Saturday, January 17, 2009

Acting White: Calling for a New Affirmative Action

I may ruffle a few feathers with this post, but the heroics of US Air pilot Sullenberger reminds me of why the old affirmative action did not/does not work, and why we need something new.

Whenever, I get on an airplane I always hope to God that the pilot is there for a reason that has 100% to do with getting my backside to my destination, or somewhere in between, alive and well. If he or she, regardless of appearances, is there for any other reason, let me know, so I can take another flight.

Sully was the right person at the right time for this failed flight. He knew what to do and how to do it, not because he was white, or a man, or tall, or short, or slim or fat. He seems to be someone obsessed with airline safety and living – two things I want in a pilot. His passengers got lucky having him, as well as they all got lucky in this particular ditching into the Hudson River.

This reminds me when I first turned against traditional affirmative action, which unfortunately is notoriously flawed for putting good people in situations where they are destined to fail. I had a boyhood friend who always wanted to be a doctor. He was a smart kid, but I wondered if he was smart enough to have lives entrusted to him. I feared he was not, as I watched him struggle in undergrad.

My black friend benefited from every form of affirmative action available to get him into and through medical school, consuming huge resources in the process - probably double the normal level. In the end he failed the boards three times and was denied a license. Thank God AA ran out of bonus points for him, as he probably would have killed somebody as a practioner.

Affirmative action can only be a front-end program to encourage and support entry into the process whereby the disadvantaged Sully’s of the world get to save lives. It cannot be a last ditch effort to prove that the world is a good place, by handing out free reservations to come up short in the clutch. This is why the current affirmative action has to go, and why I spend my time pushing early childhood development programs, like Head-Start, that are more based on today’s disadvantages, not as punishment for the past.

James C. Collier

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26 comments:

SoulFinger said...

What the hell has this man's years of experience & knowledge have to do with Affirmative action?

No matter what the color/gender it's the training and practicle experience gain from years of doing what you do best, the intuitive insight and mind set is what is more important if anything,

Be glad that this man was skilled enough to handle the job - I've taken flight training for the love andpleasure of doing so and believe me at the level of commercial flying you don't get the C or D team in terms of skill and don't forget the Co-Pilot - if you take on true professional pride you will do your utmost to be the best you can, which is what this wonderful man did.

You might want to question youth or arrogance instead of affirmative action, from your statement I gather you have a concern about anyone not white or male piloting the plane that you are to board - don't feel to bad your in good company, Nelson Mandela had the same momentary panic attack, when he saw a black man piloting the plane that he was on, only to admonish his self for lapsing into the mind set of institutional racism, only because he only ever saw were white men, sorta like who would have believed that a black man would be president of the United States. if ever.

I suppose that that occurrence could be attributed to affirmative action of a sort by your logic, but as you stated "Affirmative action can only be a front-end program to encourage and support entry into the process whereby the disadvantaged Sully’s of the world get to save lives" but if I may add be responsible for the lives in your care, as well as your own, as you would wish for your family and friends, in the care of others entrusted with same or greater responsibility, doctors, lawyers police and yes you and I as both citizens and conscious human beings.

I don't know you nor you I, but I've viewed your blog intermittently for awhile, I like the topics and learn, but this statement seems out of left field (baseball reference, not political per se) and well un warranted and more like a pet grip of yours and in your mind this equates to Affirmative action for you.

Like I stated, this appears to me like one who is indoctrinated into the general belief that no one other than the white man can do and be the hope and savior and all others are suspect and it's questionable as to how and why one is in a position or not.

As this may be for you and I assume like minded (I really hate to make assumptions, because of the first three letters in that word, usually it's exactly what one ends up being is when proven wrong) - and this to, is applicable to all of us as we go through our lives

So yeah you ruffled my feathers and it irk me enough to respond to what I perceive as a non sequitur to what occurred, the right person in the right place at the right time - with a nod to my little sister back home after 3 tours in Iraq and near 20 years of outstanding services in the army - she would have some choice words for you as well.

Peace
Soulfinger

Ebony Intuition said...

I agree with your post, not every person can deal with the situations they may be placed in. A lot of people crack under pressure or when their life or people's lives are at risk.

And your right he was the right pilot at the right time.

Dennis Mangan said...

Jim wrote: "Affirmative action can only be a front-end program to encourage and support entry into the process whereby the disadvantaged Sully’s of the world get to save lives."

Unfortunately, jobs and admissions slots are both limited, and if someone gets an advantage because of his race, someone else loses out. So, while you want to temper reverse discrimination by limiting it to "entry into the process", it still displaces a more competent white person. (Note that I don't mean that the white is necessarily always more competent; just that if the black man were more suited for the job/slot he wouldn't need affirmative action.) Furthermore, the existence of affirmative action acts as a disincentive for blacks to do what they need to succeed without it.

James C. Collier said...

Dennis, I believe in affirming programs for early childhood and elementary/middle school development, because historical social and economics inequities have children beginning their lives on unlevel fields. OTOH, bonus points for college admissions and jobs, whether by race or legacy, are counter-productive at all levels.

Undercover Black Man said...

Well said, James.

I have often thought about the commercial airline industry in my own critique of affirmative action.

Because, from the data I've found, 95 percent of commercial airline pilots are white males. About 2 percent of pilots are black.

Yet I've never heard Jesse Jackson -- or anyone else who flies a lot -- complain that this "disproportionate" representation of white males is proof of invidious racism.

I've not heard the case made that the world is unjust and will remain so until 13 percent of all U.S. commercial airline pilots are black. And that draconian social engineering schemes must be implemented until that outcome is achieved.

Everyone accepts what seems to be obvious: that the people who are currently pilots should be pilots... and the people who aren't pilots should not be pilots.

And if that means 95 percent of them are white males, so what?

Seems

al fin said...

Nice posting, James. You may want to know that the Executive Function of the frontal lobes of the brain is far more important for live success and competence than any other factor.

Executive Function can be trained between the ages of 4 and 6 years of age. After that time window, benefits of training are minimal.

Anyone wanting to improve the lot of any group of low performing populations should focus upon childhood training in Executive Function.

Far more than any form of affirmative action (at any age) EF training can make a difference.

As for you friend who failed the medical boards, had he passed he would probably not have only killed one person, but multiple persons. Once an unqualified person of any race is in the medical profession, it is difficult to remove them, so they keep making mistakes over and over. For unqualified persons of officially labeled "disadvantaged groups" it becomes far more difficult to remove from positions of responsibility.

Anonymous said...

It won't be that much longer and all of us white guys will be dead and gone. You guys can take over then. Good luck.

bbgcmac said...

I think I understand what you are saying - I'm just asking what would be the alternative? Futhermore, where is it taken into consideration that many white Americans are not or were not qualified before they got a position etc.? I mean that happens everyday and yet there is no outcry about it - it's almost forgotten. And futhermore, white people don't apologize one bit for it.

I think the few advantages black folks get (even so called unqualified ones) - cause AA benefits more white women anyway really pales in comparison when it comes to the unqualified white male hookup.

Anonymous said...

Well, bbgcmac, as far as medicine goes that's a huge problem. There's been a don't-ask-don't-tell with obvious medical malpractice that medical boards (the biggest Good Old Boys club there is) still haven't gotten around to dealing with effectively. Litigation has only driven the problem underground and made medicine more expensive for the consumer.

As they say, it's way harder to get out of medicine than it is to get in. And it's pretty damn hard to get in, so that's saying a lot.

As a physician who happens to be female I can tell you that sucking it up and making sure you're twice as good as that (male) doctor over there is the way to go, not being kicked upstairs to a place where you can only fail, thus 'proving' that 'your kind' aren't good enough. Apply that to AA as you will.

ogunsiron said...

Soulfinger :

Mr Collier is just saying that he's glad that an extremely competent pilot was on board. We know that one result of affirmative action is that black people are accepted into competitive positions with test grades and academic performance that would keep a white man or woman or asian out. Therefore, a certain percentage ( not all !) of black people holding important jobs or coveted slots in universities are false positives. They're not really as good as their position or college slot suggests. For those jobs and college slots which depend on passing rigorous tests, we can certainly conclude that, given that affirmative action exists.
In any case, just like Mr Collier , I think that if black people want to be "better represented" in fields where entrance depends on cognitively loaded tests, they should just work harder at them .
Competence is MUCH more important than "diversity" or something like that and competence, as far as i know is quite well predicted and measured by those various cognitive tests that are used by colleges and professions. I say keep them, even if it means just white men performing best.

ogunsion said...

soulfinger says:


As this may be for you and I assume like minded (I really hate to make assumptions , because of the first three letters in that word, usually it's exactly what one ends up being is when proven wrong) - and this to, is applicable to all of us as we go through our lives

__

I feel for you if you never make any assumptions. Don't you learn anything from your everyday experiences ? Haven't you noticed stable patterns during your life ? Stupid people make stupid assumptions, of course, but smart people make the right ones most of the time. It's ok if smart folks misassume once a while. They'll just adjust their priors and the next assumptions will be even more correct. I guess i totally disagree with you on that subject, lol

SoulFinger said...

ogunsion says:

"I feel for you if you never make any assumptions. Don't you learn anything from your everyday experiences ?..."
_

Of course I make assumptions, Ogunsion, I was being satirical in my comments on the subject at hand. Still thanks for the reply.

Satyrblade said...

I wish it were simply the case in 21st-century America that folks would just hire the right person for the job, period.

To me, it doesn't matter whether a person is white, black, green or sky-blue-pink, whether they fuck men, women, no one or everyone(*). I give not one shit about the gear between a person's legs if they do a job reliably. It shouldn't matter whether they worship Buddha(**), Allah, Barney or Zeus if they can do that job competently, honestly and well(***). And I don't care whether their roots in this country go back to the Mayflower or to the last plane in from Haiti, if someone does a job well, they should be paid accordingly, and if they fuck up severely they should be canned accordingly.

That, at least, is as it should be.

Whether or not we'll actually see such a sensible day is anyone's guess.


------------
* - Excepting pederasts, of course, but that's not sex - that's rape.

** - Yes, I know that Buddhists don't worship the Buddha. It was a figure of speech.

*** - Which would disqualify virtually everyone in the previous administration - excepting Colin Powell, who quit - and almost everyone at the top of the American corporate food-chain, especially on Wall Street.

Satyrblade said...

>just that if the black man were more suited for the job/slot he wouldn't need affirmative action.

Oh, James... See, in a rational world in which people acted sensibly, that would be true. As it is, there remain plenty of people who decide another person's worth based on appearance, ethnicity or gender, not on actual competence.

It shouldn't be that way, but it still is.

Doubt me? Ask any black doctor, female mechanic or gay teacher.

Fear of The Other still remains a potent and self-sabotaging impulse in human society.

Just walk into almost any Deep South barroom and say the words "President Obama." And then run.

estevan said...

Yes, what does this have to do with affirmative action? why is this a conservative talking point when some white person does something significant? how does anyone intelligent bring up the imaginary specter of "affirmative action" with an incident like this??

CLEARLY affirmative action DIDN'T prevent Sully from being a strong pilot or landing that plane!

Siditty said...

I hate to disagree with you here, but it seems like you have the old southern black folks mindset of "if you want something done right, go to a white person" inferiority complex. In your argument you assume all white people get to their positions through hard work, which isn't the case. The concept of legacies and nepotism don't exist in your argument, just the belief that AA puts blacks where they don't belong, even if they are even more qualified than their white counterparts or white bosses.

Siditty said...

gets an advantage because of his race, someone else loses out. So, while you want to temper reverse discrimination by limiting it to "entry into the process", it still displaces a more competent white person. (Note that I don't mean that the white is necessarily always more competent; just that if the black man were more suited for the job/slot he wouldn't need affirmative action.)

the point is, it is always assumed white=better, no matter the skills of the black person involved whites assume they are less qualified, and that is why affirmative action is needed.

-----
There are white pilots who probably had a drink and snorted some cocaine before flying you, but because they were white, they were automatically better than a black pilot right?

-----

In any case, just like Mr Collier , I think that if black people want to be "better represented" in fields where entrance depends on cognitively loaded tests, they should just work harder at them .

So the assumption is that blacks don't work as hard as whites or asians, and that is exactly why affirmative action is needed.

James C. Collier said...

Siddity: you say, "The concept of legacies and nepotism don't exist in your argument, just the belief that AA puts blacks where they don't belong, even if they are even more qualified than their white counterparts or white bosses." Both legacies and nepo. exist to everyone's detriment, but they are not a reason lower the bar of prep., which hurts blacks in greater society. Current AA increases the prob. that a less prepared beneficiary will attain a position where under performance and/or failure is more likely. The person SHOULD be in the position, just w/o compromising accommodation. The accomd. encourages less effort, by its nature, and fulfills a negative prophecy.

Siditty said...

Current AA increases the prob. that a less prepared beneficiary will attain a position where under performance and/or failure is more likely.

I have worked in corporate America for almost ten years, and I never if ever see this. I see white people move up, get better raises, and prosper, while black people linger in the same positions, with smaller raises, and little chance for advancement. I don't see unqualified blacks in droves getting positions they don't deserve and this is a strong perception that many who are against AA deal with. Yes in the education realm a black person with a lower score might get into a college, but when it comes to work, even if we are more qualified, we aren't advancing, and just because someone gets into college based upon A, doesn't mean they get free As and Bs, I went to a white university and can attest I never got graded on a "black curve". The only thing we seem to have an advantage in, is harsher and longer sentences in the penal system than our white counterparts. I don't see me as a black person getting a great education and a great job simply because I am black nothing more. Most the positions I have had required some skill and some education. They required tests on knowledge not skin color. I hate the assumption that all us black folks are too dumb and too lazy to make it by on hard work, if anything as a black girl growing up in an all white neighborhood, going to white schools, and then going to a white university, I was taught I had to be better, faster, and work harder to be considered remotely equal to my white counterparts. Maybe it is a black southern thing, but we don't sit around waiting for jobs to happen in my family, we work for them.

I tell you my father's story of AA, and maybe this gives you insight to my perception of AA. My father was hired into a company with a master's degree, when his white counterparts didn't even have associates degrees. He came in with five years more average experience. He came in making less than his white counterparts. The seven other blacks in his whole entire division had similar stories, except for the couple that had doctorates instead of a master's degree. It took a white man from Germany to question this, as in the American officers it was assumed all eight blacks in a 350 person division with only two women were there only out of pity and possibly couldn't be equal or better to their less qualified and less educated white counterparts. Job performance reviews were also noted and of all eight blacks, none received a negative review. What was odd is even though these job performance reviews were considered satisfactory, they still made significantly less than their white male counterparts who didn't have the job experience and education to match. My father has worked for this company since 1981, and I can tell you that he didn't stay 28 years due to affirmative action. He stays and manages to survive lay offs because he is really good at his job and willing to sacrifice a lot, including picking up his family relocating six times to prove his loyalty to his company.

As a result of this German HR man in this global company, my father received a significant raise, and they had to raise the bar of every race for every single person that came in the door, requiring they all had to have a minimum of a bachelor's and five years experience to get into their entry level management position.

Usually AA benefits those in the lower rungs. My husband once noted in a job he had that there was not one single black in his department, the majority of blacks at the company he worked at, worked in the call center (lower paying jobs) and that all of the managers, even in the call center were white, not black. Black CEOs don't get placed in those positions to fulfill a quota, they usually put in the work, probably even more so than their white counterparts, and I can't believe a black person would have the assumption that blacks get a free pass in the corporate environment, because I never have, I had to work twice as hard, if not harder and smarter than the majority of my white counterparts to get the same recognition. Racism isn't dead by a long shot and AA is still needed because the automatic mindset by apparently you and many whites is that black automatically means inferior, and to me that isn't acceptable.

James C. Collier said...

Siddity: I am trying my best to ignore your unfounded accusation that I think black means inferior. You speak of discrimination in the workplace, something I do not deny. AA is ineffective against discrimination, as the people promoted are often just the opposite of those over-qualified victims you describe, beginning with your father. Discrimination laws and their enforcement is very different from arbitrary promotion, be it by nepotism, legacies, or AA. The former is required, the latter is not. If you back off the wholesale slander, perhaps this distinction might peek through.

Siditty said...

You speak of discrimination in the workplace, something I do not deny. AA is ineffective against discrimination, as the people promoted are often just the opposite of those over-qualified victims you describe, beginning with your father.

What proof do you have that shows that blacks overwhelmingly get placed in jobs they are not qualified for? Why is it that in order for a black person in america to make what a white person does, they have to have more education and experiences? The income discrepancy in America proves this a black man with the same education and experience than a white man on average makes less. So I can only assume you are like many proponent of AA who believe that black automatically means less qualified and inferior, and that black people on average deserve to make less or have lower skilled jobs than their white counterparts, because as it stands in America now, that is exactly the case.

Even if nepotism, legacies, or the "good old boy network" are not required, they still exist and cannot be ignored or taken out of the equation if true equality will be reached and for AA to no longer be needed.

Siditty said...

Even in your own example in your post, if the pilot had been an black pilot, instead of Sullenberger, things could have ended grimly, why what if? Why is it assumed a black pilot would have failed miserably? Why are you not assuming that another white pilot could have failed? Why add the correlation to AA?

James C. Collier said...

Siditty, eventhough we disagree, your comments are welcomed. My final say is that discrimination laws should be enforced. AA, while a moral victory for some has been an empirical failure for a larger group. It should be replaced with something that actually works for supporting the disadvantaged, whatever the driver and/or ethnicity of the recipient. Promotion based upon race is arbitrary and counterproductive to long-term progress. Thx./JC

SoulFinger said...

here is a real life answer to your statement in regards to Medical (my girlfriend and I watched it, she studied medicine at Johns Hopkins and knew the man that follows: with a nod to Field Negro Blog - " (DR. BEN CARSON ) THIS IS THE TYPE OF ROLE MODEL THAT I WOULD LOVE TO SEE LITTLE BLACK CHILDREN LOOK UP TO. CARSON BECAME THE HEAD OF PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY AT JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 32. HE WAS THE FIRST IN THE WORLD TO SUCCESSFULLY SEPERATE CONJOINED TWINS AND HAVE THEM BOTH LIVE. HE AND HIS WIFE CANDY STARTED "THE CARSON SCHOLARS FUND" WHICH HAS HELPED THOUSANDS OF YOUNGSTERS TO REALIZE THEIR DREAMS. CUBA GOODING WILL BE PLAYING THE GOOD DOCTOR IN A MOVIE SO A-MERRY-CA WILL SOON LEARN WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW.THAT THE GOOD DOCTOR IS A FIELD NEGRO.

Nuff Said:

And I will post more on those who have excelled in there respective fields of endeavor, to rebut all the nay sayers of AA, because, unlike a former C average president, with name, money and wealthy connections, no matter what ethnicy, you have to perform well to progeress, - success is best !!

James C. Collier said...

Soulfinger: I agree Dr. Carson is a tremendous role model for young people, but unless he was poor, today's AA was of no consequence to his success, and would have been better spent on true disadvantage, whatever the color. The brilliant Carson did not need bonus pts. simply for his race, nor could those pts. (if he received them) have an impact on his accomplishments. This is the logic Obama is using to say that his kids (advantaged in brains and/or money) should not benefit from today's AA.

Jay Hammers said...

I'm glad to see someone agrees with me on affirmative action, someone who isn't just another misguided right-winger. I've been saying for a while now that affirmative action is not only discriminatory but also ineffective. Affirmative action tries to “fix” the lack of equal opportunity too far downstream, after the recipients have gone through 18 years of life and education.

The lack of equal opportunity can only be dealt with upstream when children are growing up. That means community - and yes, government - programs to ensure that all children and adolescents get some base level of education and social support. Affirmative action also focuses unwisely on gender and race criteria based on "historical disadvantages" rather than the real issue, poverty and lack of family support, which go hand in hand.

It’s worthwhile to note that today’s society, dominated by feminist privilege, has helped create a breeding ground for poverty. Children grow up too often with only one parent, a single mother, who lives off welfare and child support. It is a system that discourages fathers from having a relationship with their children and a breeding ground for disadvantaged children.

I posted a blog entry a while back on affirmative action as well:
http://jayhammers.blogspot.com/2009/05/on-affirmative-action-why-its-wrong-and.html

On your poll I voted “Replaced. And I'm Not Black.”