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Is White Privilege A Myth?

My senior senator, Jim Webb, has taken to the pages of WSJ with an op-ed titled “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege,” subtitled “America still owes a debt to its black citizens, but government programs to help all ‘people of color’ are unfair. They should end.

Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future.

This is, to say the least, an unusual position for a Democratic United States Senator. Indeed, Pat Buchanan could have written it. But Webb’s no Pat Buchanan.

I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.

I made pretty much the same argument in my recent posting “Does Harvard Discriminate Against Whites?” But Webb goes further:

Affirmative action was designed to recognize the uniquely difficult journey of African-Americans. This policy was justifiable and understandable, even to those who came from white cultural groups that had also suffered in socio-economic terms from the Civil War and its aftermath.

The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. But the extrapolation of this logic to all “people of color”—especially since 1965, when new immigration laws dramatically altered the demographic makeup of the U.S.—moved affirmative action away from remediation and toward discrimination, this time against whites. It has also lessened the focus on assisting African-Americans, who despite a veneer of successful people at the very top still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration and family breakup.

Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs. The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years.

This is largely correct, although Hispanics in border states may quibble with the assertion that they don’t face government discrimination.  But Affirmative Action was never solely about government based discrimination.  One of the “vestiges of slavery,” one could argue, is private racism, especially against blacks.

Moreover, aside from marginal slots at elite universities, does anyone seriously think whites are being singled out for discrimination by society at large?   Webb doesn’t.   However, he correctly points out that “Contrary to assumptions in the law, white America is hardly a monolith. And the journey of white American cultures is so diverse (yes) that one strains to find the logic that could lump them together for the purpose of public policy.”   He devotes several paragraphs, not surprisingly, talking about the plight of poor whites in the South, noting that they’re virtually indistinguishable from blacks in terms of education and achievement.    He concludes:

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.

Memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away.

While I don’t disagree with the premise, I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches.   I fully agree and have long argued that using race as the sole criterion for policy preference should end.  But, surely, we don’t want to create new categories, such as “Scotch-Irish Sons of Confederate Veterans,” for special treatment.   We could target based on poverty, perhaps with some sort of regional cost of living adjustments.

I like the concept of “enabling opportunity for all.”  But what does that mean in practice?   Do we Federalize education?  Under our current system, which is typically funded by local property taxes, children in poor communities are trapped in poorly funded schools.   That’s doubly true if surrounding communities are also poor.   And this gets compounded by the fact that poor families are more likely to be single-parent families with households headed by poorly educated, young people too tired to give their kids’ education much attention and poorly equipped to do much good, anyway.   How do we break this cycle through the government?

Correction:  The original referred to Webb, elected in 2006, as my junior senator.  But he’s actually my senior senator, as longtime Senator John Warner retired and was replaced by Mark Warner (no relation) in 2008.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    I tend to agree with you and Webb about the need at this time to abandon race-based AA. I mean, why should the son of a rich black doctor get preferential treatment over the son of poor white mechanic? He shouldn’t. Period. Income-based AA at this time is the only ethical way to go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  2. john personna says:

    Not only that, but the racism that exists today has integrated AA into its worldview of persecution. AA helps some, while fueling others.

    When I hear from racists the first thing they want to talk about is their persecution as whites.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. john personna says:

    (So yes, as I’ve said/agreed before, we need income-based AA to move on.)

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  4. just me says:

    I think what Webb seems to be getting at is that AA should apply to probably a more income based criteria than a race based one.

    I don’t think it has to be specific though. I also think it would be nice to see programs geared towards opportunity in rural areas. There are many government programs, and in reality many opportunities for students in the inner city to experience things, not so much for a rural district where a field trip to a museum may be out because of the cost of the bus to get there. I live and work in a very rural state (NH) that is predominately white. One year out of the 22 students in our class only 12 of them had been outside the state of NH and 4 of those had only been to Maine or Vermont.

    And the reality is that college may be the ticket out of poverty, but the rural white student isn’t thought of as bringing diversity to a student body in the same way a hispanic or African American is. The minority group gets the bonus points no matter what their social class. And the reality is that the poor rural white person may actually bring more diversity given their cultural experiences to a college campus.

    Oh and it doesn’t surprise me at all that this is coming from Webb-he is in general a populist, but one from a state with large rural populations in addition to highly populated cities. While I think he probably believes what he is saying, I also can’t help but think this is a good way to appeal to all his constituents.

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  5. Franklin says:

    This guy probably would’ve made a decent Vice President.

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  6. Not Larry Sabato says:

    He’s your Senior Senator.

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  7. just me says:

    Oh, but I will say I don’t think white privilege is entirely a myth. I think there is certainly a wealthy, elite class of whites that don’t worry about Johnny getting into Yale even if his SAT scores weren’t all that high, because he has what is really the benefit of privilege-the networking that will get Johnny in anyway. And when Johnny graduates, it is that same networking that will help get a job over more qualified candidates.

    But I would venture to guess that there are minorities among the elite who also benefit from this networking now whose kids will get into the school of their choice or a really good job because of who they know. There is a growing class of elite minorities whose kids will probably benefit more from this elite networking than AA.

    So that takes us back to really privilege is more about class and who you know than the color of your skin, its just that before the civil rights movement minorities were for the most part denied access to the privilege of being among the elite.

    I don’t think that is so much a problem now. Also, it begs the question does a wealthy African American child bring more to a diversity goal than a poor child from rural Alabama?

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  8. JKB says:

    Well, Webb has truly separated from his party given that it was Democrats who largely created and enforced Jim Crowe and when that was failing, created a system of state dependency. It will be an interesting historical investigation to determine whether the latter was by intent or just because “they meant well.”

    just me…if you take poor rural whites and mix them with well-to-do whites and dress them up in university student clothing then take their picture, you can’t determine how diverse the university students are. But in a few years, even president Obama’s daughters will enhance image of diversity in assisting the less privileged at Harvard.

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  9. floyd says:

    Hey, how about the idea of a level playing field with equal protection under the law.
    Perhaps , quaint by some standards, but effective. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. Mercer says:

    ” I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches. ”

    I think he makes it clear when he says:

    “Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.”

    I agree with him that it makes no sense that diversity programs give preferences to immigrants and their children over native born Americans. This is a big deal when you factor in the growth of immigrants and their descendants since 1965.

    It takes a lot of guts for an elected democrat to write this piece.

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  11. Ben says:

    Because it’s not a level playing field, floyd

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. [...] by Jim Webb in today’s Wall Street Journal is compelling and thought-provoking, although I agree with James Joyner that I’m not entirely sure what policy conclusions Webb expects us to reach.  At a minimum, [...]

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  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Moreover, aside from marginal slots at elite universities, does anyone seriously think whites are being singled out for discrimination by society at large?”

    Actually quite a few do and this is fed by the constant railing against elites etc. It’s nonsense of course although some groups of whites may be economically disadvantaged because of income inequalities. That’s the rather astute part of Webb’s oped. The WSJ thinks they’re getting an anti affirmative action editorial when what in fact they are getting is a polemic against income inequality because that’s the only way in which whites are seriously disadvantaged.

    “It takes a lot of guts for an elected democrat to write this piece.”

    Not in VA it doesn’t. Politically it’s a very smart move.

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  14. Pug says:

    Why are we always talking about who gets into Harvard?

    What percentage of the population, white or black, gets into Harvard? According to their web site, 559 students were accepted for the Harvard class of 2012. So in a nation of 307,000,000, about 2,230 get into Harvard.

    I’m tired of hearing about how letting Alabama Future Farmers into Harvard has anything to do with anything.

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @pug

    Why are we always talking about who gets into Harvard?

    Because getting into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, and a handful of other elite institutions is a ticket to the fast track in so many key industries. Decades later, having gotten into one of those schools — graduation is a virtual certainty — is still touted as a qualification for jobs and having gone to a lesser school is a disqualifier. This is justified on the basis that selection is meritocratic but it isn’t.

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  16. john personna says:

    Why are we always talking about who gets into Harvard?

    What percentage of the population, white or black, gets into Harvard? According to their web site, 559 students were accepted for the Harvard class of 2012. So in a nation of 307,000,000, about 2,230 get into Harvard.

    I think that is actually spot-on. I could be slightly unfair in saying it is only Eastern Elites who have this Harvard centered worldview … but that would be slightly unfair. A few others get caught up in it too.

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  17. john personna says:

    Because getting into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, and a handful of other elite institutions is a ticket to the fast track in so many key industries. Decades later, having gotten into one of those schools — graduation is a virtual certainty — is still touted as a qualification for jobs and having gone to a lesser school is a disqualifier. This is justified on the basis that selection is meritocratic but it isn’t.

    I think James, given that only 2,230 graduating seniors (or there-abouts) get into Harvard, the general solution to mobility won’t be found there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. PD Shaw says:

    Mercer, could you identify an example of a government-directed diversity program? I would really be curious. It seems to me that I see more diversity-oriented policies in the private sector, including private universities, than I see in government.

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  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Decades later, having gotten into one of those schools — graduation is a virtual certainty — is still touted as a qualification for jobs and having gone to a lesser school is a disqualifier.”

    Graduation is a certainty because you don’t get in without the necessary intellectual horsepower to graduate. Peer, family or self generated pressure ensures you remain well motivated. Drop outs like Dick Cheney or Bill Gates are rare. To be fair the Ivy net encompasses a number of non Ivies and even when you’ve graduated the odds are that you are going to need grad degrees to enter the magic circle of a meal ticket for life. Basically I don’t have any problem with this because it’s a feature of every society that they cultivate their best and brightest. France has the grand ecoles and Science Po, Britain Oxbridge, etc etc. Now I’d agree that entry is not totally meritocratic (unlike the grand ecoles where it ferociously so) but it’s fairly meritocratic and in our society that’s about the best we can hope for. Given that our current president and his immediate Democratic predecessor are both grads of these schools and only came from middle class (at best) backgrounds it’s not really accurate to say there isn’t a fair amount of merit in the system even if it’s not perfect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Dantheman says:

    Pug,

    “So in a nation of 307,000,000, about 2,230 get into Harvard.”

    Check your math. You seem to be implying that there are only 4 years’ worth of Harvard graduates in the country. I’m pretty sure it’s been around a bit longer than that. It even claims to have been around longer than my alma mater, which was established in the 1700′s.

    Admittely, using 60 years (roughly the average remaining life expectency once you get past high school age) and multiplying the result by 20 (for the other elite universities) only gets you into the 600-700,000 range, or about .2% of the country, but that’s a lot different than 2,300, or under .001%.

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  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    “According to their web site, 559 students were accepted for the Harvard class of 2012.”

    I believe something like 30,000 applied.

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  22. just me says:

    Why are we always talking about who gets into Harvard?

    It isn’t just about Harvard. It is about getting into highly respected colleges and universities that have a strong system of networking.

    An education from an elite institution (not limited to Harvard) isn’t about the actual education but more abut the opportunities having the degree, and the system of networking that provides better opportunity post graduation and throughout employment.

    A degree from a highly selective institution isn’t about the degree-it is about opening doors to future employment-something a degree from a state college or less respective private college won’t provide.

    Harvard is the easy one to throw out there, but there are quite a few institutions out there that would fit just as nicely.

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  23. Mercer says:

    “Mercer, could you identify an example of a government-directed diversity program?”

    The new finance law mandates it for several agencies and their contractors :

    http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2010/07/08/diversity_in_the_financial_sector_98562.html

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @jon personna

    I think James, given that only 2,230 graduating seniors (or there-abouts) get into Harvard, the general solution to mobility won’t be found there.

    Granted. But, again, getting into a Top 6 school is the only way to be on the path to potentially get nominated to the Supreme Court, for example, and is a much cleaner path to success in academe, journalism, think tankery, and all manner of other highly prestigious professions. The admissions committees of these places are, in effect, deciding who gets to compete for those jobs.

    @brummagon joe

    it’s not really accurate to say there isn’t a fair amount of merit in the system even if it’s not perfect.

    Oh, it’s highly meritocratic. I’m just saying that, given their power, they shouldn’t intentionally be less so than they could. I also oppose legacy admissions, although that’s trickier because of the fundraising angle.

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  25. PD Shaw says:

    Thank you, Mercer, I was not aware of that. I guess Web was:

    http://www.congress.org/congressorg/bio/userletter/?id=51210&letter_id=5522311026

    Frankly, some of that sounds unconstitutional, if they in fact are requiring quotas.

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  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:03
    This is justified on the basis that selection is meritocratic but it isn’t.

    James Joyner says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 13:55
    “Oh, it’s highly meritocratic.”

    I’m confused.

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  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    PD Shaw says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:54
    “It seems to me that I see more diversity-oriented policies in the private sector, including private universities, than I see in government.”

    PD Shaw says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 14:25
    “Frankly, some of that sounds unconstitutional, if they in fact are requiring quotas.”

    First you say the private sector is better at encouraging diversity than the public, then when evidence is adduced of Govt encouraged diversity programs, it’s unconstitutional. I’m confused.

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  28. just me says:

    I’m confused.

    Not sure why.

    A minority isn’t going to get into Harvard with low SAT scores and class ranking, but they may be admitted with strong scores and class rank that are lower than a white persons scores in the name of diversity. Although if the minority comes from a wealthy family and the white person comes from a poor family in a rural town who needs the affirmative action more?

    But the reality is that a minority with slightly lower scores and class rank has a better chance of getting into an elite university than a white person does (or an Asian for that matter)-they have a leg up over the poorer white person because the white rural person gets no brownie points for diversity even if their cultural experiences in a rural state may do more or as much for diversity as admitting a minority. Diversity isn’t and shouldn’t just be about skin color although for many that is all that counts.

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  29. Brummagem Joe says:

    just me says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 16:33
    I’m confused.

    “Not sure why.”

    Well that would be because at 12.03 Jim said that admission to Harvard was ” justified on the basis that selection is meritocratic but it isn’t.”……. and at 13.33 he said admission to Harvard was “highly meritocratic.”. All your other comments have nothing whatsoever with my confusion over this apparent contradiction so I wonder if you actually read the relevant posts.

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  30. sam says:

    “Mercer, could you identify an example of a government-directed diversity program?”

    Mercer replies, giving a cite to the article, “The new finance law mandates it for several agencies and their contractors”

    Here’s the actual language from the bill:

    (1) IN GENERAL.—The Director of each Office shall develop and implement standards and procedures to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the fair inclusion and utilization of minorities, women, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses in all business and activities of the agency at all levels, including in procurement, insurance, and all types of contracts.

    (2) CONTRACTS.—The procedures established by each agency for review and evaluation of contract proposals and for hiring service providers shall include, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a component that gives consideration to the diversity of the applicant. Such procedure shall include a written statement, in a form and with such content as the Director shall prescribe, that a contractor shall ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the fair inclusion of women and minorities in the workforce of the contractor and, as applicable, subcontractors.
    (3) TERMINATION.—

    (A) DETERMINATION.—The standards and procedures developed and implemented under this subsection shall include a procedure for the Director to make a determination whether an agency contractor, and, as applicable, a subcontractor has failed to make a good faith effort to include minorities and women in their workforce.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the requirements are being laid on government agencies and folks who contract to do work with said agencies, right? That’s not an blanket set of requirements imposed on all financial institutions regardless of the the institution’s contracting status with the government, or have I misread this? (I ask because looking around the web, one see accounts that have the entire financial industry being impacted. And, moreover, there’s a lot of talk about quotas, even though quotas are illegal where the government is concerned.)

    But hasn’t the government laid these kinds of requirements on other industries doing business with the government? I think it has, and this bill doesn’t represent something new. [Here's a source for the bill: banking.senate.gov/public/_files/AYO09D44_xml.pdf]

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  31. James Joyner says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    12.03 Jim said that admission to Harvard was ” justified on the basis that selection is meritocratic but it isn’t.”……. and at 13.33 he said admission to Harvard was “highly meritocratic.”

    A large chunk of the slots are awarded based on something close enough to pure merit and almost all if not all of the slots got to people who are well above average. So, yes, it’s very meritocratic in a broad sense.

    But the thumbs are on the scales for some students (athletes, legacies, and diversity candidates) and there appears to be a bias against certain other kinds of students (those whose resumes single them out as pro-military, Christian, and the like). Given that this is avoidable and the slots are so path determinative, we should strive to do better.

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  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 17:08

    I agree with some of your comments about fingers on scales Jim, but surely you will agree there was a rather large contradiction in these two statements. I actually think your second one is much nearer the truth. Overall it’s fairly meritocratic, and unless you’re the offspring of a mega donor it’s much harder than it used to be for a complete doofus to gain admission. As to the statement about bias against pro military or christian candidates, do you have any actual evidence to support this highly prejudicial statement. I do think there are differences of tenor between between the classes at say Yale or Princeton but to say Ivies in general or Harvard in particular are discriminating against the people you describe is a bit of a stretch.

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  33. Dave H says:

    Just because most privileged people are white doesn’t mean that most white people are privileged. Privilege and race are two different things. Likewise for poverty. Although blacks are commonly equated with poverty, the average black person isn’t poor and the average poor person isn’t black. There are far more poor whites, (not proportionally, but strictly numerically) than there are poor blacks, simply because there are so many more whites than blacks. AA advocates have always known that AA SHOULD help the poor. It’s just that when only income is considered, AA programs end up helping more whites than blacks. Your average AA supporter doesn’t see how that helps the problem AA should be addressing (which is usu. some combination of redress of racial oppression and promotion of racial diversity).

    The answer: AA should be based on income, not race, because racial discrimination is wrong. Racial diversity on campus should be addressed by improving secondary education and making the proportion of qualified minorty students match their proportion in society at large. I.e. if 12% of a community is black, 12% of the the students qualifying for university admission should also be black. The fact the latter number is lower than the former is why AA exists to begin with. AA admission programs, however, can’t solve the real problem, which is not underrepesentation but underperforming secondary schools in poor areas (both rural and urban). An underperforming school fails to prepare its students well enough for college, and nothing that happens after the process has already occurred can change that.

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  34. James Joyner says:

    @ B Joe

    See the “Does Harvard Discriminate Against Whites?” posting linked above, which cites a study on the subject.

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  35. just me says:

    The answer: AA should be based on income, not race, because racial discrimination is wrong. Racial diversity on campus should be addressed by improving secondary education and making the proportion of qualified minorty students match their proportion in society at large. I.e. if 12% of a community is black, 12% of the the students qualifying for university admission should also be black. The fact the latter number is lower than the former is why AA exists to begin with. AA admission programs, however, can’t solve the real problem, which is not underrepesentation but underperforming secondary schools in poor areas (both rural and urban). An underperforming school fails to prepare its students well enough for college, and nothing that happens after the process has already occurred can change that.

    I think there is much truth in this. Although I think there is a lot that goes into why rural and urban schools don’t always prepare students as well as they should-some easier to fix than others.

    I think part of it would involve totally revamping how we organize and evaluate the educators and the educators aren’t going to sign on for that.

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  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 17:32

    “See the “Does Harvard Discriminate Against Whites?” posting linked above, which cites a study on the subject.”

    Would you like to give me the citation because I’ve read the piece twice and I don’t see one. I see a quote from a study and refs to other bloggers but no citation.

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  37. PD Shaw says:

    sam, I’m not sure what that quoted language means. But I was certainly reacting to the larger implications of banks doing business with the government. Banks have to do business with the government in a larger array of circumstances than a construction contractor. If that language is meant to apply similar standards when the government contracts for a financial institution to do work, as a construction contractor, it’s certainly not unconstitutional IMHO.

    (Although I would have thought banks doing independent contract work for the federal government would already be subject to comparable requirements.)

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  38. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 17:32

    “See the “Does Harvard Discriminate Against Whites?” posting linked above, which cites a study on the subject.”

    I followed the trail and I see it was mentioned in the Douhat article in the Times. I also had a quick look at the study itself which is based on data from fifty elite universities, all of them anonymous because of confidentiality agreements. This seems slender evidence on which to single out Harvard for discriminating against whites on the grounds of their christianity. As Yglesias pointed out the vast majority of grads are christian whites. Now it maybe that economically disadvantaged whites make up a smaller part of their admission classes but this as we discussed the other day is largely for reasons totally unrelated to religion or attitudes to the military. Obviously I haven’t plowed through the whole study but there seem to be some leaps of logic taking place here. Not that I’m prejudiced in favor of Harvard who have turned down and accepted members of my family.

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  39. Brummagem Joe says:

    PD Shaw says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 18:38
    “Banks have to do business with the government in a larger array of circumstances than a construction contractor.”

    I’m sure there’s no way to measure it but this seems a highly questionable assertion since vast amounts of construction related contracting are done for govt at both the federal and state level.

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  40. sam says:

    @PD

    “If that language is meant to apply similar standards when the government contracts for a financial institution to do work, as a construction contractor, it’s certainly not unconstitutional IMHO.”

    I wasn’t really raising the question of constitutionality, though I have no doubt it is constitutional. It’s just that when I went to article mercer flagged and read it, then did a search, I found scores of cites reffing the article. Many the sites were painting the regs as something new and unheralded and representing the mighty hand of government coming down to crush the financial industry, etc., etc. — when, in fact, it appears to be the application of long-standing government policy vis-a-vis contractors, here financial contractors. It does set up some new mechanisms, apparently, for the implementation. There’s certainly no quotas involved. (Now that I think of it, it was kind of a threadjack. Sorry everybody.)

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  41. André Kenji says:

    Part of the problem is that a guy coming from the South Side of Chicago with relatively scores may have a better intelectual perfomance than a guy from a rich family, that had more time and incentives to study. And higher SAT generally means nothing. The guy may have high scores, but low general culture and no social skills.

    Again, the Brazilian universities chooses their students ONLY with a written test. The university system of the country is simply awful, with several students on top universities that only knows to memorize things, because that´s how they got into there(!).

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  42. [...] Joyner of Outside the Beltway had a good point that, argue as we may about Webb’s analysis, we’re clueless about rectifying the situation. While I don’t disagree with the premise, I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches. I [...]

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  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve always opposed affirmative action. Good intentions but a fundamentally corrupting policy.

    I think a sort of affirmative action for poor kids makes some sense. I am acutely aware of the advantages my upper middle class kids have.

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  44. anjin-san says:

    Hey, how about the idea of a level playing field with equal protection under the law.

    Sounds like you are endorsing gay marriage and ending “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Good for you.

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  45. mts says:

    This is why I voted for Webb over Allen, even though I am a Republican. No other Deomcrat has the courage to write something like this. If a Republican worte this, they would be called racist and ignored.

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  46. Brummagem Joe says:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Friday, July 23, 2010 at 23:05
    “I’ve always opposed affirmative action. Good intentions but a fundamentally corrupting policy.
    I think a sort of affirmative action for poor kids makes some sense.”

    Michael, don’t you see a little contradiction here? In fact the development of scholarship programs, student loan programs, the GI bill etc etc have all been massive affirmative action programs aimed at giving middle and lower income Americans of all ethnic backgrounds greater access to college education. And obviously the more expensive the institution (eg. Harvard, Princeton, Yale) the more important this assistance becomes. Many students of all backgrounds are attending Ivies today who would not have been there on financial grounds 70 years ago let alone the quota systems they operated to limit the number of blacks, jews and other minorities. The thesis of the report that Jim mentions is that inequalities in society at large carry over into the makeup of the intake at Ivies. You’re not going to get any arguments from me on that score but the notion that poor christian whites are being actively discriminated against is nonsense. After all who is to say that all poor whites are active christians. The bottom line is that when 30,000 apply for entry and 600 are chosen there are going to be some disappointements. I know fingers are put on scales to favor legatees, athletes and minorities. Harvard and the rest of the Ivies are private institutions and are perfectly entitled to do this for reasons ranging from a desire to promote diversity to protecting their donor base that provide resources for scholarships. Reconciling all these imperatives is going to produce a less than perfect system but overall it provides reasonable access for all, makes merit the predominant criteria for selection, and maintains some of the highest academic standards in the world. All told it’s a remarkably equitable system despite the complaints of ideologically motivated partisans who have no interest in education or the welfare of our best universities, but are only interested in promoting class warfare and division.

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  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    Joe:

    I oppose race-based AA because I oppose race-based anything. People should be judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character. (Feel free to quote me on that, it just came to me.)

    I think the principle of color blindness is very important and not to be cast aside lightly. The rights we hold we hold as human beings, not as any particular shade of human. And our citizenship is American, not a sub-category of American.

    Let’s remember that it was the bad guys, the evildoers as Mr. Bush might say, who divided Americans by race and gender, who promulgated the idea that white skin was evidence of superiority, that black skin was the mark of Cain. Sets and subsets of American citizenship based on criteria as absurd as skin color is anathema to me.

    I don’t lightly dismiss the fact that African-Americans are being asked to compete as equals in a race in which the average white person has a head start. I fully understand the thinking and good intentions of people who support AA. And I’m a pragmatist. But in this case the principle is too important to set aside. The principle is our strongest weapon against racism, and to undercut it, even with the best of intentions, is to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

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  48. mandy says:

    One’s heart just bleeds for white people, don’t it? They have it just so difficult, don’t they? Pleez …

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  49. [...] James Joyner: While I don’t disagree with the premise, I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches.   I fully agree and have long argued that using race as the sole criterion for policy preference should end.  But, surely, we don’t want to create new categories, such as “Scotch-Irish Sons of Confederate Veterans,” for special treatment.   We could target based on poverty, perhaps with some sort of regional cost of living adjustments. [...]

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