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Author Topic: What drives AA?  (Read 3949 times)

philibusters

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What drives AA?
« on: March 20, 2006, 05:54:47 PM »
It seems like the majority of posters assume that AA is driven by altrustic attitudes on the part of white elites (like law school deans, university presidents, et cetera)  Thus people who support AA on this website talk about rewarding people who overcame hardship, while those against AA point out there are better alternatives to rewarding overcoming hardship than having a quota-like system based on race in school admissions and that basing it on econo-socio factors would work better.  I think both sides should re-evaulate their assumptions on what drives AA.  I can think of three things that could possibly drive AA.  I will discuss each of them.

1)  Legitimizing social instituions: In 2006, an all white, all male law profession would not be viewed as legitimate by the people.  For social institutions to work properly they have to be viewed as legitimate, hence the need for URM's.  Quoting myself from the Is AA moral thread I said "I think so because what is at stake in affirmative action is legitimating a hierarchical system that distributes monetary resources and political power very unevenly.  Tests like the SAT and LSAT are used to justify or legitimate a system that gives some lots of money and power and others very little.  However, I am NOT saying the SAT or LSAT is completely without merit (in fact they probably have some correlation with eventually success in law school and later practice) I'm just saying  that those who get good scores and later earn a good salary, who learn how to use the political system, marry attractive partners, and have adorable kids, legitimate their good fortune by pointing to the SAT and LSAT.  In fact like I said earlier the SAT and LSAT may be like an accurate picture in that it captures the moment of time, but it doesn't tell a story about why the person got a score they did.  They may have studied for two years, took a prep course, be naturally smart, beat the odds and instead of guessing 1 out of every 5 right, guessed 1 out of 2 right, who knows.  In that way standard tests don't tell the story of how a person got the score they got, and therefore don't measure merit in potential, but only in a snapshot at one moment."  Since so much is stake on tests like the LSAT and GPA's in justifying some getting good jobs and power and others not, when the criteria fails to include urm's who are the naturally leaders of their community, when the criteria for whatever reasons, seems to favor one class to the exclusion of others, and when you live in a society that values diversity, and the notion of economic opp. equality you have legitimacy problem.  AA helps solve this dilemna, but making it appear the criteria used to distinguish merit (who are the best leaders of tomorrow really are) is working when in fact its failing.  From this vantage point the main point of AA is legitimizing the legal profession in a society that demands diversity that represents the population at large and the notion of equal economic opp.

2.  Part of political Process- how many white people who are avidly for AA would be for it, if African Americans tended to vote Republican?  I have no idea, but one way to see AA is as a result of political processes.  Again quoting myself from the other thread with slight modifications "To a lesser extent I think AA is about politics.  There are literally thousands of interest groups, urm's make up a few of those interest groups.  Isn't politics about give and take-if there is no give. African Americans make up a key component of the Democratic Party (the party to which I belong to) and without them the Democrats would have no shot, absolutely NO SHOT to compete with the Republicans on the national stage.  To me considering how important African Americans are to the Democrats its amazing they haven’t got more from the political processes, compared to what the Republicans give businessmen or the NRA or Democrats give the middle classes.  In fact, AA is one of the few things that urm's get.  In other words, we can see AA as a development from political coalitions where urm groups support the initiatives of other groups in return for support for some benefits that go to themselves."

3)  Altrustic motives- This is the idea that AA is designed to help African Americans because they are particularly disadvantaged.  African Americans have been screwed over countless times by white people and its time we give a little back, whether you consider it altrustic or a form of restitution doesn't matter, the pt. is AA is designed to help disadvantaged black people have opp's that would be denied to them, but be open to almost everybody else without the help of AA.  I think that this is probably a motive for a lot of people, but rarely is there only motive.  For example, an economic-social AA policy might be a better alternative, and why once in law school do most schools stop helping the African Americans if the real purpose of AA is to help them, finally if people are so altrustic why does it only apply to African Americans.  You could offer a restitution like theory, we are helping them now, not only because they are disadvantaged, but because its our fault they are disadvantaged, but to me that sounds a little more like my first theory-legitimizng social and political institutions than true altrustic motives.

In the end, I have no problem with AA cause I believe its part of a healthy political process, legitimizes an important social and political institution (the law profession), and sometimes brings out the best in people (helping complete strangers.  Thus I like AA policies.  BUT for all those non-urm's avidly supporting it I think you need to face some facts 1) you are benefitting the legal profession (and hence yourselves) just as much as the AA admits by having an AA policy (so don't act like you are totally not self-interested) and 2)if helping the disadvantaged was the real driving force behind AA their would be better alternatives than basing it EXCLUSIVELY on the race.  For those urm's who support your self interest in the process in more obvious.  For those non-urm's who detest, I am sure each one of you is part of a political group that receives huge political gifts (hey if you are a lawyer you are in the upper middle class mostly likely getting tax breaks, if you are white you get tons of informal breaks, this list would be never ending if one attempted to write it) so why are you complaining when urm's get one little thing.  If you didn't get in you were a marginal candidate anyway, stop whining.  My conclusion-there are no superheroes in AA its all about social and political processes.
2008 graduate of William and Mary Law School

philibusters

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2006, 02:00:08 PM »
Hmmm, I just read my post, its a lot more confusing then I remember when I wrote it.

Some clarifications

Point 1: actually point 1 was really two points I failed to separate.  One point was that we live in a democratic society, with both egalistarian and meritocracy principles, so in order for the law profession to be seen as legitmate (both by the people in the legal profession itself, and those outside the legal profession) it needs to produce lawyers to have some resemblance (not necessarily a close resemblance) to the composition of the country as a whole.
 The second pt. that was not properly seperated, was more practical, that AA is used to disguise the fact that LSAT and GPA fail as admissions criteria if the goal is at least in part to get lawyers who somewhat resemble the rest of the country, in other words, the admissions process would ahve to change (think Berekley, if AA wasn't used to disguise the weakness).
Point 2: My second pt. was fairly clear, but I'll add emphasize on why its important that AA arises from a political process.  People complain that middle class african americans get benefits through AA they don't deserve--the rebut to that is, AA is the result of a political process, that means things are complicated, some white democrats might support it to keep african americans in the party, the african americans might support out of pride of their race, other democrats might be snobish and think they are helping the poor, downtrodden and helpless-in other words, you can't fine tune it because its teh result of a complex political process and motivations

Point 3:  Everybody position on AA is somewhat self-interested

African Americans-they receive obvious benefits

Those agaisnt it-
a.  if not a urm, it would theortically hurt them if they were a marginally candiadate at a school
b. if a urm, they may seem its as de-valuing their real accomplishments and see it as condscending

Those for it in the legal profession-
a. they probably honestly believe in certain values, its doubtful that they would think of themselves as legitimate if law profession was all white profession (analogize to the tensions of slave owners in late 18th century America-Jefferson, Washington, et cetera all realized the tensions between the ideas of the revolution and slavery)
b. lawyers are lots of times community leaders, if people saw them as an all white profession and unlegitimate their place as leaders of the community would diminished and they would be seen more like businessmen for example-only interested in the bottom line.

Those for it outside the legal profession-
a. Are you a democrat or republican
b. if you aren't strongly partisan or aren't an idealist, you would have no real self-interest, and though you might ahve an opinion its doubtful it would be an important issue to you
2008 graduate of William and Mary Law School

AN E

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2006, 10:10:45 PM »
It is mostly political.  The point about minorities being part of the profession legitimizing the law as a profession is a good one, but this does not explain why AA overwhelmingly increases the ranking (quality) of the school a minority applicant can go to.  Unless you need comparable representation in areas of law that are exclusive to top schools, just having black lawyers cannot be explained by current AA policy (it would be much easier to just offer scholarships/have higher enrollment at lesser schools).  Also, I think that the majority of anti-AA students are those who are trying to go to top schools, those trying to go to local second tier schools are probably largely unaware or indifferent—hence AA policies at these schools are not challenged nearly as much.

I won’t even comment on the altruistic motives of the school or anyone else.  My guess is they are minimal if they exist at all.

I think it is mainly political.  Special interest politics is the major force behind social policy.  Revoking AA policies or eliminating race from them would enrage blacks, especially young blacks in universities—who when aggravated, like any large group of young people, can cause quite a bit of trouble.  Ensuring that a certain percentage of the entering class is black appeases this group and has only a marginal effect on the rest of the population (white people).  The gain is more focused than the loss; that is what drives it.

philibusters

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2006, 12:22:02 AM »
good pt.
2008 graduate of William and Mary Law School

shaz

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2006, 12:40:37 AM »
It is mostly political.  The point about minorities being part of the profession legitimizing the law as a profession is a good one, but this does not explain why AA overwhelmingly increases the ranking (quality) of the school a minority applicant can go to.  Unless you need comparable representation in areas of law that are exclusive to top schools, just having black lawyers cannot be explained by current AA policy (it would be much easier to just offer scholarships/have higher enrollment at lesser schools).  Also, I think that the majority of anti-AA students are those who are trying to go to top schools, those trying to go to local second tier schools are probably largely unaware or indifferent—hence AA policies at these schools are not challenged nearly as much.

I won’t even comment on the altruistic motives of the school or anyone else.  My guess is they are minimal if they exist at all.

I think it is mainly political.  Special interest politics is the major force behind social policy.  Revoking AA policies or eliminating race from them would enrage blacks, especially young blacks in universities—who when aggravated, like any large group of young people, can cause quite a bit of trouble.  Ensuring that a certain percentage of the entering class is black appeases this group and has only a marginal effect on the rest of the population (white people).  The gain is more focused than the loss; that is what drives it.


prestige? 

most of the minorities that end up in hys have the numbers.  some may have numbers that are closer to top 20 but they still have numbers at/around the 25%.  if all these minorities were granted full rides at top 20-25 schools but dinged at each and every top10 (including hys) then what's to prevent firms from limiting their hiring to top 10 only.  many firms already do this.  it would be hard for the aba to require firms to higher minorities when they can validly argue that they would if they could find ANY in the top 10.  this is an extreme example.   
losin' sleep, gainin' knowledge.

AN E

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2006, 02:15:44 AM »
Probably true, although without AA it is not as if minorities would be absent from the top ten or even hys by any stretch; only their numbers would be smaller.  Also, a form of diversity that was based on something else, lets say, getting students from poor areas (you could determine this by zip code, family income, etc) would be de facto race-based AA that would, in my opinion, help those black students who have had the most disadvantages and whose parents and grand-parents are more likely to have been victims of racist policy or at least their victimization was greater.

Only problem with non-race based AA would be that upper, and maybe to a lesser extent, middle class blacks would not be included.  Middle and upper-class blacks have more power within the black community (just as their white counterparts do). And therefore, middle and upper-class blacks are able to control the ‘black-agenda’ or better, what policies for which blacks will fight.  By continuing to make AA a race policy, they can maintain the AA status quo. Even though some alternatives could realistically create just as many ‘spots’ for blacks (along with their poor white friends) and would benefit those blacks who are most disadvantaged.

The more you think about it, the more obvious the interest group politics explanation is.

lkny

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2006, 11:26:38 AM »
What about diversity for the sake of school attractiveness? Whites don't need to look at the diversity rankings. URMs do. URMs would choose a lesser school just to be among other URMs. Schools lacking diversity lose top talents. Therefore it is in their best interests, in the long run, to attract URMs.

AN E

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2006, 05:24:58 PM »
I won’t speculate as to what large, non-homogenous groups would do under hypothetical changes in diversity rankings or AA programs.  I think it would be foolish to say that a law school would have lower numbers (US news) in the absence of an AA, but they would be demonized as a racist institution by black interest groups.

Furthermore, actual diversity is not achieved by race-based diversity.  Real diversity would be achieved by considering backgrounds, geography, political ideologies, undergraduate institutions, and majors among other things.  A by-product of real diversity would, in my opinion, be racial diversity.  But it would exclude privileged blacks who are not up to par with their privileged white friends and include disadvantaged whites and blacks at their expense.

I wonder how many T14 students are blacks from Mississippi; a state that, if I am correct, has the highest black population by percentage in the country.  I wonder how many come from poor southern or Midwestern states/areas period, black or white.  Any of you know a T14 student from the Ozarks?  How bout the Appalachian Mountains south of Pennsylvania?  Any of you know a white T14 student who grew up in the projects or in a trailer?  You might, but how many? 

If AA were the result of attempts to diversify or altruistic feeling toward those who are disadvantaged or whose parents or grandparents were denied opportunities, it would have a different and further-reaching structure.

The bottom line is that blacks are appeased by letting the most privileged attend top schools and leaving it at that—going any further would start to hurt the children of wealthy whites who are not hurt in any way by AA.

I want to note that the only thing I am arguing is that AA is the result of interest group politics.  I am not proposing alternatives or even rebuking AA, just trying to analyze its cause.  When I mention scenarios where AA could be different, I am only doing so to demonstrate why other explanations fail.

lkny

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2006, 08:41:07 PM »
I don't care for diversity of economic background. When I look at a school I want to know if I'll feel at ease with the student body. How Asian-Americans are represented is a very important criterion for me in deciding which school to attend. I don't care if they're poor or rich. Schools where minorities are underrepresented are at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting top prospects. I think that's motivation enough to use AA.

AN E

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Re: What drives AA?
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2006, 09:41:18 PM »
I don’t really know how that adds to the debate about what drives AA.  Asians aren’t really included in AA.  If you are suggesting that AA is in place to improve numbers, please make a more convincing argument.

If this logic holds, the same would be true for Southerners.  I am sure that top ranked Southern students would rather attend a school that has greater Southern representation—the cost of equalization (in terms of accepting lesser qualified students) would exceed the gains of attracting the better applicants, just as is the case with AA.

Also, this is a little off topic, but if you still need to be around people of your race in order to be ‘at ease,’ I think you have a problem.