Has Affirmative Action Outlived its Usefulness?

Twitter: @1PeopleMW
Website: www.memsripsofrhapsody.net

Martin Luther, Father of the Protestant Movement, so elegantly stated, “An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects.” I concur. Not as a necessity of the human experience, but as a consequence of the human condition; the hearts of men. It is in man’s nature to exploit the exploitable.

Capitalism in a currency based economy depends as much on debt as it does unrestricted commerce. Debt is what essentially gives a currency its fundamental value (e.g. the U.S. Dollar and its relationship to gold). And without debt of any kind currency is prone to inflation. So simply being “in debt” isn’t by itself (necessarily) “crying uncle.” Some level of debt, as long as it is manageable, is necessary for a wealthy capitalistic economy. However struggling or not being able to make installments at all, now that’s a different story entirely.

I would argue Bartering especially through an impartial authoritative and ethical third party is the most genuine and nondiscriminatory economic system because everyone must offer something tangible in order to receive something tangible.

Unfortunately, in addition to debt Capitalism also thrives on cheap labor. And the cheaper the better; slavery (in any form) being the gold standard. And it is innate to the human condition to seek out this cheapest form of labor. What I mean to sasay is, if left to our own vices men would enslave other men; be it in the form of outright concur, judicial peonage, or extreme financial debt.

If the Dragon is able to ensnare the Eagle, i.e. if China does become the next virtual world empire, as the talk has been for at least the past 50 years, it would not be because America is in debt to China financially. An indebted country with the military might of the U.S. who can no longer or will no longer make installments could just declare war or wait to have war declared on them. If they win, the debt is dissolved. But I digress.

Hence America could manufacture a politically charged reason to go to war, simultaneously erasing the debt with a victory. Instead, I think it will because America has gone so far as to lose her ethical level and moral ground to China, at her own expense.

For certain, a thing worse than a sinner committing a particular sin is a hypocrite committing that same sin; to know better and profess publicly to be better, even mocking those who err, all the while privately indulging in the offense. America is guilty of such hypocrisy. For the past two decades the Chinese government has made no secret about selling eastern manual labor dirt cheap to the western world, and America is no exception.

The Human Rights violation of Chinese laborers is at the forefront of global concerns. I recall back in June 2010 reading an article in USA Today about Chinese workers demanding safer working conditions and a livable wage. The story was accompanied by a photo of a few dozen uniformed workers standing together as a show of solidarity. With a Cheshire cat’s grin donning my face I thought to myself, “Well it’s about damn time, good for them!”

Tragically, I learned, this movement garnished the lives of some workers, in the form of suicides, as payment for elevating the moans and groans of their peers to reach international ears, according to a different USA Today article printed a week later. Not quite as disturbing, was the fact American media presented the uprising from the perspective of desensitized American consumers.

The article was 75% deliberation on how an increase in Chinese workers’ wages would affect prices of goods in the U.S. It wasn’t that I was shocked to see a concern for prices emphasized in the face of the people’s plea for decency. After all, that’s the reason U.S. companies set up “shop” in China; because U.S. labor laws and workers unions wouldn’t permit such detrimental working conditions and low wages for American workers. So I wasn’t shocked about that.

What shocked me was that a U.S. newspaper could be so blatant about prioritizing the economic impact to U.S. customers above the dignity of Chinese laborers; a cost not expected to be absorbed by corporate executive salaries. I couldn’t help but think, and actually said aloud to myself, “did the rest of the world really think this day and this revolution would never come?”

America may have federal and state labor laws as well as national minimum wages to safeguard the interests of laborers, however (apparently) these mandates only apply to workers who are American citizens, legal U.S. residents, and documented workers. American companies with manufacturing facilities overseas have foreign workers (foreign to the U.S., local to the countries hosting the facilities) working for local wages under the local jurisdiction and labor practices. Proof that even though America recognizes Human Rights her citizenry is still made up of human beings apt to exploit one another; proof of hypocrisy.

Some may argument the burden of the fate of Chinese workers in this arrangement falls squarely on their government, not ours. But you cannot both view a people as inferior and validate their judgment. You cannot claim to be the police of the world while profiting from the exploitation of others.

What’s the difference between what’s happening in China to Chinese laborers from how American laborers are treated? Our current labor laws. And what’s is the difference between America now from America 50 years ago as it relates to labor? Affirmative Action. Now ask yourself, has human nature changed much if at all in the past 100, even 1000 years? Based on what’s happening in the world today, e.g. what’s happening to workers in China, I would have to say no.

Although Affirmation Action wasn’t the first of its kind, that is to say the first policy to define and enforce safeguards for the interest of an underprivileged class, it has gotten a bum rap from corporate America at large, to a level of scrutiny not previously known, since its inception in the early 1960’s.

Initially resistence was almost exclusively from white business owners who felt it wasn’t the government’s place to dictate who they hire or in which positions, and Anglo-Saxon employees who were fastidious about whom they worked alongside. But in recent times African Immigrants and well-to-do blacks, African-Americans, have joined the ranks of Affirmative Action critics.

The fact remains, the good within society has made previous attempts to legislate civility for working men and women; albeit primarily for white people. Therefore Affirmation Action for African-Americans was not an overnight whim. Rather it maturated, overtime, out of necessity.

Affirmative Action, or Equal Opportunity Employment Practices as it is more commonly referred to today, was not crafted to maliciously exclude white men, or for sheer spite. Technically speaking white men are included in the literal translation. However white men had already been taken care of.

Before there was Affirmative Action policy, there was a need for one. And before that there was a need for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery, labor unions to protect white workers from exploitation, and Child labor laws to keep children out of dangerous factories.

Therefore since fair wages, reasonable hours, and safe working conditions were supposedly already hammered out for white Christian men decades prior, because the need for such policies existed, Affirmative Action need only focus on discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. Still, somehow race is the predominate sentiment of Affirmative Action. So much so that socailly it is portrayed as being exclusively for black folk. Thus the question of its usefulness relates directly to U.S. Race Relations.

These days the critique from white as well as black people is that Affirmative Action has outlived its purpose. That the quota system it creates is (an unintended side-effect), while helping to secure employment for so-called minorities, unjust to qualified white males. And that we exist in a post-racial America, evident by the election of Barrack Obama; constant criticisms of Mr. Obama aside of course.

What I find conflicting about opposition to Affirmative Action is that most who support the eradication of Affirmative Action would agree that (1)Chinese workers are currently among the most notoriously exploited laborers, (2)Labor Unions are necessary, at least in the Manufacturing industry, to fight business owners and corporations who would take advantage of employees and (3)that if there were no Child Labor laws we’d have children from disadvantaged families performing menial jobs for wages very similar to what the Chinese are protesting.

I find it interesting how critics of Affirmative Action might see the need for child labor laws, workers unions, and a minimum wage in order to govern fair play, yet believe the right thing would be done by the oppressor as it relates to the concerns of the oppressed, which in this case are African-Americans; the supposed sole beneficiaries of Affirmative Action.

Prior to Affirmative Action social practices that are now illegal made perfect ideological sense then. For instance, since slaves were considered property essential for menial and burdensome labor it made sense to prohibit teaching them to read and write. Why suffer them any further by opening their eyes to the horrors of slavery but provide them not means to free themselves from it? Just ask Frederick Douglass, and by that I mean refer to his brilliant writings.

It also made perfect sense to thinking men and women of that era to house the slaves in the most economical way possible (even if potentially detrimental to their health long term), work them in the fields as long as there was light, and when deemed more profitable or beneficial, it was a sound choice to sell family members off separately. Furthermore, during Segregation “separate but equal” (as if such a thing could righteously exist) was the order of the day for blacks in the South. Jim Crow was proper etiquette.

Affirmative Action is still very necessary. It does have an expiration date, however. A date indelibly linked to the usefulness of Child Labor Laws and Workers Unions. When we live in a society that no longer requires Laws to prevent business owners from exploiting children, or overworking and underpaying employees then we will have no further use for Affirmative Action.

When workers no longer require the threat of organized strikes to work in safe environments and reasonable wages, America will no longer require Affirmative Action. When we live in a society within individuals are truly judged not by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character, then we will no longer require Affirmative Action.

Despite the strides African-Americans have made after Civil Rights legislation, I believe human beings without power behave civilized only when they believe there is currently enough [food, resources, jobs, favor, etc.] to go around, while those with power behave morally and ethically only when there are financial consequences for not doing so.

If left unchecked, individuals would naturally fall back into hiring and promoting those with which they are most comfortable, people they had an affinity for, and of course the beautiful people. In most cases these individuals would be of the same ethnic genus (i.e. race). This is because diversity is not a phenomena which occurs spontaneously in nature. Therefore fostering a diverse environment must be a deliberate effort on the part of all parties involved. Particularly of those in power.

Discrimination is not always about hatred, but it is always about exclusive. And when money becomes the main ingredient the club becomes even more exclusive. People outside of the club become expendable. So with what is taking place in countries like China, it is safe to say the thirst to exploit the exploitable is still within us. It’s safe to say society is nowhere near ready to retire Affirmative Action!

I believe (at the very least) nepotism is alive and well. And in the absence of being able to hire actual family members those who most resembles the hiring person wins the prize. All things being equal I honestly don’t believe the employers who feel most pressured by Affirmative Action (usually because the only so-called minorities they’ve hired all work in labor positions) would otherwise hire minorities for key roles.

Remember, I said “Discrimination is not always about hatred, but it is always about exclusion. And when money becomes the main ingredient the club becomes even more exclusive.” Employers who don’t have this problem typically already have minorities in key roles. And those who hire minorities only because of Affirmative Action had no intention of hiring minorities because of their qualifications.

There are a multitude of non-bigoted reasons why a white executive would choose to invest in a white candidate over a black one. Yes some of these reasons are fed by the stereotypes he feels most strongly are true and inherent to all blacks. But there’s the issue of comfort level and familiarity. There are also culture differences, like how black people speak their mind.

African-Americans are also most likely not to practice “respecter of persons” protocol observed by classed-minded people. Rather, views everyone as equal regardless of the economic or social standing. Hence black people appear to “speak out of turn” in meetings (cause all the white people know when the CEO asks are there any questions he doesn’t really expect non-ranking personnel to speak up). Sometimes it’s the reaction of their customer-base to minorities and not their personal views which lead them to select the most “acceptable’ candidates. It which case they feel as if their hands are tied.

I think what is taking place in “third world” countries, e.g. American Companies exploiting workers, and even the NFL labor dispute in 2011 are proof that people will not do the right thing without being told when money is at stake. Rich people need protection from themselves in order to keep them from provoking the less fortunate. (It’s no coincidence that rich people are among the first attacked when the oppressed of a society revolt in civil wars.) We know they’re rich. We even know they pay us scraps relative to their earnings. But we tolerate it as long as we don’t see them gloating about it and we have “enough” to “keep us civil” with other have-nots.

Affirmative Action isn’t intended to force employers to hire incompetent minorities. Rather given the same qualifications employers should seek to diversify their workforce. So the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action should never be made to feel their only qualification for the job is their skin color, but rather Affirmative Action helped prevent him or her from being passed over. Therefore, those who truly find themselves in this position will be able to confirm it by looking around at their “peer group.” They should then see themselves as pioneers; trailblazers or a greater cause.

These days it’s chic for companies to diversify their ranks. However it’s also wise to do so because the customer-base is far more diverse. If you want money from certain communities it’s best to hire individuals from those communities to attract the customers, as well learn what triggers to use when marketing to that community. But when it’s no longer chic, I fear that without Affirmative Action the diversity within some companies will diminish.

I agree black people should be at the point where we stand up and fight for ourselves, which critics of Affirmative Action might argue means we should no longer need the government to do fight for us. But this is not our current reality. So I don’t think black or white Americans are ready for the end of Affirmation Action because both groups are still very much crippled by racism. We are still subject to our nature human characteristics.

I would argue the greatest criticism of Affirmative Action comes by way of inplication only; that being Affirmative Action is merely a political agenda for African Americans despite the fact it appears to be all inclusive in nature. To that I say, DUH! I believe every group in America, and by group I mean ethnicity, has a political agenda to safeguard their well-being. All except for African Americans, who has their ability to possess a political agenda stripped from them throughout generations. Groups coming to the table to negotiate their interests on their own behalf is as American as it gets.

I would venture to say the biggest knock against African Americans by immigrants is that we don’t do for ourselves; that we ask the government for help instead of coming together and helping ourselves. And I will admit that I see their point, root cause notwithstanding. But this is the point at which Humanitarianism must take a back seat to Activism. (Pure) Humanitarianism lacks even the minimal political agenda necessary to capture equality for an oppressed people; a political agenda paramount to Activism.

White Americans are no exception to the rule of looking out for their own interest. And I want to be clear, I support the notion that groups should safeguard their interests. To protect their just interests from those who would take them. But not at the expense of another group’s just interests.

Throughout the African American struggle for equality we have had to be inclusive of other oppressed groups just to push our political agenda; to safeguard our own interests. Martin Luther King Jr might be most notable for using this technique, e.g. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So, to me, It is the classic pot calling the kettle black when the adversaries of Affirmative Action accuse us of doing the very thing that distinguished them as Americans. Remember, a political agenda was the catalyst for the Àmerican Revolutionary War.

Employers can and do form Focus Groups in order to poll minorities in their employ to gain insight into marketing strategies aimed at minority communities. But this could be considered a way around hiring minorities in executive roles responsible for such strategies, which is where I think Affirmative Action is most beneficial these days. Besides, if the minority employees are all concentrated in the labor force, this would not ensure the quality of feedback from said Focus Group. The fundamental reason black men are disenfranchised is to reserve economic and political power for whites; the same economic and social power reflected in corporate America.

The Geo-Africanist is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache