Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Better Affirmative Action Analogy

I used to believe in meritocracy. As an Asian American, I was against affirmative action, at least race-based affirmative action. Class-based was okay. When confronted with analogies about our meritocratic race to the top, I was unmoved by descriptions of starving African Americans that had been chained up until right before the race. After all, it's been 150 years since slavery ended, though its effects are still felt today.

Therefore, I would like to present a better Affirmative Action Analogy.

One candidate (white) goes to participate in a foot race. His parents are not only supportive, but have made it clear, explicitly or implicitly, that he is expected to finish the race, if not place in the top 10. Why not? Everyone in his family has. All of his friends expect to. They have trained together every day since the 6th grade. His parents have paid private coaches to teach him and bought him expensive training sneakers and the best track shoes. The morning of the race, he is fed a power breakfast and driven to the starting line in an air-conditioned car. There is a celebratory lunch planned for after the race.

One candidate (black) goes to participate in a foot race. One of his parents, and some of his friends and family members are supportive. The other parent accuses him of trying to be better than his ancestors. Some of his friends make fun of him for participating. Others tell him there's no point. Studies show that he is unlikely to do as well as his white peers. Of those who are supportive, few have ever run before, and don't know how to support him. He has been training on his own. The morning of the race, he walks to the starting line because everyone is too busy or unsupportive to drive him there.

Does that mean that he should get some seconds shaved off of his score? I don't know. But I do think he should be under consideration for some coaching before the final race.

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