June 27, 2003

Inequality by Race

A correspondent asks:

...do you support AA for... upper-class blacks whose families have been wealthy for four or more generations?

It seems worth pointing out that that is almost the empty set. There are (virtually) no African-Americans whose families have been wealthy for four or more generations. There are (damn few) African-Americans whose families have been wealthy for two generations.

Tom Hertz has a sample of 2,389 African-Americans born between 1950 and 1970s. How many of them had parents whose incomes put them in the top 5% of nationwide incomes? Not 120 (which would be the case if African-Americans a generation ago had the same income distribution as whites). Not 60 (which would be the case if African-Americans a generation ago had half the chance of being in the top 5% of the nationwide income distribution as whites). But 3. Three. THREE.

The incomes of the so-called "Black Bourgeosie" were, by the standards of rich white guys, no great shakes...

Posted by DeLong at June 27, 2003 03:02 PM | TrackBack

Comments


Japanese Americans got reparations.

Posted by: Josh Halpern on June 27, 2003 07:05 PM

"God, the bullshit that piles up around the subject of AA makes me want to heave sometimes..."

Well, if you would stop setting up straw men you may hear a little less of it.

It is all too easy to look for the boundary cases and then say "see, where do you stop?". But that argument is cheap. You can use it to say there is no such thing as red or yellow -- after all, somewhere in the middle of orange one fades slowly into the other, and there is no clear boundary.

But all this searching for boundary cases does just what you accuse Brad of doing -- sidestep the real question.

Posted by: Tom Slee on June 27, 2003 07:06 PM

> jimbo wrote:
> Ok, so let's make it 2 generations

Why?

A person with dark skin that comes to America today is discriminated against just like the Blacks that have been here for generations

Blacks, Hispanics, Haitians, Cubans, etc

The main criteria used by the discriminators is "DARK SKIN COLOR"

So 100 years ago your grandfather got a good job that might have gone to a Black person if things had been fair. Your grandfather works for 40 years and then passes on accumulated property and savings to his children. The Black person had to take the janitor job and barely made ends meet and was not able to pass on anything to his children. Because it is color based just about all whites have benefited from abuse of minorities. Certainly some have benefited alot more than others but most all have benefited.

> How about AA for them?

> And what about hispanics?

In many parts of the US, yes.
There was a long enough history of abuse where even the agents of the government was involved.

> And what about Japanese?

Their actually is a compensation program. However I think it was too little too late. It only passed Congress a few years ago and only to those that were still alive. I don't think it gave any money to families whose parents had already died.

> They were put in concentration camps in living
> memory! Yet, not only don't they get set-asides, > they are actively discriminated against for the
> crime of being too successful.

No, because the scope was completely different.

I think what the US did was wrong and they should have been compensated for it long ago. But what the Japanese experienced was not hundreds of years (several generations) of abuse. And the abuse of Blacks and Hispanics is still occurring.

If you want to get rid of AA then get the government to really fund equal quality education for grades K-12 for EVERYONE. Then after a generation, AA will no longer be needed.

> God, the bullshit that piles up around the
> subject of AA makes me want to heave sometimes..

That funny, the bullshit the most Blacks have to deal with everyday makes us HAVE to heave EVERYDAY.

How many white people feel they have to PASS as a Black person to live a decent life? Probably NONE!

Posted by: G on June 27, 2003 07:50 PM

Hey Jimbo,

You ever felt physically ill about legacy admissions particularly the case of one very famous C-average student that got into Harvard's MBA program? It certainly gets me angry to think about how that fellow kept a meritorious student out.

What about all those kids whose parents can afford to send them to SAT prep courses and hire special tutors, that sure isn't an unfair advantage, is it? Some people are more equal than others, eh?

Nah, those aren't worth getting into a froth over. But as soon as Affirmative Action gets mentioned, some people start heaving ... There must be something particularly horrible about Affirmative Action to elicit such a response.

Posted by: Patrick Taylor on June 27, 2003 07:52 PM

> Patrick Taylor wrote:
> What about all those kids whose parents can
> afford to send them to SAT prep courses and hire
> special tutors, that sure isn't an unfair
> advantage, is it?

Exactly

How many whites have the money TODAY because their grandfather, grandmother got the good job while the Black person didn't?

I hardly ever hear these people complaining about money or hereditary based AA.


Posted by: G on June 27, 2003 08:10 PM

"Nice sidestep, Brad."

Right. So here's a question: who deserves "affirmative action" most, an African-American child of a doctor who graduated from a good private school is Scarsdale, or a white poor Appalachian kid who struggled his way through an underfunded backwoods school and had his admissions scores suffer for it.

The Professor's sidestep into wealth data says, "I favor race preferences, but not because of race, of course, but because I take race as a proxy for need."

But that's just excusing laziness in college admissions offices. Those offices are perfectly capable of examining every applicant on the basis of personal background and need individually. No proxy is necessary.

So, sidestepping the sidestep, should AA really be applied on the basis of need, or on the basis of *race* unapologetically, without the wealth weaseling -- so the Scarsdale kid bounces the Appalachian kid and we say, "Yes, that's the right thing to do." ?

Posted by: Jim Glass on June 27, 2003 08:32 PM

Jim Glass,

You are aware that the University of Michigan does include several factors not just race in their policy?

[quote]
In the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions system, 110 points out of 150 are given for academic factors, including grades, test scores and curriculum. The greatest weight, up to 80 points, goes to high school grade point average. Applicants can earn up to 12 points for SAT or ACT scores, up to 10 points for attending a competitive high school, up to eight points for taking the most challenging curriculum and three points for essay quality. Other factors are considered as well, including geography, athletics, relationship to an alumnus, economic disadvantage, and race.
[/quote]

The Appalachian kid would benefit from both economic disadvantage and geographical points. Your Scarsdale African American might get points for race, but would be missing the economic disadvantage and geographical points that say a low-income Alabama student might get.

An interesting point is that low-income students from poor school districts are unlike to get points for "taking the most challenging curriculum" or "attending a competitive high school" or "relationship to an alumnus". As well, they'd miss out on SAT prep courses and college admissions essay help from tutors.

Posted by: Patrick Taylor on June 27, 2003 09:10 PM

Jim Glass has a point - if the college can reliably and cheaply assess individuals' past disadvantage then such assessment is both more efficient and more equitable than affirmative action.

But its a big "if" - if the assessment is unreliable (don't forget some advantaged applicants will be trying to look disadvantaged) or very costly, then it may be more efficient to use a proxy (I think it could also be more equitable - but then equity is notoriously in the eye of the beholder). The proxy should be a good one though - and Brad's point is that race is in fact a good proxy in the US.

All this was formally worked out in 1978 by George Akerlof - it forms part of the body of work on asymmetric information for which he got the 2001 Nobel. His recent work with Rachel Kranton on the economics of identity is also pertinent.

Maybe Brad could pop downstairs and invite him to make a guest posting on affirmative action.

Posted by: derrida derider on June 27, 2003 10:20 PM

I'd like to personalize it for the opponents out there. My mom is white, my dad is black. My mom's family is rich, she got written out of the will for dating a black guy. My dad's family is blue-collar, they embraced me and I love them. My mom's family has never contacted me and I don't hate them - you have to care about someone to really hate them. They are an abstraction to me.

In my early childhood I was usually the most intelligent child in each class I was in. My teachers tended to not to like to call on me, except for 1st grade, who was a black teacher (she was great), and 2nd / 4th who was very cool, and a science buff. I remember arguing with my teacher about whether or not Columbus "discovered" America (apologies to all Italian-Americans) - my contention was that the American Indians who lived there probably discovered it first. My 5th grade teacher was an out & out racist, you may think of it as a subjective point but I remember her vividly telling our 5th grade class (!) that Martin Luther King had "problems" and "wasn't perfect" because of "women". My mom told me she was racist like the people she knew in the South(TM), whose best friends often in fact were black.

My later experiences weren't much different but were more sophisticated and in fact I do belive this is an incredibly racist society. My honest assessment is that there are very few white people in America I have dealt with have not "adjusted" their behavior because I have *brown* skin. I really realized this when I went to Europe and "white" people treated me SO VERY DIFFERENT. I honesly love America but I just think there are so many scars to be healed and scars heal best when air gets to them, not when they are covered by bandages.

signed,

A Beneficiary of Affirmative Action.

Posted by: myPersonalStory on June 28, 2003 01:05 AM

I'd like to respond about the person who said Japanese Americans were interned in living memory - African Americans were Apartheided in living memory, and received very few reparations in any form, certainly not a monetary payment. Economists have shown that a fair payment would be in the billions for the black community. The scars are there, I think we should be honest.

Posted by: myPersonalStory on June 28, 2003 01:19 AM

I am curious - does anyone who supports AA see a time limit, how long it should last?

Does anyone know of a study that suggests AA helps the offspring of those that have gotten a step ahead due to AA?

Is the purpose of AA in the long run to make black people into white people? Cultureally speaking?

Posted by: Yours in the desert on June 28, 2003 03:10 AM

Tom Slee:

What is the real question? I keep raising a simple point, but I have yet to hear anyone respond to it: why do hispanics qualify? The original justification for AA was the unique legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. But what does that have to do with Mexicans, or Puerto Ricans, or Haitians, for that matter?


Posted by: jimbo on June 28, 2003 04:57 AM

Is there an INTERNATIONAL/UNIVERSAL bias based on identity by skin color?

So it isn't racial, it is dependent upon unexposed skin color. So, the populace of the USA discriminates on the basis of: religion, gender, sexual preference, given name, surname and unexposed skin color. Slavery and white culpability has nothing to do with current attitudes or bias.

Skin color is also a discriminator in other international societies ... witness low caste untouchable Hindus (dark); royalty in Saudi Arabia (light); Brahmin Hindus (light); mixed race Brazilians (dark), Mexicans (dark), Ecuadoreans (dark), etc. & etc.

The light skinned peoples usually get enhanced preferences. Dark skinned folk have less favorable options.

This is how the world works? (!)


Posted by: Don Majors on June 28, 2003 07:05 AM

Don Majors,

Most of these examples are either tied to European colonization and the preimum put on European descent versus native or african descent (Mexico, Brazil), or other instances where a lighter skinned group conquered a darker skinned group (India). Are the members of the House of Saud (or for that matter, the Hashamite dynasty of Jordan and formally of Arabia) 'lighter skinned' then their average subjects? Regardless, many of the royal groups in the Arab world claim their status not on skin-color, but on specific ties to the prophet and his relations... you may be confusing various continent factors with a rule of the relationship between pigmentation and status.

It is very difficult to posit some sort of primordial causality, if that's what you intend to do, and control for the effects of 19th and 20th century racialized European dominance. I suspect, however, that during the period of time when Egypt was ruled by Nubians 'darker skin' was a marker of elite status. You also want to be careful with some of these comparisons -- race and racism work differently, IIRC, in Brazil than they do in the US (see Anthony Marx's work on the subject).

Anyway, what's the implication? That the US shouldn't act to correct or compensate for its history of racialized slavery and apartheidt?

Posted by: dhn on June 28, 2003 07:54 AM

Well obviusly Spike Lee's kids will need extra help becuase they have an egomaniac as a father. Face it, if we're really going to have a diverse university, we'll have to take some dumb black kids at the expense of white or Asian kids, because there just aren't enough smart black kids to go around. But it will work out, as they'll just get jobs in Human Resources or in the Post Office or at some other Federal agency. It's not like they'll do anything of any importance with those degrees.

Posted by: Rachel on June 28, 2003 09:00 AM

Jimbo:

"What is the real question?"

The real question is whether affirmative action programs have a place in this world. And like most others here I would argue that they do. It dismays me to see the argument phrases as one of "merit vs. quotas" because most affirmative action programs are less heavy handed than quotas, and because the alternative is not and never has been purely "merit". The alternative is to leave the world to people like the "very famous C-average student that got into Harvard's MBA program" mentioned by Patrick Taylor.

Of course, the preference given to the privileged is more subtle than that given to the disadvantaged. Imagine a town with two clubs: a Rich Folks Club which wants to keep the poor folks out, and a Poor Folks club who wants to keep the rich out. The Rich Folk can phrase their club constitution so that anyone can join, and just set a high entrance fee. The Poor Folk have to pass a law decreeing that rich guys can't join. The effect is the same, but only one club incurs the wrath of those who oppose these limitations on individual freedoms. So, even though the parallel is not quite exact, my question to you would be "why do you get angry at the Poor Folk club and ignore the actions of the Rich Folk?"

Posted by: Tom Slee on June 28, 2003 09:08 AM

But Brad is saying that race is a good proxy for income. As Jim Glass points out, that arguement is a non-starter.

If income and opportunity is the real issue then the universities would be aplying a more fair and accurate rating system if they gave preference based on zip codes. Income/zip code correlates strongly and data is readily available from the US Census Bureau.

Much of this arguement goes back to the debate concerning how much of current black underperformance is due directly to ongoing whites' prejudice and how much is due to black culture itself.

If two equally qualified applicants come into my office to apply for a contracts management position (a position in which the employee has substantial contact and interaction with client firms) and one applicant speaks with heavy BVD and the other speaks in a typical educated class manner, I will choose the later; regardless of race. It just turns out that the former and the later are likely to be black and white respectively.

Yet, I have known many blacks with professional aspirations who will not even attempt to adjust their speach patterns because they do not want to be too "white".

This sort of thinking on the part of blacks suggests that many of them would also desire to attain a two culture, separate but equal, society. If that is the case, blacks may be better served by establishing more and better all black universities throughout the country.

Straw men aside, I think it is very dificult to accurately determine the extent to which racism is negatively impacting black achievement at the present and how much past racism is hindering achievemnet now.

For every academic paper taking a position regarding this issue, there is another one countering its position.

Certainly, the real evidence is insufficient to determine a reasonable dollar amount - if any - that should be placed on reparations based on our civil proceedings rules.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 28, 2003 09:42 AM

Actually there IS a case for compensating today's blacks for the destruction of their schools and neighborhoods. But we don't have to justify it by looking to centuries past. We only have to go back about 40 years.

Several years ago I worked with a delightful young black girl several years my junior, in downtown Seattle. She lived at 23rd and Madison, in the heart what passes for a ghetto in Seattle. One day she arrived at work in a very atypical mood (usually her demeanor was Mary Tyler Moore like). Obviously something was wrong, and after a little prodding she told me that that day when she went to the bus stop that she'd been using ever since she was a little girl, there was a strange man there ahead of her. Strange in more than one way.

She was afraid of him because of his body language, and she told me she thought it better to engage him in conversation rather than show her fear. It worked, so she feigned innocence and asked, "Do you live around here"?

Much to her surprise he said he did, in fact he lived in the building behind where she was standing. "That's an old folks home", she retorted. "No, it used to be. Now it's a 'halfway house' ", he said.

Almost in tears, she told me, "Now, every day I'm going to have to get on and off my bus in front of a bunch of criminals"

Nothing I could do for her, so I observed, "Yeah, they don't put halfway houses in Sand Point" (the upper-middle class neighborhood where the then mayor lived). To which she responded with a bitterness (that I'd thought her incapable of) in her voice that I will never forget:

"No, they put them in my neighborhood, because they think I'm used to it.".

Maybe we could adopt the suggestion of another poster and let all those people who have spilled their emotions all over this blog's comments section volunteer to live at the 23rd and Madison's of the country. Residence for residence swapping. Any volunteers, guys?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 28, 2003 09:50 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/22/opinion/22PATT.html

Affirmative Action: The Sequel
By ORLANDO PATTERSON - Harvard University

No issue better reveals the American tension between principle and pragmatism than the debate over affirmative action. This week the Supreme Court is expected to enter the debate with a widely anticipated ruling on the University of Michigan's admissions policies, which favor black and other minority applicants. More important than the decision the court reaches will be the reasoning it uses.

As pragmatic public policy, it is easy to show that the benefits of affirmative action far outweigh its social or individual costs. It ensures the integration of our best universities and thereby promotes (if indirectly) a heterogeneous professional elite. In conjunction with antidiscrimination laws, it has directly fostered the growth of an African-American and Latino middle class....

Posted by: anne on June 28, 2003 09:54 AM

The essay by Orlando Patterson, a superb sociologist, deals with question after question on affirmative action.

Posted by: anne on June 28, 2003 10:00 AM

The essay by Orlando Patterson, a superb sociologist, deals with question after question on affirmative action.

Posted by: anne on June 28, 2003 10:07 AM

dhn asks: "Are the members of the House of Saud (or for that matter, the Hashamite dynasty of Jordan and formally of Arabia) 'lighter skinned' then their average subjects?"

I would say yes based upon a year's living in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (and travels into the other 4 provinces). The poorest citizens appeared to be descended from freed slaves (Somalis -- evidenced by tribal(?)scar markings on cheeks). Most alms beggars are of dark color. Admittedly these are not average Saudis -- they are the minority. The "average" color seems influenced by geography within their large country.(IMHO)

Muhammad's first muezzin (person who went to the rooftops to call believers to prayer)was a black man. If true it demonstrates integration of "colored folk" within the Muslim faith of common humanity.(IMHO)

Nubians today are concentrated above the Aswan Dam and also seem to be entirely segregated from Egyptian society south of Aswan (IMHO). A recently acquired bias from English or French occupiers?

The implication is that all humanity engenders traits/differences that are grasped by certain people seeking to divide and exercise control and political power and influence over one of the divided groups.(Most recently and abominably, Nazi exterminations of Jews and Slavs.)

dhn states: "It is very difficult to posit some sort of primordial causality, ..."

I agree. It is very complicated. I don't presume to identify the causes of bias.

dhn asks: "Anyway, what's the implication? That the US shouldn't act to correct or compensate for its history of racialized slavery and apartheidt?"

Exactly. The root causes are totally undefined. The notion of bias based on skin color is personally repugnant, but as with other human traits, remains a genetic mystery. To presume 17th century slavery to be causal for today's descrimination in just untrue (IMHO). While Civil Rights actions have stimulated positive actions and attitudes from the majority citizenry, I think that AA actions are as patently discriminatory as rejection based upon skin color. It is a divisive. It isn't inclusive. Two wrongs don't make a right.(All IMHO)

Posted by: Don Majors on June 28, 2003 10:10 AM

"What's the implication? That the US shouldn't act to correct or compensate for its history of slavery and discrimination?"

- Exactly. The root causes are totally undefined. -

Of course we should correct or compensate for a hostory of slavery and discrimination. Of course the root causes are DEFINED. Of course the root causes of extreme racism in South Africa are DEFINED.

Posted by: arthur on June 28, 2003 10:22 AM

"The light skinned peoples usually get enhanced preferences. Dark skinned folk have less favorable options.

"This is how the world works? (!)"

Then, change the way the world works. Duh.

Posted by: arthur on June 28, 2003 10:34 AM

Precisely because racial preferences have to be implemented by so many jerrybuilt schemes that step over the merit-based procedures of institutions, not to mention the 14th Amendment, they require an especially powerful source of moral authority. And this has been found in the summary indictment of America that emerged in the '60s from the convergence of so many social protest movements--civil rights, antiwar, feminism, farm workers, environmentalism, etc. The compound effect of all this protest was to cast America as a spiritually empty, greedy, racist and imperialistic nation--a malevolent force in the world.

Thus, anti-Americanism--a reflexive and smug faithlessness in the moral character of America--became the first step to redemption. It became a virtuous attitude in itself, a way to establish one's credentials as a concerned and socially responsible person. Anti-Americanism, as a credential of virtue, found its political home on the left, and nowhere more securely than in the precincts of academe.

Today the diversity faith is predicated on an updated and subtler anti-Americanism, but an anti-Americanism nonetheless. Since there is no anti-black discrimination in American universities, preferences have to be justified by the idea that America is still a malevolent society where blacks are concerned. And still today--at least in the public square--one must be committed to this view of America in order to credential one's virtue.

Anti-Americanism is also a formula for power because it truly delivers moral authority and legitimacy to institutions. And in case you think this power is meager, a shadow of its '60s vitality, consider that the Supreme Court of the United States has just submitted to it.


Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 28, 2003 10:41 AM

"Well obviusly Spike Lee's kids will need extra help becuase they have an egomaniac as a father. Face it, if we're really going to have a diverse university, we'll have to take some dumb black kids at the expense of white or Asian kids, because there just aren't enough smart black kids to go around. But it will work out, as they'll just get jobs in Human Resources or in the Post Office or at some other Federal agency. It's not like they'll do anything of any importance with those degrees."

The problem with anonymity is that it allows all sorts of obnoxious cowards to foul the public arena with their malignant opinions, confident in the knowledge that no one will ever hold them to account.

What kind of email address is "not@oxy.edu"? "Rachel" (whoever the h*ll you really are), if you think your ideas worthwhile, why don't you have the guts to stand behind them?

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 28, 2003 10:45 AM

The civil rights movement in America made this country the envy and hope of the world. The civil rights movement has represented a profound belief in Jeffersonian idealism, and in America.

Truly, who could have loved America more than a Martin Luther King and those who followed?

Posted by: jd on June 28, 2003 10:53 AM

"The compound effect of all this protest was to cast America as a spiritually empty, greedy, racist and imperialistic nation--a malevolent force in the world."

This sort of thinking is too pat and simplistic to be taken seriously. Really, all you're doing is name-calling. This is on exactly on the same level as calling advocates of desegregation "communists"!

There is nothing "Anti-American" about being willing to recognize that one's country is less than perfect, and seeking to correct the failings of the past, to bring one's nation closer to the ideal one has for it.

Calling critics of American failings "Anti-American" or "Un-American" is the sort of totalitarian jingoism that ought to have died with the Third Reich; but then again, as the saying goes, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel".

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 28, 2003 10:56 AM

"Actually there IS a case for compensating today's blacks for the destruction of their schools and neighborhoods. But we don't have to justify it by looking to centuries past. We only have to go back about 40 years."

Maybe, Patrick. Decisions to locate halfway homes etc. in black neighborhoods are driven more by simple economics than by racism (ie) the real estate there tends to be much less expensive and is, therefore, affordable to government or private agencies working on tight budgets. Black neighborhoods also tend to be located in old city centers where zoning permits development of other unpleasant concerns, like dumps. Again, racism per se is not the primary cause of location decisions of such concerns.

There are ample examples of dirty industries being located in poor white sections as well. These tend to be in more rural settings and are thus not as salient to the typical liberal college types that tend to make big noise over such issues and to attach racial motives to them.

On the other hand, to the extent that true negative externalities are created, I believe that compensation to residents of said neighborhoods should be paid; regardless of racial identity.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 28, 2003 11:03 AM

"There is nothing "Anti-American" about being willing to recognize that one's country is less than perfect, and seeking to correct the failings of the past, to bring one's nation closer to the ideal one has for it."

Very true!

However, I've spent enough time in an academic setting to have a feel for the nuance that, I believe, Patrick is refering to.

There really is an undercurrent within the more liberal schools - that run the gamet from sociology to public health to minority studies - that capitalism is an evil vehicle by which old rich white men crush the life out of everyone else - in this country and throughout the world. That these old rich white men are absolutely in control and can only be subverted through radical actions on the part of the oppressed majority (although, one rarely hears any feasible solutions from this liberal legion).

That the old rich white men are synonomous with traditional Amerika.

Such thinking is, essentially, dogma in these schools. It is real, alive and well and is accurately described by Patrick.

Adherents of this persective are not merely constuctively critical -which would be a good thing - they are just plain angry and indulging in the type of "credentialing" mentioned by Patrick.

What results is a form of group think; utterly misguided, but self re-enforcing and, therefore, very tenacious.


Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 28, 2003 11:30 AM

"The civil rights movement in America made this country the envy and hope of the world."

Not to denigrate the civil rights movement, but there weree plenty of people who looked at America as the "envy and hope of the world", long before it. History did not start in 1960...

Still waiting for someone to explain why hispanics qualify...

Posted by: jimbo on June 28, 2003 11:51 AM

Oh dear me, I seem to have forgotten to put quotation marks around my earlier post and credit properly. Abiola and others can read the entirety of Shelby Steele's piece on the Supreme Court AA decisions at:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110003686

It also includes:

" A remarkable feature of this opinion is the way it ignores the vast array of contradictions and unintended consequences that attach to affirmative action--a few of which are its racial divisiveness, its stigmatization of blacks as inferior, its facilitation of identity politics, its encouragement of a victim-focused identity in minorities, its reverse discrimination against whites and Asians, its preference for precisely the least needy minorities, its damage to the principle of excellence, its fostering of a parasitic diversity industry, its cynical refusal to allow the best and brightest minorities to compete openly with their white and Asian counterparts, its flouting of the Constitution's equal protection clause, and of course its utter failure to close the academic gap between whites and blacks."

Several years ago he sat for an interview, that can be read online at:

http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/publications/selections/962/steele.html

-------quote--------

ROBINSON So how did you change your mind? What led you to write The Content of Our Character, in which you condemn black power just as forcefully as white power?

STEELE I attribute a lot of it to simply growing up--of having a family, a profession, bills to pay, reality to deal with. I began to see in the process of doing those ordinary things that there was a great deal more freedom in American society than I had previously owned up to--my life was pretty much in my own hands. This is not to say that there isn't any racism--I still meet it every day. It is simultaneously true that I have an enormous amount of freedom and that I can pretty much take my life in whatever direction I want to take it.

I wanted to communicate that reality to my children. I wanted them to feel that. It seems to me that the worst thing in the world is to tell your children that they don't have freedom. Again, one of my complaints with this victim-focused identity is that blacks will end up telling our own children that things are not possible for them--and that guarantees defeat. I couldn't stand that. I believe that there is enormous possibility for our children. That's what drove me to write my book.

ROBINSON Shelby, do you really want to see affirmative action ended? Brought to a complete stop? Are you willing to see the number of black students at elite universities drop? Are you willing to suffer the shock to black morale that could follow from the loss of role models in high positions?

STEELE My opposition to affirmative action has to do with my concern for black uplift. Affirmative action has created what I call a "culture of preference." It's not just a benign social policy having to do with college admissions. It is a vast and all-defining culture that continues to lock me in, as a black person, to a victim-focused identity. Affirmative action makes me passive. It makes me into someone who cannot move forward unless white people are benevolent and help me move forward. It perpetuates dependency. I think affirmative action is the greatest negative force--the greatest force in opposition to black uplift--in society today.

Will blacks disappear from higher education? That is not a decision for white Americans to make. That is a decision for black Americans to make. If blacks focus on education, I have absolutely every confidence that they can compete with everybody.

But in any case, when you take that decision away from me as a black person, you make me a secondary citizen. You oppress me in the name of helping me. You perpetuate my dependency. You demoralize me. As long as that continues to happen, you will see the same gaps in scores, with blacks at the bottom. You will see blacks having the highest dropout rates, the lowest grade point averages, and on and on and on. Affirmative action guarantees black inferiority.
---------endquote--------

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 28, 2003 12:33 PM

Anne: There is so much sense in Orlando Patterson's piece that a few things in it appall me all the more. He wants AA for "most" Latinos, but doesn't explain whom he'd exclude (Cubans, maybe?) He favors eventually extending it to poor whites. He never mentions Asian-Americans at all; it's as though they don't exist. Take his proposal literally, and he would grant preference to any student from a poor family, white, black, (most) Latino, Native American . . . but not Asian.

I can't imagine that that's what he really meant, but nothing highlights the blind spot of AA proponents about Asian-Americans more than that this piece could get onto the NYT Op-Ed page without anyone so much as raising this question.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 28, 2003 01:02 PM

Michelle

Important comment. I agree. What Patterson is doing is trying to limit affirmative action to persons who have had a traditional limitation to contend with and who are part of a family that has had limited opportunity. Again, Patterson is trying to limit the allowance to non-immigrants. What of Asians? What of Latinos? What of Africans? What of Eastern-Europeans? Immigrant families versus second or third generation? What of those of any ethnicity from poor families?

I think the question for Patterson is simply where is assurance of opportunity most needed.

Posted by: anne on June 28, 2003 01:48 PM

shelby steele is as welcome to his opinions as clarence thomas is welcome to his, but neither of them makes reference to the highly depressing study that Brad and others cited a few months ago here: namely, that when identical resumes were sent out to a wide variety of businesses, some with mainsteam names attached ("bob" or "betty") and some with overtly afro-centric names attached ("shamiqua" or "tyrone" - and these aren't the exact names cited in the study), there was an astonishingly large (i won't try to cite the number from memory) delta in favor of the "mainstream" names being invited for interviews over the "afro-centric" names.

Which says that even if i concede that every point that shelby steele makes in the interview patrick posts, or that clarence thomas made in his dissenting opinion, it doesn't change the underlying reality that the leading affirmative action program in the country is that of caucasians for caucasians.

P.S. Barron's ran an excellent article a few weeks ago about how we finally had something over 10% of the senior management positions in corporate America filled by women. In short, a woman - even a white woman - whose professional career began about the time that The Second Sex and the Feminine Mystique was published has not, in her entire 45-year career, seen much change in the distribution of power. What do we learn from this?

Posted by: howard on June 28, 2003 02:56 PM

"There really is an undercurrent within the more liberal schools ... that capitalism is an evil vehicle by which old rich white men crush the life out of everyone else - in this country and throughout the world."

It is certainly not an opinion which I, or even the owner of this website, share. On most economic matters I'd say I'm to the right of 90% of the American population; nevertheless, I recognize that there is one particular ugly stain running through American history, namely the inhuman way in which it has treated its' black citizens.

"Adherents of this persective are not merely constuctively critical -which would be a good thing - they are just plain angry and indulging in the type of "credentialing" mentioned by Patrick."

I'd say that Patrick is indulging in the very same sort of angry ranting himself, only from an "oppressed white male" point of view.

"Not to denigrate the civil rights movement, but there weree plenty of people who looked at America as the "envy and hope of the world", long before it. History did not start in 1960..."

You'll find that there were very few such people amongst the darker-skinned inhabitants of this world. If you think the way America treated its' black citizens had nothing to do with the pro-Communist tilt that arose in most of the Third World, you're living in a sheltered world. Sure, the Soviet Union was a LOT worse than Jim Crow, but when Africans and South Asians read about segregated public facilities and lynchings for "reckless eyeballing" of white women, or of governers and senators vowing to uphold segregation under pain of death, it wasn't with a Russian accent they were learning about such events.

American racism was not just a domestic problem, but a blight to its' foreign policy efforts throughout the Cold War. It damaged American credibility to mouth pretentious nonsense about freedom and civil rights in the communist world, when the Russians could always just point back and say "But look how you treat your own black citizens!"

"Still waiting for someone to explain why hispanics qualify..."

You're flogging a dead horse. People have repeatedly suggested in the course of this discussion that they SHOULDN'T. In fact, that is the problem that many AA supporters have with the "diversity" rationale - it extends AA to many groups who really shouldn't be served by such a program.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 28, 2003 03:11 PM

Howard: I remember the study you mention. I thought at the time that it was ill-designed. The right way to go about it would've been to balance the Tyrones and Latishas with Caitlins and Cletuses. That is to say, isn't it possible that what you have here is class bias and not racial bias? and oughtn't you to control for that?

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 28, 2003 03:15 PM

michelle, good question that you'll have to take up with the study's authors.

you're certainly right that class bias could come into play, but i don't think that would mean that race isn't more dominant.

(I don't mean to suggest that i don't think that the offspring of wealthy black parents don't have certain advantages over the offspring of poor white parents, but I do mean to suggest that the offspring of white parents have a decided advantage over the offspring of black parents.)

Posted by: howard on June 28, 2003 04:44 PM

Abiola Lapite writes: "You'll find that there were very few such people amongst the darker-skinned inhabitants of this world. If you think the way America treated its' black citizens had nothing to do with the pro-Communist tilt that arose in most of the Third World, you're living in a sheltered world. Sure, the Soviet Union was a LOT worse than Jim Crow, but when Africans and South Asians read about segregated public facilities and lynchings for "reckless eyeballing" of white women, or of governers and senators vowing to uphold segregation under pain of death, it wasn't with a Russian accent they were learning about such events."

I would challenge your assertions as they apply to Africa ... there is more to this story. In fact Russia's need for trade markets and allies channeled their foreign policy to accomodate the poorest, exploited populations of Africa and other countries worldwide. And, since much of the exploitation was directed by in-country ruling elites, Russia courted these power elites (in Russian accented French, English or Swahili)by providing credits for personal luxuries; arms and ammunition purchases; engineering and construction projects; and stipends to students to study in Russia and eastern Europe. Surely the communist "Information Ministies" plastered the countries with slogans and posters to vilify America, but given an opportunity I believe that many would have emigrated to the USA. Most were denied the chance by witholds of visas, denial of passports, and by lack of proper currency to buy tickets. The fall of the Berlin Wall, collapse of the USSR, and reality resulted in armed rebellion and abrogation of numerous African governments. The "tilt that arose" was realined with warfare and cruelties that persist. (IMHO)

Posted by: Don Majors on June 28, 2003 05:14 PM


Skin color is also a discriminator in other international societies ... witness low caste untouchable Hindus (dark); Brahmin Hindus (light);

there is very little co-relation between caste and color in india, much more correlation between color and region. and almost no one believes in the theory of aryan invasion.

Since there is no anti-black discrimination in American universities, preferences have to be justified by the idea that America is still a malevolent society where blacks are concerned. And still today--at least in the public square--one must be committed to this view of America in order to credential one's virtue.

Credential one's reason, I think. If you do not think there is widespread anti-black discrimination in America, I can only be amazed at the extent of your segregation a. from reality and b. from African-Americans. Perhaps you could avail yourself of David Cole's No Equal Justice, or a newspaper.

As for your remarks on the social justice movements of the 60s and 70s: it's rather amazing that you think it was the civil rights movement cast America as racist rather than public segregation and private discrimination. It's quite touching to me that people could believe America capable of reform when it has so many people like you, and as a new American myself, I share their faith that *we* shall overcome the poisoned views of people like *you*.

Posted by: drapetomaniac on June 28, 2003 07:33 PM

"It's quite touching to me that people could believe America capable of reform when it has so many people like you, and as a new American myself, I share their faith that *we* shall overcome the poisoned views of people like *you*"

"Who" exactly are "you" talking to? Are you simply responding to the voices in your head?

There's something about racial issues that seems to drag all the loonies out of the woodwork ...

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 28, 2003 08:01 PM

The belief that a past of racial exlusion and prejudice can be redeemed by a present-day, enlightened application of of the same is repulsive.

Posted by: Doug Anderson on June 28, 2003 08:30 PM

Correction! That's "exclusion"...

Posted by: Doug Anderson on June 28, 2003 08:36 PM

If the US is such a terrible racist place then why are so many people trying to immigrate here? They come in droves, the sue to remain and when given notice of deportation they flee to avoid it. Nothing obligates anyone to come here or stay here.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on June 28, 2003 08:37 PM

Hmm. I guess my posts are now being censored. I wasn't aware that I was being abusive or vulgar (unless bullsh*t qualifies), but I guess if Brad doesn't want me to post here anymore, I won't...

Posted by: jimbo on June 28, 2003 09:57 PM

Howard,

The best analysis of that employment-application study I have seen was on Eve Tushnet's blog (eve-tushnet.blogspot.com) — go to the January 2003 archives and scroll down. I don't think the study proves squat. At most, it suggests that employers are leery of people with weird names. (Note that some names that are statistically more likely to belong to blacks than whites — for example "Jerome," "Maurice" — were excluded from the survey because its authors found that people didn't perceive them as "black." Note that some of the "white" names fared much less well than many of the "black" names. &c.)

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 29, 2003 07:54 AM

"The civil rights movement in America made this country the envy and hope of the world."

- "Not to denigrate the civil rights movement, but there weree plenty of people who looked at America as the "envy and hope of the world", long before it. History did not start in 1960..." -

The expression of civil rights idealism, though fearfully limited in practice, from the birth of this country made us a hope for those lacking civil rights from all the world. The civil rights movement began in America before the birth of the country and continues. Martin Luther King was preceded and followed by courageous civil rights advocates. America at its noblest has been a country struggling to realize the ideals of the country's birth.

Posted by: anne on June 29, 2003 08:17 AM

Michelle

Got it. The point is you despise affirmative action and want to read any study as proving that there never has been and never will be discrimination in America that has anything to do with African-Americans. Took a while, but I got it. Phooey.

Posted by: emma on June 29, 2003 08:31 AM

Took me a while too.

Posted by: bill on June 29, 2003 09:23 AM

Emma, Bill,

You are wrong. Do you think I don't know our country's shameful racial history? Do you think I deny that there is racism today? God.

What I said was that this particular study cannot possibly have proved what Howard said it did. Go look at it yourselves if you don't believe me.

http://www.econ.yale.edu/seminars/apmicro/am02/bertrand-021204.pdf

Notice that "Ebony" did better than "Emily," that "Jermaine" did twice as well as "Niall," &c. And notice that the whole methodology — pitting "ethnic" Black names against "generic" Anglo-Saxon ones — effectively pitted, not "white" names against "Black," but a small subset of identifiably "Black" names against a much larger bunch of names that are common among Blacks and whites both. (Furthermore, it attached Irish surnames to several of the "white" names, God knows why.)

I should like to see this study done with the Caitlins and the Cletuses and the Shlomos and the Yehudis and the Iains and the Fionas and the Dineshes and the Fatimas added. Do you really think it would make no difference to the results?

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 29, 2003 10:15 AM

Michelle

OK! Point well made, and I agree with you about a need to control for class bias. The study is problematic, and I did not understand.

Emma

Posted by: emma on June 29, 2003 10:32 AM

Michelle Response -

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/29/national/29LOCK.html

This Land Is Made, Finally, for Chinese Settlers
By DEAN E. MURPHY

LOCKE, Calif. — Look long and hard enough in the dying light of day and it is almost as if ghosts are sitting on the splintered benches and withering balconies along Main Street.

Connie King says she sees them sometimes. They give her a smile or a knowing nod, the kind that says: We are counting on you, Connie. Do the right thing.

"The old Chinese people left a lot of spirits here," said Mrs. King, 80, resting on a bench where she recalled encountering a long-departed neighbor late one evening. "That is maybe one of the reasons that I am living longer, to finish the job." ...

Posted by: anne on June 29, 2003 10:36 AM

June 29, 2003

Affirmative Action: A Corporate Diary
By JONATHAN D. GLATER - New York Times

CORPORATE AMERICA put on a remarkable display of support for affirmative action when more than 60 companies signed briefs this year backing up the University of Michigan's use of race as a factor in deciding who can attend its law school. Early last week, the Supreme Court cited the companies' arguments when it upheld the law school's policies.

"We were pleased that the court recognized the effort," said David DeBruin, a partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block in Washington, which helped draft a brief signed by 65 large companies, including household names like 3M, Coca-Cola and Microsoft....

Posted by: jd on June 29, 2003 11:07 AM

Anne,

Thanks for the NYT link; nice that some of this wrong is slowly being undone.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 29, 2003 12:35 PM

Michelle - Your argument was well considered.

Posted by: bill on June 29, 2003 01:07 PM

Michelle wrote: Notice that "Ebony" did better than "Emily," that "Jermaine" did twice as well as "Niall," &c.

To do the name-by-name analysis you suggest would be incorrect, because the sample size for each individual name (unlike the sample size for the study as a whole) is too small to be sure you're not just looking at the results of chance. (Indeed, as the study authors wrote, it's to be expected that some individual "black" names will do better than some individual "white" names, just through chance.)

To follow your suggestions would be to focus entirely on outlier results and ignore entirely the overall results of the study. That would be silly.

Nor does the "the black names were just strange and hard to pronounce" theory hold much water.

* "Geoffry" is more difficult to pronounce by sounding out than "Kareem," for exactly, but employers liked "Geoffry" much better. Furthermore, the Black name that did best - "Jermaline" - doesn't roll off the (white) tongue easier than "Rasheed" (which did the worse) does.

* The study also found discrimination by zip code; "Brad" is more likely to be hired if "Brad's" address is in a white neighborhood than a black neighborhood. Why doesn't your discussion of this study's results acknowlege this finding?

* Most importantly, though, this study doesn't stand alone. There are many other studies which have also found that, faced with apparently identical black and white applicants, employers prefer white applicants - and most of those studies didn't use names the way this study did. It's not just one study those who deny the existance of anti-black discrimination (and I realize you don't include yourself in that catagory) need to explain away; it's dozens of such studies.

Michele writes: And notice that the whole methodology ? pitting "ethnic" Black names against "generic" Anglo-Saxon ones ? effectively pitted, not "white" names against "Black," but a small subset of identifiably "Black" names against a much larger bunch of names that are common among Blacks and whites both.

This isn't true; either you haven't actually read the study, or you read it but failed to comprehend the methodology.

From the study: The choice of names is crucial to our experiment. To decide on which names are uniquely African American and which are uniquely White, we use name frequence data calculated from birth certificates of all babies born in Massachusetts between 1974 and 1979. We tabulate these data by race to determine which names are distinctively White and which are distinctively African American. Distinctive names are those that have the highest ratio of frequency in one racial group to frequency in the other racial group.

As a check of distinctiveness, we conducted a survey in various public areas in Chicago. Each respondant was given a personal name and asked to assess features of the person, one of which being race. In general, the names led respondants to readiily attribute the expected race for the person but there were a few exceptions and these names were disregarded. (Note: For example, Maurice and Jerome are distinctive African American names in a frequency sense yet are not percieved to be so by many people.)

So you're simply wrong: the "white" names are in fact statistically more likely to be found among whites, and according to the survey are perceived as being white.

Posted by: Ampersand on June 29, 2003 02:10 PM

Ampersand: Yes, I did read the study, and I understand your point. But I really don't think that it meets my objection. Can you really predict the race of an "Emily" or an "Anne" or a "Matthew" with the confidence that you can a "Tyrone" or a "Latonya" or a "Kenya"? A non-Black "Latonya" is about as likely as a non-Vietnamese "Truong." But there are Black Annes and Matthews; I've met some. The test is asymmetrical.

The fact is that I have no idea whether an Emily is white; I can be pretty confident that an Iain or Percy or Fiona or Gertrud or Janos or what have you is white. If the intent was to test unambiguously "Black" names against unambiguously "white" ones, the study was, I repeat, poorly designed.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 29, 2003 02:44 PM

Ampersand:

I forgot to respond to this:

Nor does the "the black names were just strange and hard to pronounce" theory hold much water.

If you can show me where I claimed that Black names were "hard to pronounce," please do so. What I said was that employers might be leery of candidates with "weird names."

I have a Chinese-American friend whose parents hit on a name for him that . . . well, let's just say that to the average American eye it looks both feminine and Welsh. I wonder how well it would do against "Ebony."

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 29, 2003 02:52 PM

Michelle, you've raised a really good point, and i need to acknowledge that i need to think about this more.

this said, the fact that there are black "Emilies" does not, i think, prove as much as you think it does. i can as readily imagine that when the black Emily shows up to the interview with four other white candidates that she would then be identified as black and simply not selected.

but i could be wrong (like i say, i'd like to think about this), so let me, for the moment, concede your point and ask where it leads you? If further controlled study (defined to your specifications!) revealed that it's weird-name-as-proxy-for-outre-behavior prejudice in play rather than anti-black prejudice, what would you suggest? If it turned out to be non-middle-class bias, what would you suggest? and if, in fact, as i suspect, it turned out to be racism, what would you suggest?

Posted by: howard on June 29, 2003 03:00 PM

The problem with common sense is that it too-often translates into "the world from my extremely sigular point of view"; and I think that's what many of Michelle's objections amount to.

Would I have guessed that "Jermaline" was a distinctively black name? No, I would have had no idea - but clearly, the survey indicates that I'm uncommon that way. From your comments here, you don't think of "Geoffry" or "Meredith" as distinctively white names - but I sure do, and apparently so did a large portion the folks the authors surveyed.

You're saying "whatever names don't strike Michelle, personally, as distinctively white names obviously aren't distinctively white names, therefore the methodology is bad." The authors, in contrast, used actual name data combined with a survey to determine what is or isn't a distinctively white name. I think their methodology is more credible than yours.

Posted by: Ampersand on June 29, 2003 05:02 PM

Ampersand, even if you are correct - and I tend to think you are not and that the study is of questionable validity - the best that you can say is that there exists an employer bias against uniquely black names.

You cannot not infer that there is a bias against blacks per se. To do so is not scientifically sound.

But even the conclusion that there is a bias against black names per se is not clear. The study does not simply does not sufficiently control for non-mainstream names in other racial groups.

It is not the "weirdness" of the name that may be important, but the "non-mainstreamness" of the name.

For example, Nguyen, a Vietnamese name, may be "weird" to the American ear, yet it is known to be a typical and common name for that culture. It is a mainstream Vietnamese name.

Now a name like Sunflower is not mainstream for an anglo-american and I suspect that an applicant with such a name would receive about the same response as a shaniqua. The study, however, did not explore this possibility (one of Michelle's points).

Now you are going to say that shaniqua is an accepted mainstream black name and that everybody knows this.

The problem is this; Shaniqua is not a mainstream American name and a black with it is presenting as someone from a background that is not accepting of mainstream culture (are blacks striving to be a part of mainstream America or not). There may be a sense on the employer's end that, like Sunflower, this is a person that is something of a rebbel, a misfit.

The study does not adequately address this posibility.

Most Americans old enough to be in a position to be hiring remember the time when blacks began giving their children African and other uniquely black names. This was a time of the black panthers, of wearing African garb, of rejecting "white" society; sometimes radically and violently so. Isn't possible that names like Shaniqua carry with them the power to conjure up such memories and images? If so, isn't the study measuring something other than straightforeward prejudice?

As for names like Tyrone, I have to agree with Michelle that this may be more of a class issue than racism. Again, the study does not control for such by including similar white names (eg) Cleteus, Otis, BillyBob, etc.

Overall, the study is an interesting preliminary effort, but needs some polishing.

As I said in an earlier post

Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 30, 2003 12:44 AM

Odd, the rest of the message got cut off.

Anyhow...As I said in an earlier post, The crux of the issue is are blacks rtying to be a part of American culture or not? If yes, then they must dress, act, talk, and name their children in the manner of the traditional culture.

Othewise, they are attempting, themselves, to establish some sort of aparthied;separate, but demanding equality that even whites may not enjoy.

There are the rules and norms we all must follow, or risk the consequences of not doing so. That is the nature of social groups, like it or not.

Whites with unrefined or uneducated or nonmainstream speach patterns suffer under employment too.

Whites who eschew traditional business dress codes will not be hired.

Whites who attempt to present at interviews with other than corporate hair styles and/or creative facial hair schemes will not be hired.

There is a reason that the term "corporate clones" has long floated out there.

Most of these studies that attempt to demonstrate the extent of racism in America fail to take into account variables other than simple skin color that operate to hold blacks back. In fact, it is almost taboo to mention these other attributes.

There is no doubt that prejudice based purely on an irrational objection to skin color exists in America to this day. Still, we ultimately do blacks a injustice if we knee-jerk react to every incident of black failing as indicative of the prevalence of white prejudice.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 30, 2003 01:18 AM

"Most Americans old enough to be in a position to be hiring remember the time when blacks began giving their children African and other uniquely black names. This was a time of the black panthers, of wearing African garb, of rejecting "white" society; sometimes radically and violently so. Isn't possible that names like Shaniqua carry with them the power to conjure up such memories and images? If so, isn't the study measuring something other than straightforeward prejudice?"

No.

The assumption that anyone bearing a non-"white" name is rejecting "white" society is nothing more than the projection of stereotypes onto others. Why should blacks, or anyone else, have to bear "Anglo-Saxon" names to find jobs? There is nothing intrinsically wrong or "rejecting" in seeking to take pride in your blackness, when all your life you've been told that black means inferior.

No amount of ingenious rationalization will disguise the fact that the study Anne pointed to does indicate precisely what it claims to, namely that people with stereotypically "African American" names tend not to get called for interviews. You and Michelle can deny this phenomenon all you want, but the truth is that there are many other studies out there to back this up, both in the United States and in the U.K. British citizens of African descent also experience this "blackballing" effect, even though there's never been a Black Panthers movement or anything like it in the United Kingdom. How do you explain that?

"Still, we ultimately do blacks a injustice if we knee-jerk react to every incident of black failing as indicative of the prevalence of white prejudice."

Yeah, right.

I'd argue that the much more important injustice is to pretend that the results of prejudice are actually the manifestations of black "failings." If black people are sensitive to racism, it is precisely because racism has been so prevalent in their lives. If you've had to live through the various petty slights and insults, not to talk of the false accusations and suspicions, that are the average black person's lot, you might be a lot more "sensitive" to racist behavior yourself.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 30, 2003 01:52 AM

Ampersand: It's "Jermaine," not "Jermaline."

I think if you look at the study, you will see that when choosing "white" and "Black" *surnames*, the authors did exactly what you say I've done — relied on their own sense of what "sounded white" or "sounded Black." At least, they give no other indication of how the surnames were chosen.

I think that taking the names from five years' birth records in one state — a Northern state in which the African-American population is overwhelmingly concentrated in one city — has a major effect on the results. It amounts to generalizing naming conventions in Boston in the late 70s to the whole country. The authors think that because these names are "remarkably common" in the data they drew them from, they have covered a "large segment of the African-American population," which is bull. I do not think that 7% of female Black children in any Southern state would have been christened with names from that list. I doubt it would be 1%. E. Avedisian is right; this was a naming fad, and a localized one at that.

More later — sorry.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 30, 2003 07:49 AM

I spent a lot of time thinking about this matter since reading michelle's posts on the topic, and in the end, i think it's much likelier that she's making excuses for people than that she (or eve tushnet) has found a fatal flaw in the study (although, as i said above, i'd be happy to see further study on the topic).

we are talking about a response, after all, to identical resumes. i don't know whether michelle (or eve) has been a hiring manager, but i have. i make no special claims for myself, but the idea of spending any time on someone's name rather than on the appropriateness of their background as defined by their resume has never crossed my mind.

so the fact that the hiring manager is using the name as a proxy for something - be it race or be it weirdness or be it some kind of signifier for anti-middle-classness or who knows what - is, frankly, not excusable under any circumstances.

And the most obvious explanation (and i'll concede, not definitive, but obvious) is subtle racism, the preference of caucasians for caucasians.

Posted by: howard on June 30, 2003 07:55 AM

Howard: I haven't time right now (I really haven't — I'm under a severe deadline) to address this properly. But just look at the variance between the least-successful and most-successful "white" names in the study. "Caucasians favoring Caucasians" I can understand, but why Kristen and not Emily?

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 30, 2003 10:44 AM

"The assumption that anyone bearing a non-"white" name is rejecting "white" society is nothing more than the projection of stereotypes onto others. Why should blacks, or anyone else, have to bear "Anglo-Saxon" names to find jobs? There is nothing intrinsically wrong or "rejecting" in seeking to take pride in your blackness, when all your life you've been told that black means inferior."

You've missed the point again. The issue goes well beyond surnames and race. The issue is that all societies formally and informally demand conformity.

A deliberate act such as the bearing of inventive names by Americans who happen to be black - is a signal for non-conformity. And as such can bias an employer against the applicant; just as an inventive name can bias an employer against a white applicant.

The study did not control for a nonconformity variable by providing non-mainstream white names, like sunflower or River, etc.

Hence, it is fatally flawed.

Abiola, take a purely scientific standpoint and consider the following: Ebony did much better than some of the other "black" names. If racism alone was operating to create the black/white callback disparity, then how do you explain the rate for Ebony?

The researchers should have asked this question themselves and then asked a large sample of subjects to assign attributes to the black names (ask subjects to describe the person with each name). This would have demonstrated whether or not something other than simple racism was operating to effect callback rates.

Ebony may well carry less attribution bagage than the other names.

Nor did the study control for attribution of "class" based on surnames.

Again, no attempt was made to insert names that may be considered white, but lower socio-economic status.

Another fatal flaw.

Finally, It is likely that blacks - or anyone else - who goes out of their way to make race an issue, makes others uncomfortable. If a black is so into his/her race to carry a uniquely African American name, then that person is clearly overtly race conscious.

I know a guy who is white and has tattooed on him "White Pride", "Mighty Whitey" and a picture of a Viking with a battle axe. He has long hair and a beard.

His racial assertion makes me uneasy, even though I'm caucasion myself.

He is educated, well spoken and intelligent, but can only obtain blue collar employment. Employers apparently pre-judge this man based only on superficial attributes.

Oh, the injustice of it all.


Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 30, 2003 10:46 AM

"The assumption that anyone bearing a non-"white" name is rejecting "white" society is nothing more than the projection of stereotypes onto others. Why should blacks, or anyone else, have to bear "Anglo-Saxon" names to find jobs? There is nothing intrinsically wrong or "rejecting" in seeking to take pride in your blackness, when all your life you've been told that black means inferior."

You've missed the point again. The issue goes well beyond surnames and race. The issue is that all societies formally and informally demand conformity.

A deliberate act such as the bearing of inventive names by Americans who happen to be black - is a signal for non-conformity. And as such can bias an employer against the applicant; just as an inventive name can bias an employer against a white applicant.

The study did not control for a nonconformity variable by providing non-mainstream white names, like sunflower or River, etc.

Hence, it is fatally flawed.

Abiola, take a purely scientific standpoint and consider the following: Ebony did much better than some of the other "black" names. If racism alone was operating to create the black/white callback disparity, then how do you explain the rate for Ebony?

The researchers should have asked this question themselves and then asked a large sample of subjects to assign attributes to the black names (ask subjects to describe the person with each name). This would have demonstrated whether or not something other than simple racism was operating to effect callback rates.

Ebony may well carry less attribution bagage than the other names.

Nor did the study control for attribution of "class" based on surnames.

Again, no attempt was made to insert names that may be considered white, but lower socio-economic status.

Another fatal flaw.

Finally, It is likely that blacks - or anyone else - who goes out of their way to make race an issue, makes others uncomfortable. If a black is so into his/her race to carry a uniquely African American name, then that person is clearly overtly race conscious.

I know a guy who is white and has tattooed on him "White Pride", "Mighty Whitey" and a picture of a Viking with a battle axe. He has long hair and a beard.

His racial assertion makes me uneasy, even though I'm caucasion myself.

He is educated, well spoken and intelligent, but can only obtain blue collar employment. Employers apparently pre-judge this man based only on superficial attributes.

Oh, the injustice of it all.


Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 30, 2003 10:51 AM

"Finally, It is likely that blacks - or anyone else - who goes out of their way to make race an issue, makes others uncomfortable. If a black is so into his/her race to carry a uniquely African American name, then that person is clearly overtly race conscious."

Most of us don't get to choose our own names, so how does one's name reflect anything about one's tendency to conformity or otherwise? Your "White Pride" guy chose to have that tattoed on himself, while the Shaniquas and Tyrones have no say in the matter.

As for the fact that "Emily" did worse than "Kristen", one would expect some within-group variation anyway, purely by chance, so this is really a red herring. If the same study were replicated, one might well find the two names swapping places.

What one ought to be focusing on isn't that "Kenya" did better than "Aisha"*, but the spread between the two CLASSES, and that spread was indeed highly statistically significant. There is simply no way that the results obtained could have been by accident.

Finally, whether one chooses to call it a bias against "noncomformity" or simply "racism", the fact is that they boil down to the same thing. Consider people like myself. I have a "non-conforming" name, by American standards, but does that tell you anything about my personality or even my social class? I would think not. Nor does it tell you anything about my parents' attitudes or class background either - mine is a perfectly respectable Yoruba name, the equivalent of "John" or "Andrew" in Anglo-Saxon terms; and yet, I can be penalized in the job-market for the name I bear, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever, simply because my name makes certain people feel "uncomfortable." Why is that acceptable in your eyes, and why should I be forced to change my name because of it? And how exactly is being proud of the name my parents bestowed on me a case of "making race an issue"?**

The bottom line - if one is confronted with candidates who seem to be equally qualified, and one tends to prefer the less "black" ones to the others, that is discrimination in the classic sense of the term, a clear-cut manifestation of prejudiced thinking. That an applicant is called "Tyrone" ought to have absolutely no bearing on whether he is called in for an interview. Why utilize some dubious proxy to assess a candidate when the interview process gives you a much more meaningful opportunity to judge the quality of fit?

To acquiesce to such behavior is simply to condemn an entire group of people to a lifetime of inferior prospects - but when said people express the resulting hostility in any way, or turn to crime to make up for the chances they haven't been granted, one can be sure that the same people who felt "uncomfortable" about giving them a break will be first in line to condemn them for their "failings." It is precisely because there are so many white people out there who wouldn't be voluntarily inclined to step out of their comfort zones that so many African-Americans feel Affirmative-Action remains necessary.


* Which is a perfectly decent and mainstream Arabic name, by the way, not at all "ghetto", except in the minds of the ignorant or the prejudiced.

** Unless you subscribe to the notion that doing anything that fails to hew to the norms of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant life is somehow "making race an issue." It never fails to amuse me that so many white people imagine themselves to be some sort of universal norm, against which all others are to be regarded as deviations.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 30, 2003 12:19 PM

Abiola Lapite:

Try getting a job if your parents have named you "Butterfly," or "Patience," or "Sweetthing." (I am *not* making these names up.)

"Aisha" is a common *Arabic* name, as you say. So are Jamal and Hakim and Rasheed. You don't suppose what we have here is less prejudice against Blacks than prejudice against Black Muslims? I wonder.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 30, 2003 12:58 PM

Abiola,

The last thing I have to say on this topic is that, generally,in any society you play by the rules or you fall behind.

The name issue relates to this sociological phenomenon.

Plenty of Asians realize this and adopt American sounding names. My own relatives - of Armenian origin - have done the same. My uncle Hagop goes by George, etc, etc.

Furthermore, I know from personal experience that many Armenian immigrants have spent hours window shopping and viewing fashion magazines so that they can learn "how to be good Americans".

I'm sorry the world doesn't operate the way you want it to. But it just plain doesn't. Again, conformity is the rule. Always has been and always will be.

It is time that blacks begin to accept some resposibility for where they are.

Whites do not create the large number of black single mothers. Whites do not cause blacks to speak BVD. Whites do not cause blacks to eschew pursuit of education. Whites do not cause blacks to make a host of other personal choices that negatively impact their socio-economic status; choices that, when made by whites, are just as harmful.

And whites do not cause blacks to select names for their children that signal non-conformity to employers.

Employers are inundated with resumes. They do not have time to carefully consider and then interview each applicant. If something about the resume suggests a possible non-conformist, then that resume is summarily rejected, all other things being equal. There is no way to definitively state that racism, per se is the operating principle.

Objection to non-conformity is not racism as you seem to believe. I know I'm repeating myself, but a white non-conformist is probably just as likely as a black non-conformist to be rejected by an employer.

Your assertion that the black names in the study are mainstream for blacks is false. I'd wager that the names are only frequently found among a subset of blacks that is significantly less educated and possessed of a host of less desirable characteristics when compared to blacks with more anglo sounding names. The study is probably measuring employer bias against such characteristics.

Finally, even if racism is the operating principle, why oh why, would a black family burden their child with an overtly ethnic name. Swimming up stream is hard enough, let alone having an anchor tied to ones ankle.

Because the world should be different? It's not. It won't be. Grow up and get over it. Blacks must accept what the rest of us ethnics have. You've got to work harder to prove yourself and fit into the mainstream.

Blacks must get the chip off their collective shoulder and stop the ambivalence over being "inauthentic" or an "oreo" or whatever, that arises when someone suggests what I have here.

Otherwise, they will remain behind.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on June 30, 2003 02:16 PM

>>Finally, It is likely that blacks - or anyone else - who goes out of their way to make race an issue, makes others uncomfortable. If a black is so into his/her race to carry a uniquely African American name, then that person is clearly overtly race conscious.>Blacks must get the chip off their collective shoulder and stop the ambivalence over being "inauthentic" or an "oreo" or whatever, that arises when someone suggests what I have here.<<

if you feel uncomfortable with so mild an assertion of blackness as carrying on with the name of Tyrone that your parents have given you, you are a living breathing justification for Affirmative Action.

Posted by: drapetomaniac on June 30, 2003 02:52 PM

>>"Who" exactly are "you" talking to? Are you simply responding to the voices in your head. There's something about racial issues that seems to drag all the loonies out of the woodwork ...

I was referring to the person who wrote what is in quotes below. I'm touched to be referred to as a loonie, considering your remarks about politeness in one of the AA threads.


"Since there is no anti-black discrimination in American universities, preferences have to be justified by the idea that America is still a malevolent society where blacks are concerned. And still today--at least in the public square--one must be committed to this view of America in order to credential one's virtue."

Posted by: drapetomaniac on June 30, 2003 03:00 PM

"I'm sorry the world doesn't operate the way you want it to. But it just plain doesn't. Again, conformity is the rule. Always has been and always will be.

It is time that blacks begin to accept some resposibility for where they are."

Rubbish. Why don't YOU and others like you learn to take responsibility for your own prejudices? We aren't living in Wilhelmine Germany, no one is going to play the role of the self-effacing Jew who "doesn't want any trouble", and blacks will not allow themselves to be talked down to by arrogant idiots like you who take it upon themselves to lecture them on the need to take "responsibility."

Your mentality is utterly disgusting. One can use it to justify ANY bigotry under the sun - "Why don't you Kikes / Paddies / Wops / Bohunks / Bitches / Faggots stop complaining and just learn to suck it up!" If the majority harbors bigoted views, then it is the MAJORITY's views that must change, and not those of minorities to suit it.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 30, 2003 03:05 PM

"I was referring to the person who wrote what is in quotes below. I'm touched to be referred to as a loonie, considering your remarks about politeness in one of the AA threads."

My apologies (seriously). The attitudes of some people on here are really getting on my nerves. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on June 30, 2003 03:08 PM

While not necessarily disagreeing with E. Avedisian, I will point out again that SOME WHITES have enabled these destructive behaviors. Giving blacks (or anyone else) excuses for failure, will increase the amount of failure. This is why patronizing policies like Affirmative Action are so destructive.

BTW, iirc, the resumes from both groups in the "names" study were rejected at something like a 90% rate, so the difference was only about 3%. It was only by focussing on the acceptance rate that they got the dramatic numbers they were looking for. And this in a very atypical labor market; the summer of 2001 through the spring of 2002.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 30, 2003 04:44 PM

This has been stimulating to think about and it's been helpful to go back into the study bearing in mind the concerns that have been voiced here.

Michelle and E. Avidisian essentially share the same critique, although from different perspectives: they believe that the study is reflecting a pro-conformity or pro-middle class or anti-outsider set of preferences by employers, aggregately, rather than racism as such (E. seems to approve of this, by the way, while Michelle hasn't registered an opinion). In short, their contention is that if the study also looked at Nguyen and Hagop and Ramses and Yehoshua and Sunshine, they would have been called back with the same frequency as the "black" names.

I can't deny it and I therefore overstated the interpretive value of the study. There's nothing in the study as such to tell us what would have happened - although assuming we know what would happen in those conditions, as michelle and e. do, is also unfounded. (Thought experiment for michelle and e.: nguyen et al perform, in aggregate, better than "jamaal," less well than "brendan." Interpret. Repeat for "perform" in aggregate "as well as Brendan," "perform" in aggregate as poorly as "jamaal.") In fact, i was reminded, in skimming back through the material, that the authors call this an "experiment." So let's let more experiments bloom, as michelle suggests.

But meanwhile, let's not dance away from the implications here. As i indicated earlier, i have a bias, too: a bias towards believing that anyone who makes judgements on identical resumes by name is a poor decision-maker whose biases are costing his or her company.

Some of the respondents here are acting as though this were merely a name game, but in fact, this is a resume game. And if a hiring manager is projecting onto "jamaal" something not projected onto the no better qualified "brendan," i still think the likeliest explanation is race and not rejection of anti-conforming behavior.

P.S. Michelle, as abiola said earlier, i think the individual name responses are too small a sample to deal with; only in the aggregate do we see a meaningful pattern of something.

P.P.S. Patrick, "callback" rates is what the study was testing. Unless you are a very fortunate feller, you should know that it is the fate of most resumes most of the time to be ignored. What the study found was that it took 10 resumes for a "brendan" callback and 15 for a "jamaal" callback, and that is stastically meaningful, even in the terms you want to use: 90% rejection for "brendan," 94% rejection for "jamaal." That delta is measuring something real, not a projection of the authors.

Posted by: howard on June 30, 2003 05:22 PM

I just wanted to insert here that on this thread (and others of the same subject) I was extremely impressed by the cogence and clarity of Mr. Lapite's remarks. It's been a long time since I agreed with anyone as vehemently. Mr. Lapite, I really wanted to thank you for what you've said. I also must confess that I used your longer comments as the body of one of my postings at my blog (it's under construction, but the URL is:
"www.jamesrmaclean.com"

Respectfully,

Posted by: James R MacLean on June 30, 2003 05:24 PM

Ironically I believe most people posting here were just DYING to get back onto the AA thread! Recall that B DeLong mentioned this disturbing demographic trend--wealth is far less likely o persist in African American households than in European American onces--in passing, in a post two(?) weeks ago. It is a big problem because the main employers of inner city African Americans are Black-owned firms; there is a very strong correlation borne out by numerous studies; and my own humble opinion is that, for the African American community to make and capture economic gains, there have to exist strong, numerous cohorts of Black-owned businesses.

It seems to me that the real discussion should be, "How can AA be made to work better?" Because a lot of opponents of AA with whom I've discussed the matter will insist they do indeed care about the bad economic outcomes of the African American community. If the bad outcomes are bad, what can be done? Is it not due dilligence for any state to remediate underperformance of the economy among any segment of its population? Is this really a zero-sum game? I've never thought it was. The stagnation of the inner cities certainly does have an element of historical racism--even Fogel & Engermann said so; should a state really refuse to address this problem merely because doing so would involve "reverse discrimination"?

Posted by: James R MacLean on June 30, 2003 05:51 PM

Ironically I believe most people posting here were just DYING to get back onto the AA thread! Recall that B DeLong mentioned this disturbing demographic trend--wealth is far less likely o persist in African American households than in European American onces--in passing, in a post two(?) weeks ago. It is a big problem because the main employers of inner city African Americans are Black-owned firms; there is a very strong correlation borne out by numerous studies; and my own humble opinion is that, for the African American community to make and capture economic gains, there have to exist strong, numerous cohorts of Black-owned businesses.

It seems to me that the real discussion should be, "How can AA be made to work better?" Because a lot of opponents of AA with whom I've discussed the matter will insist they do indeed care about the bad economic outcomes of the African American community. If the bad outcomes are bad, what can be done? Is it not due dilligence for any state to remediate underperformance of the economy among any segment of its population? Is this really a zero-sum game? I've never thought it was. The stagnation of the inner cities certainly does have an element of historical racism--even Fogel & Engermann said so; should a state really refuse to address this problem merely because doing so would involve "reverse discrimination"?

Posted by: James R MacLean on June 30, 2003 05:54 PM

Howard,

God, I'm tired. So just a couple comments. Nguyen is a common Vietnamese *surname*. The study used "Jamal" rather than "Jamaal."

"As i indicated earlier, i have a bias, too: a bias towards believing that anyone who makes judgements on identical resumes by name is a poor decision-maker whose biases are costing his or her company."

That would also go for a manager who preferred an Ebony to an Emily, yes?

Look, I entirely agree with you. Managers ought to be finding the best workers they can; managers who refuse to consider some potential employees because their names look funny to them are not doing their jobs properly. Where I find myself not agreeing is in the assumption that managers put off by "funny-looking" names are racists. I know that you are not making that argument; but some other commenters are.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 30, 2003 11:23 PM

Affirmative action is racist, because it based on the assumption that Blacks and Hispanics are too dumb to compete by the same standards as anybody else.

The racial preferences game is a neurotic dance of white guilt and minority victimological hustling. Everybody knows this, but few will admit it publicly.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on July 1, 2003 12:02 AM

" P.P.S. Patrick, "callback" rates is what the study was testing."

The study was also testing rejection rates, it would be impossible not to, as the sum of both has to equal 100%. They just preferred one end of the telescope to the other, because that's where the drama was.

" Unless you are a very fortunate feller, you should know that it is the fate of most resumes most of the time to be ignored."

Of course, especially in a down labor market such as the recession of 2001, followed by 9-11 (do you suppose having an Arabic name would be helpful then?).

" What the study found was that it took 10 resumes for a "brendan" callback and 15 for a "jamaal" callback, and that is stastically meaningful, even in the terms you want to use: 90% rejection for "brendan," 94% rejection for "jamaal." That delta is measuring something real, not a projection of the authors. "

It's hardly something to be concerned with. For one thing, answering newspaper ads is a lousy way to find a job. For another, what if this study overrepresents firms engaged in Affirmative Action style quotas? Suppose that the names are indeed tip-offs of an applicant's race. Suppose further that blacks are less likely than whites to quit the kinds of jobs offered by companies that advertise in newspapers.

That would lead to AA-practicing firms to have more "white" slots to re-fill, than "black" ones. And when one looks at the REJECTION rate difference of 3-4% that is not at all implausible.

The authors of this study are badly overstating the importance of their finding, even if what they report is accurate.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 1, 2003 07:38 AM

Michelle, i picked up "nguyen" from somewhere earlier in the postings; as for "jamaal" vs. "jamal," just goes to show the power of projection - i was thinking of '70s basketball star jamaal (formerly "keith") wilkes and that overrode the study name.

Patrick, come on, you can do better than this. I get that callbacks are the inverse of rejections - doesn't matter and doesn't mean the study was testing rejections. Regardless, as the study makes clear and as you haven't denied, the difference is statistically significant between the two sets. (To put it onto a common base, for every 30 resumes one group sends out, it gets to go on 3 interviews; for every 30 resumes the other group sends out, it gets to go on 2 interviews. That couldn't be realer.)

The authors of the study went to 1300 companies in two big cities. That's a big enough respondent sample size to draw conclusions from. So what if newspaper ads are a tough way to get a job (or are you showing class bias? for many people, newspaper ads remain the only way to learn about jobs, especially lower on the income scale) - they're tough for everyone.

So what if the time span was a tough time to find a job? It was tough for everyone.

As for your affirmative action theories, please. Perhaps you're not really Patrick Sullivan, but a monkey trying to type shakespeare in his place? See how silly this game can be?

The study picked up something real. I still think the likeliest explanation is racism, but i'm now open to other explanations, such as class bias or fear of outsiders. But what i'm not open to - and more important, 'cause who cares what i think - what the facts aren't open to is a charge of irrelevancy.

Posted by: howard on July 1, 2003 08:08 AM

"Patrick, come on, you can do better than this. I get that callbacks are the inverse of rejections - doesn't matter and doesn't mean the study was testing rejections. Regardless, as the study makes clear and as you haven't denied, the difference is statistically significant between the two sets. (To put it onto a common base, for every 30 resumes one group sends out, it gets to go on 3 interviews; for every 30 resumes the other group sends out, it gets to go on 2 interviews. That couldn't be realer.)"

And it is a difference of 3% from the common base of, 30. Look, this is 4th grade arithmetic.

The issue is NOT "is there racism out there", but does racism explain even part of the difference in incomes between whites and blacks. The study's authors claim that their study proves the latter. But it does not. There are other ways to get a job (starting your own business, for one).

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 1, 2003 09:29 AM
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