Sunday, April 08, 2007

The End of Affirmative Action

I'll preface this post by explaining a little bit about where I'm coming from. I'm neither black nor white, but I grew up in the South, at times experiencing discrimination because I wasn't white, other times immune to discrimination because I wasn't black. I think this has given me a unique perspective into the nature of discrimination and its effects on a person, so that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. How does this relate to personal finance? You shall see.

I had this discussion with a friend about affirmative action as we drove up to D.C. for spring break. Affirmative action is a pretty touchy subject, and rightly so. It lies close to our heart because it touches on a fundamental belief: fairness.

I believe that within our generation (yes, we child of the 80's, see picture), affirmative action will disappear. Does that mean racism or discrimination will disappear? Not necessarily. Everyone encounters some sort of discrimination throughout their life, but affirmative action is in place to address institutional discrimination, not personal discrimination.

Nowadays, even in the most conservative professions, institutional discrimination is waning. Take a look at the elite colleges - minority students are taking top leadership positions left and right. My alma mater, a top 20 university, has had a minority student as the Student Government Association president for the past 3 years, perhaps longer since I don't know who the president was before then. It hasn't even been the same minority - we've had a black male, Asian female, and Indian male. While most of the current leadership in the corporate or political world is overwhelmingly white male, as these people retire and take their prejudices with them, the leaders of our generation will rise to these roles, regardless of race.

Another reason why affirmative action will disappear: discrimination is very unpopular and un-PC. In fact, most people will go out of their way to not seem prejudiced. I currently attend a school in the South, and a good proportion of the students are fairly conservative. But nowadays, conservative does not necessarily mean racist or narrow-minded. We had an election for a class officer at the beginning of the year, and a black student won, even though less than 10% of our class is black. Just look at the current leaders in campaign fundraising. Who would've thought this would ever happen a generation ago?

Ok, so how does this all tie into personal finance? Affirmative action is holding back minorities much like wealthy parents who give their adult children financial outpatient care. Financial outpatient care is when parents provide financial assistance to their adult children. In The Millionaire Next Door, they discuss this situation and prove how financial outpatient care is a roadblock to the financial independence of their children because the children never learn fiscal responsibility. In much the same way, affirmative action only creates a nagging doubt in the back of a person's head about why he or she got a position, which creates a roadblock to realizing unquestionable self-confidence.

The great leaders of the civil rights era must realize that we are in a different era and affirmative action is slowly losing its purpose. No longer are we judged by the color of our skin but by the way we dress, the way we talk, and the way we carry ourselves. As the Bee Gees once said - you can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man.

Let the debate begin. Any non-derogatory comments are welcome.

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Blogger plonkee said...

So its about perception?

Does this mean that not only must we get rid of affirmative action, we must also get rid of any perception that affirmative action may have played a part?

April 10, 2007 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger ~Dawn said...

I think that looking at the character of people will be the best judge, though one does have to size people up quickly and biases will play a part of that.

I also think that though it may be less of a big deal with our generation, I also think our aging has an effect on it as well. The older we get, the more open we become.

Again- one perspective of the pink elephant in the room.

April 13, 2007 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Stingy Student said...

I'm not necessarily saying we "need" to get rid of affirmative action. I'm just predicting that it's going to happen, although not without a fight.

April 14, 2007 at 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Smith said...

You make some good points and I don’t necessarily disagree with your conclusions. But it’s worth noting some of the reasons that this line of reasoning makes some Black folks uncomfortable, even those who, like myself, believe that affirmative action as it currently practiced is outliving its usefulness.

There’s no doubt that our generation has come a long way from our fathers’ and their fathers’ before them (I’m also a child of the ‘80s, by the way). Overt racism (the obvious, ugly stuff) has virtually disappeared from polite society, and successful, high-profile Black people stand out in the crowd (like the student body presidents that you mention).

The situation we’re left with is much more bland, but the problems are just as insidious. At higher levels of our society Blacks are almost non-existent. Black Fortune 500 CEO’s: 4 (0.8%). Black Governors: 1 (2%). Black Senators: 1 (1%). These ratios reach fairly far down into the management structures in our society; I’ve worked in banking, energy and real estate and I’ve generally become accustomed to being the only Black person in the room.

We’ve come a long was as a society, but in the real world we’re still a long way from the point where “no longer are we judged by the color of our skin...” I agree with some of what you say, but when I read that particular line I get visions of George Bush standing on that aircraft carrier with the big “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner unfurled behind him. We need to use some new tools in our quest for fairness, but it’s not time to declare victory just yet.

September 5, 2007 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Nanette said...

I'm the nay-sayer. I don't understand why a certain percentage of a certain race HAS to be in certain positions. Everyone knows in their hearts that some people are good at certain things and some aren't, regardless of race. Some are good at math or writing or theatre or whatever. So, you're saying that a really bad actor should get the part because only such and such percentage of actors are black? RIDICULOUS!!!

Also, I think Black Americans are now getting a taste of what Affirmative Action has done to whites. Whites in urban areas are no longer hired (unless they are young) to be admin. ass'ts., receptionist, bank tellers, retail workers: all the positions are given to blacks. AND NOW the blacks are being displaced by illegals and other immigrants. And so it goes. There has been a mass exodus of white women 35-60 from New York City because they are even affirmative actioned out of temp jobs.

MERIT should be the only criteria - not race - affirmative action is discrimination against whites.

April 9, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

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