But it might also, perhaps, be used as well to describe Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency, not to mention “Defund the Police”….

The people who can see that there is, indeed, a problem but are told to shut up about it get impatient.  Then they get frustrated.  Then they get angry.  Then they get furious.

And then they swing the populist Sledge Hammer:  “Screw all of you condescending bastards!  If we can’t fix the system, we’ll destroy it!”

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Individual and Group

The general state of race-relations in America has recently been highlighted nationally by President Clinton’s “Dialogue on Race”, and in California by ballot propositions like 187 (limiting government benefits to illegal immigrants) and 209 (eliminating state-sponsored affirmative-action). The desire for an unemotional and realistic conversation on race — where we stand, where we are headed, and where we want to be — is noble and desirable. It seems, however, that our initial attempts have been thwarted as much by the terms of the conversation as by the subject itself: just as the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of historical discrimination were largely defined by its beneficiaries (to whom ‘race-relations’ were a closed issue), the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of the fight against discrimination — and, more generally, of our discussions about race — have been largely defined by those to whom ‘race-relations’ have historically meant ‘race-based oppression’ — to whom ‘race-relations’ were very much an open issue and a dominant factor of their lives. While this is understandable, and perhaps even just, it almost ensures that racial difference is viewed and debated as a chasm to be crossed — or into which to fall — rather than as a boundary to be transcended.

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Prop. 209: The Alternative

Proposition 209 in California abolished state-sponsored affirmative-action programs. This was written in response to a letter which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after proposition 209 was approved by the voters. In the original letter, Mr. Edward Howden, who identified himself as an “old civil rights hand”, magnanimously offered, as an alternative to abolishing affirmative-action outright, to

“Look toward possible non-partisan efforts seeking legislative or administrative remedies for such problems as may remain in affirmative action programs.”

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An Appearance of Discrimination

Proposition 209 in California abolished state-sponsored affirmative-action programs; affirmative-action in admissions for the University of California and the California State University had been eliminated earlier by a vote of the board of regents. The first reported results of the new policy were for law school admissions within the UC system, and they showed modest to drastic decreases in minority admissions; later results for other graduate and undergraduate programs showed smaller, but still significant, decreases. While those who unequivocally favor affirmative action insisted that the results proved the folly of proposition 209, I and others believe they are more properly viewed as an indicator of how ineffective affirmative action has been at addressing the problems underlying poor minority enrollment and achievement.

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White Man

The general state of race-relations in America has recently been highlighted, nationally by President Clinton’s “Dialogue on Race” and in California by ballot propositions like 187 (limiting government benefits to illegal immigrants) and 209 (eliminating state-sponsored affirmative-action). The desire for an unemotional and realistic conversation on race — where we stand, where we are headed, and where we want to be — is noble and desirable. It seems, however, that our initial attempts have been thwarted as much by the terms of the conversation as by the subject itself: just as the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of historical discrimination were largely defined by its beneficiaries (to whom ‘race-relations’ were a closed issue), the underlying context, assumptions, and forms of the fight against discrimination — and, more generally, of our discussions about race — have been largely defined by those to whom ‘race-relations’ have historically meant ‘race-based oppression’ — to whom ‘race-relations’ were very much an open issue and a dominant factor of their lives. While this is understandable, and perhaps even just, it almost ensures that racial difference is viewed and debated as a chasm to be crossed — or into which to fall — rather than as a boundary to be transcended.

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