Just because the proposed solutions smack of tyranny… it doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t real.
Recently, the University of California at Berkeley, a leading academic institution, has brought out a new faculty training guide in which it tells professors which sentences they should never to speak. Anyone who pronounces one of them in the presence of a Berkeley student will suffer some kind of sanction.
Sentences like: "America is the land of opportunity" are now banned. Presumably, all expressions of patriotism are heresies in the Church of the Liberal Pieties.
- “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
- “Affirmative action is racist.”
- “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
- “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
- “I don’t believe in race.”
- “Gender plays no part in who we hire.”
Defenders of this thought policing claim that they are protecting minority and majority (i.e. women) students. They explain that the latest research has shown that microaggressions cause: “… heart disease, diabetes, depression and substance abuse.” Like bacon, one supposes.
How to interpret these grossly offensive statements?
Saying that the most qualified person should get the job is code for: some people who get hired are manifestly unqualified. They owe their jobs to diversity quotas.
Saying that everyone can succeed by working hard enough means that those who have not succeeded are lazy.
Saying that you do not believe in race is a flat out lie. And saying that gender plays no role in your hiring practices is also a lie. Don't you understand that you are a bigot!
Obviously, these statements raise grievance-mongering to a new level. In its clumsy attempt to police speech the Berkeley administrators imagine that the problems of race and gender discrimination involve the way people exercise their right to free speech. And also, that they are unconscious racists who need to purge their psyches of their bigotry.
But, you will say, universities do not discriminate on the basis of race. Isn’t it the law?
If so, tell it to former UCLA professor, Tim Groseclose. He was forced out of his tenured position because he found evidence that the university was offering black applicants a preference because of their race.
Recently, thanks to the cultural influence of Barack Obama, in particular, the nation has become hyperconsciousness about matters of race.
Apparently, all that extra awareness is not solving the problem. It is aggravating it.
However despotic its tendencies Cal-Berkeley recognizes that there is a problem.
It is easy to understand. Yesterday I was reading about a young African-American woman was admitted to a prestigious business school. Upon arriving on campus she discovered that just about everyone assumed that she was a beneficiary of a racial preference policy.
They let her know it in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, but the message was clear. She had not competed fairly. She had not earned her way. She was there for reasons of “diversity.” One might call them microaggressions, but the fault does not lie in the behavior as much as it lies in race preferences. We are so conscious of race preferences that we assume that they exist, whether or not they do.
As you know, some Asian students are now suing Harvard University for having a quota system that has allowed the university to discriminate against better qualified students, on the grounds of their race.
The result, as Shelby Steele pointed out decades ago, is detrimental to black students. A black student who has earned his or her admissions to a major university will be seen, unjustly, as having benefited from racial preferences. It is, at the least, demoralizing. It does not enhance performance.
Beyond that lies the problem of mismatch. Black students who are admitted in order to fulfill diversity needs often find that they cannot compete against students whose SAT scores were manifestly superior.
The result: they are more likely to drop out. When they do not drop out they gravitate to ethnic studies programs that practice grade inflation and that do not enhance their chances of getting jobs.
One recalls that when Lawrence Summers became president of Harvard he called in Cornell West, chairman of the Afro-American Studies department, to encourage him to do more serious scholarship. He also suggested that he try to put an end to grade inflation. Summers was denounced as a bigot.
If the practice of affirmative action produces what are called microaggressions, the solution is to abolish it. If it disadvantages the students who are supposed to profit from it, why not dispense with it entirely.