Against the Love of It

In response to last week’s post about tearing down statues, Misha Burnett pointed out that positive discrimination denies white males jobs, grants, and other things they are qualified for. And I agree totally with his unstated assumption that it isn’t fair to punish white males for the actions of their ancestors, in the same way that it isn’t fair that entire families are locked up because one member speaks out against the glorious leader.

However, I also see the merit in the assumption behind positive discrimination: that if generations of, for example, African Americans have been in a worst economic position due to racism, then overcoming that requires giving the current generation a countervailing advantage. Or to put it another way, if one child hasn’t eaten today and another hasn’t eaten this week, you give more of the sandwich to the child who hasn’t eaten for days.

Of course, that isn’t fair to the child who hasn’t eaten today. We’re trapped punishing one or the other for something that isn’t their fault.

Except we aren’t. You’re thinking about how you’d divide up the sandwich because I told you how to divide up a sandwich. Pull back the mental camera: there isn’t just one sandwich, there are lots of sandwiches. And lots of other food. Most of it is just on one table rather than free to distribute.

Giving a hand up to the oppressed isn’t irreconcilable with offering a fair opportunity to those who, through no fault of their own, were born white (or male); however, it can look that way because tacit (and not so tacit) pseudo-aristocracies have thrown one of yesterday’s stale sandwiches into the arena and whispered “let’s you and him fight”.

Money can be a useful tool: I certainly wouldn’t want to have to do complex barters with physical products every time I shopped. Capitalism-as-a-concept might not require unethical behaviour. But the current real-world politico-economic structure is unfair, unfair to black and white, unfair to male and female, unfair to almost everyone.

3 thoughts on “Against the Love of It

  1. It’s a benefit / detriment list.

    List all the positive aspects of society, awarded as default, for a while male and all the negative impacts of the same assumption.

    Do the same for a black man.

    The lists will be drastically different.

    Most folks can’t fathom or accept such lists as applicable to themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some groups definitely have a greater number of privileges in Western societies. However, some of those privileges are only theoretical for a given individual. For example, being white and being male are both defaults for high political office. However, not having those obstacles in the way of becoming Prime Minister doesn’t realistically mean anything to a white male sheet metal worker in his fifties who’s just been made redundant.

      So, I think you’re right about it being a matter of not fathoming; and not in a negative sense. Attempting to take an objective view of society is hard enough when one has leisure and specific skills in logical reasoning, so it seems reasonable that a white man who only received mandatory education and who is working long hours just to keep his family’s head above water wouldn’t see something that isn’t a benefit to them as a benefit.

      Liked by 1 person

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