The key to understanding the recently published opinion piece, Affirmative Action -- We all favor diversity, now plan out best path (Detroit Free Press, July 17, 2005, page 1L), by Frank Wu, Dean of Wayne State University Law, is to realize that it is an effort to hide an opinion, not to put one before the public for open debate. Wu is a devout proportionalist. He believes that each major racial or ethnic identity group in the U.S.A. should have the same proportion of its members in all the desired positions of society and that government units and schools should use "affirmative action" to achieve that result.
Wu notes that, while we all tend to value "diversity," most people do not support racial preferences ("so-called 'reverse discrimination,'" as he puts it). For Wu, this is a major problem. He writes:
And there our predicament becomes apparent. Our abstract consensus about racial diversity is threatened by the practical realities of racial disparities. We may desire diversity, but we are not sure how to address disparities. It turns out that it requires considerable effort to ensure that classrooms, boardrooms and courtrooms are integrated; it simply doesn't happen automatically.First, as far as I know, I do not participate in any "abstract consensus about racial diversity." There are diverse forms of diversity. I might prefer some over others. Your preferences, no doubt, differ from mine. That just makes us (cough, cough) diverse.
The main thing to observe about Wu's paragraph is that he simply presumes that we need to "address disparities." He seems to presume, further, that "integration" means an absence of "disparities." Wu's habit of simply presuming the conclusions he wishes us to accept is close to infuriating. He writes, for example, "Our public discourse would be transformed if we simply asked, 'What will we do as a society to achieve diversity and eliminate disparities?'" That would indeed be a transformation, but why the hell should any white person care about "disparities" in the first place? Where is the injustice? Over forty years ago, a smart, articulate, well-prepared individual showed up at a public university in Mississippi and was denied entrance because he was black. That was an injustice. Dean Wu can offer no such example. Well, I'm sorry as hell, but his turgid hand-wringing over "disparities" does not exactly touch my heart.
Wu states, "In every aspect of our day-to-day lives, there are measurable differences between the average circumstances of racial minorities, particularly African Americans, and the dominant majority." First, it is necessary to point out that we white people in America are a "majority," but we are certainly not "dominant." The leaders of our colleges and universities are certainly not acting out of respect for white dominance when they argue for radical forms of affirmative action. Our dominant media are certainly not promoting an agenda of white supremacy. And George W. Bush is certainly not acting in the interests of white Americans (or black Americans) when he allows millions of Mexicans to swarm across our border. Apart from that issue, I do agree that ". . . there are measurable differences between the average circumstances of racial minorities" and white people.
Wu attributes these "measurable differences" to "subtle instances of racial bias" as well as "egregious bigotry, past and present." No doubt, those factors do exist, but the key factor is simply the "measureable differences" in things like average intelligence. Wu can complain all he wants to about "stereotypes" and "superficial definitions of merit," but the situation is plain for anyone willing to take an honest look. Complexity is not necessary. Wu mentions "intelligence, diligence and talent." The simple fact is, these things are not evenly distributed among different racial groups.
Wu wants us to "challenge ourselves . . . to make good on our shared ideals of democracy and equality." Wu is no one to be talking about "democracy." If the racial preference policies he supports were voted on, they would lose by a huge margin. I believe in equality before the law. I believe that, except possibly in a few extraordinary situations, people should be treated by governments and public schools without regard to race. Wu believes in proportionalism, which is sometimes described by conservative writers as "equality of result." Sorry, Dean Wu, we have nothing to "share" here.
I do not believe in any general kind of equality. Just about every single professor I had at University of Michigan was obviously smarter than me. I was privileged to sit in their classrooms. Dean Wu, on the other hand, is obviously my intellectual inferior. His main legal skill seems to consist of begging a question, of presuming all the important points without actually making an argument. I would not even think of honoring him by sitting in his classroom.
Addenda, April 10, 2006:
The word "proportionalism" is also used in certain theological circles. You can read about it here and here.
According to an article in the April 4, 2006 edition of the University of Michigan's University Record ("Affirmative action question requires reframing"), Frank Wu will be giving the "fourth annual Nancy Cantor Distinguished Lecture" on April 12. The article itself is distinguished by pretentiousness and incoherence. Wu "says he will offer a new paradigm on affirmative action . . ." He is quoted:
What I would argue is that we need to talk about what affirmative action is intended to address . . .This is a point I've been trying to make for a long time. For university administrators, "affirmative action" isn't simply, or even mainly, a program to help the underprivileged. It is a tool for the complete transformation of society. The arrogance of a law school dean speaking in such terms is comparable to the arrogance of George W. Bush in his efforts to transform the societies of the Middle East.
. . .
What sort of society do we want to have, what do we want our institutions to look like, who do we want to belong there, and then how do we get there, are some of the questions we need to answer.
The title of Wu's lecture will be, "Toward a Diverse Democracy: Affirmative Action and Higher Education." "Diverse Democracy" is the code-word for the intended social transformation. I discuss this and a few related issues in my blog entry: Welcoming Address to the White Students of the Class of 2009.
Addendum, April 12, 2006:
I attended the lecture this morning. My thoughts about it are in my blog entry: Frank Wu's Racial Fantasy.
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