Categories
Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Equity versus Equal Opportinity

See,

George F. Will, “Attacking ‘merit’ in the name of ‘equity’ is a prescription for mediocrity,” Wahington Post, June 25, 2021 (8:00 a.Opportunity. EDT).

Equity versus Equality of –with the full text and audio of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech on Ugust 28, 1963

In a not so subtle shift, large segments of the Democratic Party appear to back a change in racial  policy objectives from “equality of opportunity” to “equity” or equality in results.

This shift has led to developments such as the declaration by the new head of NBC news that 50% of new hires would be from minority groups.

Partly as a result of the national outcry over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the mass demonstrations which followed, including the prominent participation of the Black Lives Matter movement, this shift toward “equity” instead of “equality of opportunity” appears to be reflected in the over-representation of African-Americans in the cable news media, including not only hosts but guests and participants in news discussion programs.

With African-Americans representing only 16% of the national population, one would be hard-pressed to justify the over-representation of African-Americans in the news media on the basis of selection of hosts snd guests on merit.

A Harvard philosophy professor, Michael Sandel, has now published a book (The Tyranny of Merit, September 2020) strongly criticizing the model of excellence or merit upon which the equal opportunity principle, embodied in federal law and the Constitution, has been based, particularly since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Sandell, writing from the leafy and privileged enclave of excellence represented by Harvard and Cambridge, Massachusetts, has launched what is, in essence, an attack on the goals of excellence and the distribution of power and social rewards on the basis of merit.

You have to ask yoursel how much experience Sandell has had living or working in countries which don’t aspire to have a government and institutions based on meritocracy and the pursuit of excellence.  We have just had a glimpse for the last four years, under the presidency of Donald Trump,  of what that kind of government might look like.

In other countries, like Afghanistan, we have seen the incoherent policies that result in a country governed not by meritocracy, but by clan rivalries and corruption.

The problem is that if excellence and merit are not the standards used to select officials in government and employees in business, what are the standards that will be used?

If race is used as a criterion for selection, in allocating not opportunities but results, how long will it be before those from other races not so favored will rise up in rebellion? What assurance do we have that their rebellion will be constrained by the Constitution and the rule of law?

Maybe it is not the pursuit of excellence or meritocracy per se that is responsible for the racial and social inequities thar exist in society, but a combination of historical, economic, cultural and social forces that have produced the complex reality in which we currently live.

Viewed from this broader perspective, Sandell’s analysis may be unduly reductionistic, the product of too much theory and philosophy and insufficient attention to the concrete realities in which people actually live.

Now, George F. Will, a highly respected and insightful conservative columnist for the Washington Post, has written a powerful critique of Sandel’s book and the whole attack on excellence–as an overriding policy goal for society and universities to follow in allocating not only opportunities but also results, i.e., jobs, power, and other social rewards.

Democrats would do well to listen carefully to Will’s arguments.

For the current empasis in “equity” in the media, including the great over-representation of African-Americans in TV advertising, is likely to have a negative impact on the perceptions and beliefs of white and other citizens and voters who may see, rightly, that their own sons and daughters are being denied the “equality of opportunity” to which under the law and the Constitution, they ought to be entitled.

Democrats and progressives, if they want to avoid election results that would put Trump’s supporters in control of the House and the Senate, if not the presidency, would do well to stick with the vision of racial equality ariculated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I have a dream” speech in 1963, when he said,

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. (Civil Rights Leader): Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later…

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: …the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

Dr. KING: We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time…

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: …to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

Dr. KING: This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE

ROBERTS: That is, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

–I Have A Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety
January 18, 20101:00 PM ET
Heard on Talk of the Nation
With link to audi recording

Categories
Identity Politics Race

Thomas Chatterton Williams on race and issues of racial identy

For keen insights into the issues of race, racial identity, and identity politics, see,

1) Conor Friedersdorf, “Unraveling Race: Thomas Chatterton Williams wants to discard traditional racial categories, The Atlantin, November 5, 2019.

2) Christianna Silva, “Thomas Chatterton Williams On Debate, Criticism And The Letter In ‘Harper’s Magazine’,” All Things Considered, NPR, July 11, 2020 (5:14 PM ET).

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Ben Carson nails the issue on race: Equality of opportunity v. equity of results

See,

Ben Carson (Opinion), “Moving our focus from equality to equity won’t defeat racism; It’s another kind of racism,” Washington Post, April 18, 2021 (4:51 p.m. EDT).

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021, is the founder of the American Cornerstone Institute.

Ben Carson has nailed the issue of race in the current debate in the United States.

Should our goal be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity in results?

Should a white person have an equal opportunity to get a job, or should the composition of the work force at a company or in government reflect racial equity in results, if the two objectives conflict?

This is not a theoretical issue.  NBC and MSNBC have announced they will hire 50% of their workforce from minority groups.

Carson, who is African-American and grew up in an underprivileged environment, makes cogent points.

The critical issue is whether our goal should be racial equality of opportunity, or racial equity of results.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking Social media

Living offline for a year; and the author’s Twitter experience

Aaron Rosenberg lived offline for a year, trying to understand what it was like in order to help him understand the subject of his academic research.

His experience is illuminating, particularly for those of us interested in maintaining the capabilities of our eighteenth century minds.

His approach was extreme, but the experience taught him some important lessons. He has found  that applying them has been more challenging than expected.  See the following account of his experience, which is definitely worth reading.

See,

Charlie Warzel, “He Quit the Internet 2 Months Before the Pandemic; When Aron Rosenberg decided to try living offline for a year, he thought his sabbatical might be painful; It turned out to be easier than his return, New York Times, March 10, 2021 (7:07 a.m. ET).

***

My Own Twitter Experience 

I myself experienced some of the extraordinary pull of Twitter while following in extremely close fashion political developments related to Donald Trump’s attempts to hang on to power after losing the election on November 3, 2021.

The temptation to follow the news almost hour by hour was great, and Twitter was the place where you could follow developments even more closely.  The suspense, and the sense that something important might happen at any minute, kept my nervous system on high alert.

There was one other addictive aspect. By following key people and sometimes getting a notification that your tweet had been liked or retweeted or quoted, it was easy to succumb to the momentary illusion that you were having an impact on the discussion, and consequently on events.

You knew analytically that this was not likely to be the case.  Still, in some bizarre way Twitter was a place where you could react in the moment to news or other tweets, and in the excitement of the moment you could feel that you were having some kind of impact on the discussion.

And “Who knows?”  Regarding some aspects of the story where you had specific, relevant professional knowledge, perhaps you were. You can see my comments on Twitter @Trenchantobserv.

But after January 20, 2021, I was able to withdraw from Twitter, and from my obsessive watching of cable TV news channels. Almost all of the really important news eventually showed up in the New York Times or the Washington Post or other newspapers which I read.

I admit it. I’m a news addict. Maybe like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Payne or other Eighteenth Century Minds might have been too. What is different is the immediacy. They probably had to wait days or longer to to get their hands on some of the newspapers they read.

I “wasted” hours of my time on my Twitter addiction. But I have learned and am learning from the experience. Maybe it will help me break or at least sharply limit the time I spend reading newspapers online, succumbing to the at times irresistible pull of my news addiction. This is related to being a writer.

To be sure, David McCullough recounts how Theodore Roosevelt, during his years at Harvard, used to read up to 20 newspapers over coffee in the morning.  So at least I don’t suffer from a unique affliction.

On the other hand, I need to remind myself that I am not a freshman at Harvard, or anywhere else, I don’t have a political career ahead of me, and there are many other potential uses of my time.

Aaron Rosenberg’s experience is instructive. When thinking about my Twitter experience, I recall reading somewhere that the average life of a tweet is about 15 minutes.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Reading and Thinking Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON

Deep Reading

Adam Garfinkle has published a thought-provoking article in National Affairs about how, with the introduction of Smartphones and the Internet, younger generations seem to have lost the ability to really engage with a book or a text, in a way Garfinkle refers to as “deep reading”.

George F. Will, in a column in the Washinton Post, summarizes Garfinkle’s argument. For those still capable of “deep reading”, the full article by Garfinkle is highly recommended.

See

Adam Garfinkle, “The Erosion of Deep Literacy,” National Affairs, No. 44 (Summer 2020).

George F. will, “What we lost when we stopped reading,” Washington Post, April 17, 2020 (7:00 a.m.)

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Cult Cult of Adolf Hitler Cult of Nazism Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Navigating in a Sea of Irrationality

When we are surrounded by individuals swarming in a sea of irrationality, of UNREASON, how can we and others like ourselves with old-fashioned eighteenth-century minds navigate our way through this SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, in order to maintain our rational bearings and connect with other eighteenth-century minds?

The first step in this process is to study and understand the elements of UNREASON which surround us.

When we look at or engage with another human being we tend to assume that he or she is a rational human being, operating as it were more or less on the same planet as we are. This assumption has been pretty accurate in the past, with some notable exceptions.

One period of exception was in Europe in the 1930’s, most notably in Germany where the madness of UNREASON took hold in the form of Nazism and a blind cult of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Something similar happened in Italy, beginning in 1922, with Benito Mussolini. For keen insights into these phenomena, see the brilliant play by Eugene Ionesco entitled Rhinoceros.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, it became extraordinarily important to be able to quickly perceive whether you were talking to a dedicated member of the Nazi and Adolf Hitler cult. Indeed, such recognition could be or become a matter of life and death.

But not all encounters with UNREASON are fraught with such immediate potential consequences. The risk may simply be that you waste an inordinate amount of energy and emotional investment trying to persuade, with reason, someone who is in effect on another planet, swimming in a SEA OF UNREASON.

Such individuals usually, but not always, cannot be reached by reason. If it is important to reach this or that person, some other approach, some other means of communication, must be found.

One approach is through the use of PROPAGANDA, and all of the tools that it employs to persuade individuals by manipulating their emotions. Here, the science of mass psychology is brought directly to bear. This approach is problematic, however, for advocates of a return to REASON. What can be done is perhaps to learn effective techniques of communication, developing methods for piercing propaganda bubbles and inducing individuals to return to the SEA OF REASON.

To reach an individual lost in the SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, the first thing that should be understood is that the goal must not be to win a rational argument on this or that point, or this or that fact or policy.

Rather, two goals must be simultaneously pursued.

The first is to get the person to pay attention and to listen to what you are saying.

The second and main goal must be to free the individual from the grip of UNREASON, to somehow get him or her to return to the world of Reason, to swimming in the SEA OF REASON.

This is harder to accomplish than it may sound.

To recap:

  1. Don’t waste your energy or emotional engagement on someone who is captivated by a cult or otherwise swimming in the SEA OF UNREASON; and
  2. If you engage at all with this person, do not try to win a rational argument over a fact, a public action or a policy. Instead, focus your efforts on using other means to burst the bubble of irrationality in which they are living, and to bring them back into the SEA OF REASON.

Applying these points to engaging with a Trump believer, there is little to be gained, for example, by arguing about the facts of the coronavirus pandemic.

More promising, perhaps, would be a visit to a morgue with Covid-19 victims’ corpses, or failing that publishing a list of all the names of people who died in a given city, in a given state, and in the nation as a whole, on each day, in all the corresponding newspapers, in all the social media, and on all the websites which those who swim in the SEA OF UNREASON usually frequent.

A name, a picture of a corpse (with family permission), or a picture of a funeral may have a better chance of puncturing that bubble of UNREASON than all the rational arguments in the world.

Cults of personality are not the only phenomena that may be responsible for individuals not operating in the SEA OF RATIONALITY.

They may simply not be paying attention. They may be lost in one of the other psychological worlds which the Internet, Social Media, and modern technology have made available to them.

Indeed, it is conceivable that we may one day be living in a world where most individials are simply not paying sustained attention to actual reality (a redundant but necessary term), making them all the more vulnerable to manipulation by masters of mass psychology and propaganda.

See Ruchir Sharma, “People Aren’t Reading or Watching Movies, They’re Gaming; During the pandemic, digital three-dimensional environments are where much of life is taking place,” New York Times, August 15, 2020.

The first step for eighteenth-century minds to keep their bearings, therefore, is to understand what is going on in the consciousness of those we encounter, who may or may not be experiencing reality as if they were on the same planet.

Only after we understand the geography of the IRRATIONALITY that surrounds us will eighteenth-century minds be in a position to navigate through the SEA OF UNREASON, and to try to protect ourselves from the depredations which UNREASON may unleash around us, or even aim in our direction. Only then will we be able to link up and plan effective action.

Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Epistemology of truth Reading and Thinking

About The Eighteenth Century Club: A Home for Eighteenth Century Minds

July 5, 2020

In the Eighteenth Century, the century of The Enlightenment in Europe and America, people read newspapers and read books.  Education was highly valued.  Knowledge was highly valued.  Many, including the Founders of the American Revolution and Constitution, were steeped in knowledge of the Classics, from Plato and Aristotle to Homer and Virgil, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and on up to Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and the French Encyclopedists.

Knowledge of History was valued.  Reason and Science were the hallmarks of the age.

Now, in the Twenty-First Century, this rich heritage which some high schools, colleges, and universities still seek to instill in the minds of the best students, is under threat.

The threat comes from many sources.  The first has been the development of mass media, from television to social media, which as they have developed–particularly when under the direction of commercial imperatives–have led to an increasing focus on the present moment. This focus on the present entails or is accompanied by an increasing disregard for history and the broader context which the 18th Century mind would have taken for granted, but which today to increasing numbers of members of younger generations seems irrelevant.   Or to put it more precisely, out of the range of their consciousness.

The Eighteenth Century Club is meant to be a home for those Eighteenth Century Minds which remain.  These are the minds that largely run the world, though there is increasing evidence that their grip is slipping.  In America and other countries today, we see manifest evidence of a loss of belief in Science, Expertise, and their foundation, Reason. The Enlightenment, we may recall, was also called The Age of Reason.  Our 18th century democracies were founded on tenets such as Reason, Science, and Expertise. These assumptions appear to be increasingly called into question, or so the evidence seems to suggest.

We invite all those who were fortunate enough to be educated to have an Eighteenth Century Mind to join in our project to herald the virtues of the monumental achievements of the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, which have lost none of their relevance or significance for today and the future.

Here we aim to celebrate the Eighteenth Century Mind as one of the crowning achievements of mankind’s long struggle to escape from despotism of all kinds, from tyranny and the absolutism of monarchs and other rulers to the despotism of the mind which held freedom and creativity captive for so many centuries, subjecting both to mind-numbing orthodoxies.

We invite your active collaboration.

Collaboration can take the form of making recommendations for articles appearing elsewhere which might be referenced for the benefit of our readers. It can take the form of submission of articles by participants/readers, to be published here.  It can take the form of recommending steps and taking actions to increase the reach of our articles, by expanding both readership and participation.