Bootylicious Diversity, White Guilt and the Clovis People

In an effort to promote “bootylicious biodiversity”, an Australian entymologist has named a new species of horsefly after Beyoncé, Scaptia beyonceae, because of its attractive golden abdomen.   An understandably green-with-envy Kim Kardashian has yet to comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court is promoting its own brand of diversity on college campuses. On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court approved by a 4-3 vote the University of Texas’s race based affirmative action policy. Under Texas’s Top 10% Law, 75% of students are admitted by virtue of being in the top ten percent of their graduating high school class.

The Top 10% Rule helps minorities because Texas high schools in poor neighborhoods have large minority student populations. The Top 10% Rule (applied to 75% of the incoming class) is race neutral and amounts to a kind of affirmative action based on poverty, not race. Affirmative action based on poverty makes sense, because poverty is a self-reinforcing disadvantage.

For the remaining 25% of available student slots, however, the University of Texas implemented a “holistic” approach, which overtly considers an applicant’s race. The biggest losers under the “holistic”, race based system are Asian American students, whom UT deemed to be “over represented” on its campus. With respect to black and Hispanic students, the university had claimed that if it used only the Top Ten Percent rule, then it would be admitting the wrong kind of black and Hispanic students, namely poor black students, as opposed to black students who live in affluent neighborhoods with more competitive high schools.

Consider what professional basketball would look like if the NBA draft were performed the same way as UT processes student applications. 75% of the players would be selected by choosing the one best player from each of the 64 Division I NCAA teams that compete in the annual March Madness tournament, so Duke and Duquesne would each get one player into the NBA. For the remaining 25%, the NBA would use a “holistic” approach to prefer white, Asian and Jewish basketball players, who are underrepresented. That would likely change the racial composition of the NBA, which is currently 72% black, 20% white and less than 1% Asian. Since the odds of making it from an NCAA Division I team to the NBA, at 1.2%, are small already, the added benefit of the diversity in the NBA might not be noticed by the Asian community.

Proponents of affirmative action based on race do not hold the moral high ground. As Justice Alito observed in his dissent in Fisher v. University of Texas (“Fisher II”), “the moral imperative of racial neutrality is the driving force behind the Equal Protection Clause” of the United States Constitution. “At the heart of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection lies the simple command that the Government must treat citizens as individuals, and not as simply components of a racial, religious, sexual or national class.”

The majority opinion in Fisher II upholding Texas’s affirmative action policy is not really based on law or the constitution, but is based on white guilt as a “racial equality tool”.  White people are viewed as being hopelessly out of touch, sleepwalkers, or ostriches unaware of what life for American blacks is truly like.

The problem with white guilt as a driver of social policy is that average white workers, whose wages have stagnated for the past 30 years, don’t feel guilty. This author grew upon in a black neighborhood and went to public elementary schools that were known as the “black” schools.

I probably owe my life to a black woman whose name I never knew.   I was five years old and terribly envious of my older brother’s bike with a purple banana seat. Envious enough that I took it down the steep hill in front of our house. The handlebars began wobbling uncontrollably back and forth. The next thing I remembered were the dark brown arms of a woman carrying me up the steep hill and presenting my bloody carcass to my mother at the front door of our house.

I may in fact be out of touch with the feelings of the black community, but for me to discriminate against a studious Asian American seems like a bad solution to that problem.

Combine white guilt with ancestor worship and you have an argument for slavery reparations. A cover story in the Atlantic magazine last year argued that “America will never be whole” until it reckons with the “moral compounding” of its slavery related sins. The author of that article, Ta-Nehisi Coates, invoked Nazi -era language in asserting that the wealth gap between blacks and whites is evidence that America “ treats black people as sub citizens, sub-Americans and sub-humans.” It is true that African American median net worth is about $1,700, whereas for white Americans it is about $116,000, an admittedly enormous disparity.   African American median annual household income, at $49,629 is far less than average American median family annual income of $72,641. The wealth and incomes gaps are real problems and social programs (e.g., early childhood education) could and should be implemented to address them.

But slavery reparations theory is a bad excuse for any social program. The first problem with the slavery reparations argument is one familiar to lawyers: causation. The argument for slavery reparations goes something like this: “blacks in America today would be better off if their ancestors had not been enslaved.” Slavery was a horrible violation of basic human rights, but if their ancestors had not been enslaved, most blacks would not be in the United States at all. African American median family income of $49,629 per year, or $4,1235 per month, is less than it should be, but it is a lot more than$645, the average monthly income in Nigeria, or $675, the average annual GDP per capita in Uganda.

Another problem with the slavery reparations argument is that the real victims (and perpetrators ) are all long since deceased. In the event that reparations were appropriate then we could build larger mausoleums, but no one other than the funeral and marble quarry industries seems interested in that.

Even if the political decision were made to give money to people whose ancestors had been enslaved, then those recipients would in turn be morally obligated, under the same theory, to pay over every dollar to Native Americans, whose claim to historical economic victimization (2.9 million square miles of land, of which the private portion is valued at $14 trillion) dwarfs the “40 acres and a mule” claim of slavery reparations advocates. Native Americans, in turn, would be morally obligated to build monuments to their ancestors, the extinguished Anasazi Indians or going even further back, the Clovis people who crossed over from Asia to North America after the last ice age ended around 10,000 B.C.E.

Maybe the Clovis people owe reparations to all of us for wiping out the last of the woolly mammoths about 4,000 years ago, on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, a crime against biodiversity that Scaptia Beyonceae is now helping in a small, bootylicious way to alleviate.

©2016 Clark Stith

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