Friday, January 17, 2003

Does it help to have a White Name?

This article seems to indicate that this statement is true. Whether it is true or not I have no idea, because statistical and research analysis can be manipulated to give us whatever answers we want to hear. However, I think that there may be some truth to this matter. On the whole we must first look at what exactly a name is. It is a syllable, or string of syllables that identifies us. When we meet someone in person this string of words follows a handshake, a scowl, or a smile...it identifies us, and later that name becomes synonymous with the attitude that people have toward us. Of course in the perfect world, the only way that someone forms an opinion about us is because of our actions.

Do I think that it is justified that someone may want to interview a "D. Kelly" instead of a "Dedrick Khalil"? No, I don't think that it is justified at all, but do we all tend to do that sometimes. Think about the height of the Anthrax Terror after the World Trade Center, who would you want to come work on the ventilation system in your home? "Emir Al-Kaseem's Air Conditioning Service", or "Ben Ross air-conditioning and heating"? Come on....don't lie. I hate the idea of racial profiling, but to a certain extent haven't we all done it? The reason being is that we tend to form pemanent opinion's from a limited or nonexistent scope of exposure.

Does this disparity in granting interviews mean that the person necessarily has the opinion that someone named Tyrone or Jamal is less intelligent and capable than someone named Lance or Eric? Maybe...maybe not. Who knows? That is on an individual basis. This leaves us with important questions about ourselves. Are we all somewhat prejudicial to some degree? Do "Black-Sounding" names inhibit our kids from getting a fair shake in the job market? Is there a difference between a "Black-Sounding" name like Lakeisha, Laquita, Raekwon, and DeShawn and actual African names? Does one name have more credibility because it is actually a name and not something that the parent created. Personally I think that it is good to have a unique or interesting name. However, I think that if you are too unique or too creative you will encounter barriers. Nobody wants to be repeatedly asked how to spell or pronounce their name, and that will cause problems in the workplace. My opinion? What you name your child is a personal choice that should not be influenced by anyone, but just think about the long-term.
My stats:

Black Male
Registered Democrat
31 years old

The subject of Affirmative Action is one that has been at the forefront of racial discussion for quite some time. To be honest and up front I see where a lot of deserving students are getting the shaft. Additionally I think that Affirmative Action, and what people call the "quota" system does a lot to darken the image that people may have of me. I was speaking with a colleague who said in so many words that he was surprised that he got his job because of the racial percentage requirement. This made me think that perhaps he felt that I was in my position because the system had "bounced" someone out of the way so that I could have a spot. I went to a State University on the GI Bill and attended a Historically Black College so I am fairly sure that I didn't take anyone's spot, but the notion does worry me here in the job market. If I had attended a college out of state and was jockeying for position with other students I don't think that race should have been taken into consideration for me because I came from a two-parent middle class home. My father was an Army Officer and my mother was a school teacher. If my grades were lower or test scores lower it would purely have been because of my lack of ability or lack of motivation. However, had I been born to a single mother in the ghetto and had gone to some crumbling inner-city school then perhaps I would not be in my present educational and financial state. However, it can be said that if I were white and born in Appalachia to a single mother in a crumbling trailer park then the same could be said. So, I think that this issue deals with money and opportunity rather than race. I do find it deplorable that some blacks or other minorities cite abuses that occurred decades or centuries in the past for justification of entitlement. I don't subscribe to that school of thought in the least, but I also know that discrimination does exist in some form or fashion everywhere. And I do believe that some system should be in place to prevent discrimination against anyone based on both race and gender. Discrimination in my book is one person undeservingly getting the "shit" end of the stick. This happens whether the dirty stick handler is white, black, green, red or purple. So I do scoff at the idea that "reverse-discrimination" is a workable term. In my estimation either you discriminate or you don't, color does not make a difference, because there is no "correct" working order of discrimination to reverse. Discrimination is wrong.....period. I don't personally believe that George Bush is a racist, however, given the media climate and the backlash over Trent Lott and Charles Pickering this was a bad political. Move. I wouldn't have touched this subject with a 10 foot pole if I were in his position. My rationale is not that it is unimportant to do what I believe in, but rather lets get reelected before we do this! I don't particularly believe that Trent Lott is a racist. I think he is a moron that doesn't think before he opens his mouth, but I am not sure that his vague statements can be construed as inherently racist, or an indication that he could not have fulfilled the duties of his position with fairness.

I do question the entire process by which students are selected at the University of Michigan. Many people who are apalled about the 20 point status given to minorities feel that being "minority" is seen as a rewardable attribute. And they think that this shows a racial preference for minorities. The fact remains, however, that since 1992, the law school has had an average of 28 Blacks in a class of about 300. From what I understand Bush's stance is that the present standards act like a straight quota system which is, in fact, unconstitutional. I question the high 20 points given for racial status. In addition I also question the up to 20 points that can be given at the "Provost's Discretion". That does not seem like a quota status, but I wonder how equitably those points are offered among students regardless of race or gender.

I see that this subject is one that evokes a lot of emotion from people who feel that they have been wronged in the past, and ultimately anyone can claim victim status at some point in regard to Affirmative Action. And I truly do not know the answer. I don't want to see deserving students left out in the cold because of the color of their skin. I don't want to see students who are accepted become stigmatized under the premise that since you are a minority you have been given a free ride. People seem to make the supposition that if people did not get into school then perhaps it was a minority student that took their "place". That would be true were it not for the fact that perhaps some white students with less impressive credentials may have been accepted as well. There is a bit of difference between what is common knowledge and what is fact.

Common Knowledge: In her 1995 lawsuit, Jennifer Gratz alleges that she didn't get into the University of Michigan because Black students with lower SAT scores and grade point averages were admitted ahead of her.
Fact: Nearly 2,000 students with lower scores and grades than Gratz were admitted to Michigan the year she was rejected. Of those, 1,243 or 46.7 percent, were White.

Common Knowledge: Allan Bakke, the plaintiff in the 1978 landmark case challenging affirmative action at the University of California medical school, charged that he wasn't admitted because the school reserved 16 out of 100 seats for minorities.
Fact: Bakke had stellar academic credentials that were better than most of the Whites who were admitted ahead of him, but Bakke was rejected twice, for "personal weaknesses."


My questions for anyone to answer are:

If we do away with Affirmative Action will this mean that everything will be fair for people who want to go to school, or get a job?
Why when we talk about Affirmative Action is the supposition that it is someone "black" who is getting a free ride?
Do we need some sort of system to ensure fair and equitable treatment, and is such a system possible?

Lastly, I do see that there are serious flaws to the system and I see where a lot of injustice is done in a number of ways. I just don't know what we should do about it.