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Thursday, February 05, 2004

A Solution to Affirmative Action


...or at least a step in the right direction.

We frequently complain and hear complaints about how AA makes no distinction as to financial situation. A wealthy black person would be advantaged over a poor white person, because (obviously) that specific black person is suffering from historical oppression and that specific white person is (obviously) still reaping the benefits of being the oppressor.

One common suggestion made is that we move from AA to a more honest system, in which allowances are made for those who truly are hampered by nothing more than accident of birth and no special treatment given to people simple because they look like the hampered ones but who live in luxury. This raises shrill screams of "racism" from unexamined souls across the board. So, what to do?

India has, apparently, found a middle way. Reservations, their version of Affirmative Action, do have quotas for "Backward" groups, but the exclude the top economic portion of such groups, known as the "creamy layer", "socially advanced persons and sections" who clearly are not suffering from their accident of birth enough to give them primacy over the starving masses.

Of course, reservations have worked as well in India as AA has here. I will allow that the system, or something like it, was very much needed to begin with, just as socialism was necessary at one point in Independent India's history (if you've got millions starving, a temporary government food program works better than just providing them with sound economic advice, because, with food, they'll live to be able to implement that advice). However, hordes were clamoring to get themselves registered as members of "backwards" castes/classes (imagine using that terminology here instead of "minority"!!!) because of all the benefits; obviously, there is not much stigma to being officially "backwards," or at least not enough to outweigh the benefits (I'm not talking about being beaten to death for letting your shadow touch a Brahmin; that's illegal and should be. I'm talking about, just same as here, preferential treatment in getting into medical schools and parliamentary seats). Additionally, as dozens have told me from their own experience, reservations, just as Affirmative Action, have broadened caste divides, have mandated government sorting by caste while at the same time declaring caste-based treatement illegal, have instilled in children a knowledge of caste and caste differences even when parents tried to bring them up without it (and that's something different from here, where color is immediately seen), have inflamed tensions in formerly integrated villages, parts of town, and even slums, and so forth. At one point, over 90% of the slots at Tamil Nadu (a state in South India) medical schools were held for members of specific groups ("scheduled" or "backwards" groups). Of course, that worked well for me, as Bob's brahmin parents came to America from there as a result, but I hardly think that's a good enough argument for their continuation!

So: AA, but with a clear income cut-off line, above which you get yourself filed in with the white candidates?

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