Friday, June 12, 2009

Is there Such a Thing as "Just" Discrimination?

Simon Sarmiento over at Thinking Anglicans posted a fine discussion of this issue, raised by the Roman Catholic Church and other churches over Britain's proposed new Anti-discrimination Laws.

I hear complaints about "political correctness" and Affirmative Action all the time.   And yet, I hear few complaints about legacy admissions and old boy networks that are the enduring  systems of "affirmative action" for white men.  The most famous beneficiary of those systems is the former President GW Bush.  How many sheet metal workers, or their children, could get into Harvard or Yale with a C average?
I knew a young man who graduated from Columbia with honors, and who was definitely not from a privileged background (father was a mentally ill Vietnam vet, mother was a Mexican cleaning lady), who always said that about a third of all the students at Columbia were there only because their parents could pay the tuition bill and pull strings.  That story is probably true at most prestigious universities.

Until those old systems of entrenched privilege are eliminated from academic and professional life, complaints about "affirmative action" will continue to fall on my deaf ears.

No one chooses the circumstances into which they are born.  The playing field of opportunity is not, and never was, level.  As far as I am concerned, the only permissible discrimination is the self-selection of merit and character.  Everything else is just so much arbitrary privilege.  I think it's a safe bet that 3/4 of the world's ruling elite only won the lottery.  

1 comment:

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

So true. The playing field is never ever level.

Just think of me, who though adopted, is part of a line that stretches through 1200 years.

Counts and Princes and their "natural" children (who officially count for nothing... but still remain rich ;=)