Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"D'Souza: Affirmative action no longer needed; Former Reagan policy analyst tackles tough topics at WSU"

In today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Amy Gray does a decent job of providing a précis of Dinesh D'Souza's remarks at WSU last night. For the sake of clarity, I will add my comments after hers in red:

Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza told a packed house at Washington State University on Tuesday that affirmative action as it exists should be retired.

D'Souza is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in India and came to America as an exchange student at 17. He was educated at Dartmouth College and went on to become a policy analyst for President Ronald Reagan and a Robert and Karen Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

He was introduced at WSU's Smith Center for Undergraduate Education as "one of America's most influential conservative thinkers, a highly acclaimed scholar and true patriot." [No mention of the WSU College Republicans sponsoring this event at considerable cost? Come on.]

D'Souza said affirmative action was "conceived for one group - African-Americans, blacks - for a specific period of time." Other groups such as gay people and women eventually began to seek affirmative action to counter discrimination in employment and education.

He said blacks are a small minority in America - 10 percent. Hispanics make up another 10 percent of the population, and women make up 50 percent.

"Now we have a majority," he said.

He told the audience of a debate he had with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"Our skin colors were identical. Why do I and he have an opposite take on the same set of facts?" D'Souza asked.

He said the answer is he represents immigrants and Jackson represents indigenous minority groups such as blacks and American Indians - people who "have been here longer than the Italians and the Jews."

He said the difference in the two populations is that immigrants compare America to the rest of the world whereas Jackson "was comparing America to Utopia, to a garden of Eden, and America consistently falls short." [He also asked Jackson to specifically name where this discrimination that is supposedly being fought still exists; to name just one example from today. Jackson couldn't. How's that for "comparative ethnic studies?"

Dinesh didn't mention it, but I would imagine this also explains Barack Obama's poor polling numbers with Hispanic and Asian-American voters. D'Souza commented how Obama could be uniquely positioned to transcend racism. Obama is much more like the immigrant. His Kenyan father only attended college in Hawaii and then returned to Kenya. Obama's ancestors were never slaves. The only "indigenous" part of Obama is his white Kansas family. But, somewhat unexpectedly, race has become an issue in the presidential race, with Jeremiah Wright's sermons demonstrating the "typhoonic rage" of the indigenous minorities.]

D'Souza pointed out that 50 percent of National Football League players are black, and no one complains about discrimination in that case. [Dinesh didn't say the NFL was specifically 50 percent black. He mentioned several pro sports and several percentages. More accurately, 75% of the of NFL players and 85% of NBA players are black. His point was that blacks, comprising some 10% of the population, are overrepresented in pro sports. He wondered where are the protests about having more Koreans and Jews in pro sports. Pro sports teams pick players based on merit, not race. This merit standard results in the inequality observed.]

"They're outperforming everybody as a result of achievement, not social power or a game that's rigged in their favor," he said.

He countered notions that standardized tests are racially biased, focusing on math portions of tests that require absolute answers.

"Is it really possible that all these tests are conspiratorially based?" he asked. "In any test given to a group - reasoning, math, vocabulary, legal skills - I will tell you the results. Asian-Americans and whites will do the best. Hispanics will come in second and African-Americans will come in last." [Dinesh offered three theories as to why these test results happen:

1. The Genetics Theory - it's how you're born.
2. The Liberal Theory - it's all society's fault.
3. The Cultural/Behavioral Theory - it's up to you and your family.

He believes that the "Cultural/Behavioral Theory" is the most plausible and empirically proven. As an example, he talked about a study conducted of racial groups and the amount of time spent on homework weekly. Those numbers corresponded exactly to how well each group did on tests. Dinesh suggested this had to do with parental involvement. Asian-Americans have the lowest illegimacy rate and Hispanics and blacks have the highest. It could be that children from two parent homes have more parental involvement/supervision than children from single parent homes. Ironically, this is the same point that Chuck Pezeshki made in his column yesterday, even though I'm sure Pezeshki would disagree with most everything D'Souza said.]

Francene Watson, a doctoral candidate in the WSU College of Education, told D'Souza she believed he was oversimplifying race issues with regard to educational advancement.

"In 10 years as a public high school teacher, I've never had a student ask me to lower the standards," she said. "We're talking about something that's institutionalized. Public school has always been about oppression. I would like to hear a more critical analysis than saying everyone is a blank slate and they show up in a class and test."

D'Souza likened affirmative action to "lowering the net" for basketball players who are not as tall as Michael Jordan. [Dinesh discussed how much Michael Jordan himself would have resisted this. If that had happened, all of Jordan's records and accomplishments would be asterisked, much as Barry Bonds' will be. Affirmative action and lowered standards strengthen racist stereotypes. In essence, the liberals who claim to be racism's biggest foes are actually the worst racists, intentional or not, demonstrating a "plantation mentality."

For example, Pullman's Don Orlich had a column on the WASL that appeared in both the Daily News and Spokesman-Review earlier this year. Orlich pointed out what D'Souza pointed out last night:

Data for all 10th-graders – approximately 75,000 – who took the WASL in 2006-07 show the following: The percentages meeting standard — that is, passing an arbitrary score — were 80.8 on reading, 83.9 on writing, 50.4 on math and 36.4 on science.

White and Asian students exceeded those performances in all categories.

But the percentages for black students were 37 for reading, 39.3 for writing, 14.2 for math and 9.2 for science.

Orlich's solution? Dump the WASL, for everyone. Here are some reactions to Orlich's column from letters to the editor in the Spokesman-Review:
I find much of Mr. Orlich's commentary insulting, and suggesting that establishing a common standard of achievement and testing for it is inherently discriminatory against those who don't measure up ought to be insulting to them, too. Accepting that line of thinking will keep you right where you are – instead of reaching for the stars.
Donald Orlich, for his scathing rebuke of the WASL (Jan. 31), gets my vote for poster child for the soft bigotry of race-based, lowered expectations, his allusion to MLK's "I have a dream" speech being completely inapposite, highly offensive rhetoric. It comes as a complete shock and outrage to read a WSU professor's admission that he has little hope of blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics and American Indians, ever competing academically with whites.

Of course, Orlich doesn't see himself as a bigot, but that's the perfect word for the person who, in giving up on minorities, indirectly labels them as inferior. I have seen this before in education, where the teacher who says somebody's got to work at Burger King is venerated, viewed as experienced and positive, and the one who pushes black, red, brown and white all just as hard called naive, not suited for teaching, counterproductive, even racist!

Spokesman-Review, don't you ever again trash a national icon like MLK by publishing plain racism, however indirect or subtle, racism purporting to have his endorsement no less! If MLK stood for anything, it is stop judging people by the color of their skin, his "I have a dream" speech being the best example of this conviction.]

"Racism in America is substantially different than it was in the past. In the South, it was systematic," he said, using segregated water fountains as an example.

"Racism today is not only less than it used to be but it is episodic rather than systematic," D'Souza said. "We may be in the best position to correct this. We must sometimes take responsibility for things we didn't do. Individual responsibility means you need to take the cards you're dealt and do the best with them. Policies need to be based on achievement, development and merit. Instead of trying to rig the outcome, invest resources to allow people to do better." [Dinesh referred to this as the two strategies that minorities could use: The "Protest Strategy" (or the "Cornel West Strategy"- West believes blacks face "existential angst" from their slave past and that accounts for their problems) or the "Assimilation Strategy."

Are a lot of school subjects not culturally "neutral?" Sure. It's AMERICAN history, for example. But shouldn't we all learn that as we live in America?

Yes, America was slaveholding longer than it has been free. But what's the point in bringing up the past? No one alive today was a slave, nor was anyone's parents or grandparents. Rather than protest against things in the past that cannot be changed, why not make the best of it now? He gave an example from his own experience in India. People would blame British colonialism for plumbing leaks and broken down trains. And indeed, it was the British that had originally laid those pipes and tracks. But if all the Indians did was to blame the British, nothing would ever get fixed. D'Souza pointed out how the stereotype 40 years ago of "eat your food, there are people starving in India" has changed to "be careful or an Indian will take your job." This has been accomplished by an assimilation attitude, not a protest attitude.]

D'Souza's comments were met with mixed reaction. As students exited, one shouted, "That guy's racist!"

WSU freshman Shera Shupert thought her fellow students were rude to D'Souza.

"He's a respected speaker at our university and people were yelling at him," she said. [Not hard to believe at all, considering just a year and a half ago, a WSU professor called a student a "white shitbag" and likened a College Republican demonstration to a "swastika in a Jewish neighborhood" and only faced minimal disciplinary action.

For the most part, the faculty/students asking questions last night weren't really asking questions or engaging in debate. They were making statements (one guy admitted as much); precanned statements regurgitating what they have been indoctrinated about concerning "white supremacy" from the likes of John Streamas, David Leonard, Richard King, TV Reed, et. al. (Were any of those guys there? I didn't see them, nor did I see Alex McDonald.)

The ad hominem argument is really about all the liberals have in their arsenal. Other commenters tried to imply that D'Souza was somehow "elitist" and "privileged," even though he is a dark-skinned Indian immigrant from a humble background. They chided his humorous comments as being "insensitive." That and a few straw man arguments thrown in here and there for good measure. There were implications that Dinesh was denying that racism had ever occurred or was somehow glossing over the damaging effects of racism. He made no such allegations. D'Souza just stated that those things are not happening NOW.]

D'Souza reminded the group that "In a university you also need racial, gender, cultural, and language diversity -- but you also need intellectual diversity and I hope I've tried to provide that," he said. [He did. I hope a few young minds were enlightened. The unenlightened ones were certainly embarassing to WSU, but I'm sure Dinesh is used to that.]

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

Excellent analysis. The Don Orlich tie-in was a bonus. In my opinion, your post exposes the elitist and condescending attitude of the local hard-core Leftists. Tie it in with Dierdre Rogers testimony that Wal-Mart will attract less than desirable bargain shoppers and you have the complete picture.