22 May 2007

Can't Pass That Test? It Must Be Racist!

I don't know which annoys me more: this lawsuit alleging that New York City is systematically excluding blacks and Hispanics from becoming firefighters by requiring them to pass a written exam that, apparently, most of them can't pass, or the fact that the media and the federal government are taking such a spurious case so seriously.

Essentially, minority (actually, that's a misnomer; in New York City, whites are in the minority) candidates have been doing considerably worse on the exam than whites. Ergo, in the minds of race-obsessed attorneys and activists, the test must be racist. Well, how about this: when as a teenager I was rejected by the college I most wanted to attend, I didn't call a lawyer and demand that he file suit on grounds that the University of Michigan systematically discriminated against white working class youth from downriver Detroit. I accepted (albeit reluctantly) that I had spent too much of my high school years goofing off instead of studying.

Similarly, if large numbers of black candidates are failing to do well on the firefighters exam, why does this prove something is wrong with the system? Wouldn't it be more helpful to look at what it is about the black community that continues to produce inordinate numbers of young people who can't or won't acquire the basic level of education necessary to function well and prosper in society?

The argument being made is that the skills being tested by the exam are "not relevant" to what a good firefighter needs to know. This may or may not be true. But all things being equal, when the fire department shows up at your house, would you prefer that the firemen (or women) be the smartest men and women or available? Or would you prefer to have a number of them be dumber as long as they make a good poster for racial and cultural diversity?

Yes, I agree it's unfortunate that in a city more than half black and brown, the fire department is overwhelmingly white. But there's a solution that doesn't involve lawsuits and dumbing down of standards: it entails parents in minority communities making sure their kids get to school and do their homework, which is exactly how every other minority community in the past has advanced itself. While we're at it, I note that whites are greatly overrepresented in the fields of medicine and aviation. Would you like the doctor who operates on you or the pilot who flies you on your next journey to be awarded his or her accreditation based on skin color rather than on being the best qualified for the job?

Perhaps we should turn things around and look at fields in which black people are overrepresented. Take professional basketball, for instance: shouldn't more white players be encouraged to join the NBA even if they can't jump quite as high or run quite as fast as some black players? After all, it's only a game, right? Which is more important, winning, or reflecting America's multi-racial character on the basketball court? (P.S. South Africa and Zimbabwe have already instituted this kind of affirmative action to put an end to white dominance of their cricket teams.)

What about rap music? Is it fair that one of the most popular and lucrative music genres should be overwhelmingly dominated by members of one race? Nitpickers and quibblers might argue that most whites don't have the same feel for rhythm and rhyme that blacks do, but that's hardly an excuse for setting standards that systematically exclude a large portion of the population from the fun and profits of being a successful rap artist. Why, think what it does to a young white boy's self-esteem when he sees his African-American classmates welcomed into the hip hop fraternity while he remains cruelly excluded?

Hey, all I'm asking for here is a little consistency. If we're going to assign positions and honors based on skin color, then let's just say so and apply it across the board. But if we're supposed to be a true meritocracy, where everyone has an equal opportunity for success but no one has a guarantee of it, can we please put an end to this obsession with race that ends up being just another variant - and perhaps a more pernicious form at that - of racism?

1 comment:

WWW.JonnyCrackUp.com said...

Remeber that there is always hidden racism. Some people aren't up front racist they may be behind closed doors and it's not obvious. Hidden Racism is a creepy crawler.