Thursday, July 05, 2007

Books: Crazies and Wimps

This week I've been reading the latest book by Bernard Goldberg, Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right - How One Side Lost its Mind and the Other Lost its Nerve. Goldberg is the author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News, Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite, and 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37).

There are lots of little tidbits on Don Imus, Ann Coulter, Fox News, "Bush Derangement Syndrome", Alec Baldwin, girly men, global warming, the separation of church and state, muslim extremists, the War on Terror, Jews, pork barrel spending...lots of stuff. All of it organized very well, allowing one to crack open the book anywhere and spend a pleasant half hour.

His most trenchant commentary is on the subject of race in America. I thought I'd quote a passage towards the end of Crazies. I think it hits the sweet spot of the overwhelming hypocrisy built into our handling of racial issues:
[I]f affirmative action and racial preferences are such a good idea, then why don't we use them in really important things, like sports and politics?

Let's start with basketball. To make college and pro teams more diverse, let's reject some really talented black players in favor of white guys, who might not be as good but bring something very important to the table—namely the color of their skin; their minority whiteness.

But what about merit, you say. Shouldn't we take the best players without regard to race? In a word, No! White kids grew up with a distinct disadvantage. They go to inferior high schools (basketball-wise), and could never compete in the big leagues without affirmative action.

But won't the white kids feel stigmatized? Won't they know they got picked for the team not because of their ability but because of their skin color? Who cares! Too much is at stake to worry about such insignificant matters. Sports, as we all know, are a microcosm of America. And so America has a stake in the greater good. And that greater good is called ... diversity!

My plan is to initiate affirmative action at two college basketball powerhouses: the University of Michigan and Michigan State. Why there? Because in 2006 the head coaches of the men's basketball teams at both of those schools publicly came out against a state ballot measure that would have outlawed racial preferences in college admissions. "I know what it takes to build a team," Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach said, "and that is diversity. We need all kinds of players on our team."

So, if Coach Tom Izzo and his pal Coach Tommy Amaker of the University of Michigan care so much about diversity then I'm sure they'd be very happy to ditch four or five of their talented black players to make room for four or five young white men who can't jump—or maybe can't dribble, either. All in the name of diversity, of course!

Now let's move on to politics. Under my plan, beginning with the 2008 presidential campaign, every white male candidate would have to tell the American people where he stands on affirmative action as it is currently practiced—meaning that race is used not just as a factor, but often as the factor in deciding who gets into college or who gets hired in the workplace. Once we've established who's for it and who's against it, we would then use the University of Michigan affirmative action plan as our model. Under that plan, certain applicants got twenty extra "admission points" simply because they were minorities. The system worked quite well. It kept many highly qualified white kids out, since they had the wrong skin color. Diversity, as we all know by now, is more important than anything else.

And so it is with presidential politics. Last time I checked, this country has never elected a black president. That's because Americans are racists. If they weren't, they would have elected a fine, decent, honorable man like Al Sharpton, when he ran.

Under my plan every white male candidate who comes out in favor of affirmative action—if he is running against a woman or a racial minority—would have to spot that candidate ten percentage points before the votes are even counted, to make up for past injustices against women and minorities. So if the white male candidate were to "win" the vote by, say, nine percentage points—he would in fact lose the election, because of the ten bonus points. What could be more fair?

Satire, yes, but the point he makes is that racial preferences do nothing for "diversity"; the divide is only increased. It becomes reverse institutional racism. Why do we have to go through that all over again?

The answer? Because it makes people feel better to think that something exculpatory is being done to redress grievances. And if that something bears an uncanny resemblance to the flawed racist policies of the past, well then, we have a lot of guilt to atone for.

It's masochism, self-flagellation. However, many people opposed to this reverse discrimination say nothing because being in the crosshairs of the diversity crowd's gunsights isn't too far removed from what would have happened to a white bus driver in Selma, Alabama, in the 50s who dared to allow blacks to sit in the front of the bus.

Remember what happened to Lawrence Summers, former Harvard President and former Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton? The reverse discrimination/affirmative action crowd at Harvard disgorged him from his position as President because he dared to say out loud that he thought that genetics might be a reason why there were fewer women in the fields of math and the hard sciences.

Summers crumpled under the relentless criticism from the diversity mavens because he knew that he had said something entirely out of character for a Harvard President with the pedigree he has. He apologized repeatedly and abjectly for having strayed from the fold. He even went so far as to pledge other people's money to increase diversity awareness at Harvard. None of it was good enough for that crowd, though. Summers resigned and order was restored, the order of the right-thinking diversifiers. (A very good synopsis and analysis of Summers' gaffe can be found here.)

The Crazies insist that their guilt-ridden compassion should be the law of the land and the Wimps accept the craziness as the price of high office. Isn't it time for "a little rebellion, now and then" that Jefferson called for?

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