Tag: Affirmative Action

Bursting

Because we’re all fond of metaphors, let’s conjure up an image of America as if it were a person.

In this scenario, we see that — like everyone — America has her virtues and her flaws, her good days and her bad days. Lately, America has nursed the nagging suspicion that she’s past her prime, but she’s not giving up just yet.

All she has to do is lose ten pounds, give up smoking, and… what was that last thing? Oh yeah, end widespread and systematic racism that disenfranchises millions of ethnic minorities.

But what happens when America — or any person — tries to change a bad habit?

Well, contrary to popular belief, negative behaviors usually don’t fade away. They put up a fight, and then they either die out forever or (more likely) come roaring back with a vengeance.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to give up devouring that daily tub of ice cream. You might go weeks without so much as a spoonful of Chunky Monkey. But then you allow yourself a taste of Cherry Garcia. Bam — your “diet ends in a catastrophic binge, and you look at the empty containers and ask, ‘What the hell. How did my smooth transition from comfort food to human dumpster happen?’”

That’s an extinction burst, which is “a predictable and common blast of defiance from the recesses of a brain denied familiar rewards.”

Basically, an extinction burst is your brain’s last-ditch effort to return you to your old ways. It happens, weirdly enough, when you are closest to your goal.

Your mind is saying, “Shit, this behavior might actually take root. Time to panic.” And you pig out, or smoke three packs one after another, or binge watch nine hours of porn, or indulge in whatever behavior you are trying to banish.

And you were so close… and doing so well… sigh.

Well, you can see how this relates to our metaphor of America, the person.

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No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


In the Land of the Blind…

Certain ideas, like getting good grades or believing in God, are portrayed as intrinsically admirable. We tend to not even question their value.

On that short list belongs the concept of a colorblind society, a culture where racial differences are irrelevant. Many people will loudly proclaim that this is the ultimate goal of America. However, as with all ideas that are presented as flawless, it’s worth asking if pursuing colorblindness is noble or misguided.

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That’s Affirmative

Twenty years ago, I had my only direct experience with racial set-asides. I won a hundred dollars in an essay contest for Hispanic teens. Of course, kids of any race could enter, but it was clearly aimed at Latinos. I can’t recall ever being part of another program that was, whether stated or implied, just for Hispanics.

As such, I’m still waiting for those affirmative action quotas that will rocket me to the top of any employer’s wish list. Supposedly, all I have to do is show up in an HR office, mention my last name, and sit back while all the qualified white candidates are shoved out windows to make way for me.

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