Editor’s note: This post is obvious satire. If you can’t see that, then shame on you.
I have no objection to affirmative action (AA) in principle. Often candidates will be pretty much the same with respect to any objectively measurable traits relevant to the job. People make these decisions on grounds over and above strict meritocratic criteria, and it’s hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. So I have no objection to hiring the person who has an unemployed spouse or children or elderly parents to support rather than some childless unmarried twenty-something with some inherited money—a fairly common kind of candidate in philosophy. Likewise, I’d hire A over B if A is a decent normal person and B is a resentful leftist who despises ordinary people and thinks they all need him to scold them about their ‘privilege’. We have enough halfwit leftist ideologues and traitors in our institutions. Ordinary people who don’t hate themselves and their families are paying for all of this, after all.
So in my ideal world, there’d be some AA. Or, better yet, there’d be informal common sense judgments about hiring and admissions and so on, without parasitic Human Resources bureaucracies subjecting these decisions to their insane micro-managerial bullshit. But actual AA policies are indifferent to the common sense moral considerations that I’ve just laid out. Is there anything we could do to make actual AA somewhat more reasonable and morally defensible?
Let’s grant any of the (absurd) justifications that the establishment takes to support actual AA. For example, it’s needed because we need ‘diversity’. Mere racial or ethnic or cultural difference—among other kinds of mere difference—is valuable somehow, and actual AA is the best or only way to bring it about. Or it’s needed because we have to ‘represent’ every group in society. If 1% of the US population are disabled lesbians, we should have at least a few of those in academic philosophy. Or it’s needed because it’s a matter of justice. Some groups are ‘under-represented’ in philosophy (or whatever) because there’s some kind of ‘systemic’ oppression working against them, and actual AA serves to counteract this horrible (invisible) oppression. Now one problem that immediately arises is that there are so many groups that could reasonably claim preferences under any of these justifications. Not just blacks and native Indians and so-called ‘hispanics’ but also gays and women, Pacific Islanders and Puerto Ricans, Muslims and Arabs—and don’t you dare forget that not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs! So many groups, but only a very small number of positions open, especially in this dismal economy and especially in a field like philosophy.
Here is one solution. Within the class C against whom we are going to discriminate with our AA policies, identify some sub-class C1 such that our discrimination would be far better justified under the usual justifications than it would be for some other sub-class C2. Keep on discriminating as before against C1 as before, but discriminate much more harshly against C2. Keep doing this until we’ve run out of relevant comparisons between sub-classes. (Another and perhaps better solution would be to start firing or forcing into early retirement most of those straight white males who still hold so many positions and, interestingly, tend to favor very aggressive AA against people like themselves. But I’m thinking here of what is realistically possible.)
Are there actually any such pairs of sub-classes within the non-preferred class? Indeed there are. Obviously, I am proposing far harsher discrimination against Straight Male White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (SMWASPs). (Or those who don’t think they’re women and don’t have any disabilities, or whatever exactly makes you a bad privileged person at this point. You get the idea.) Those guys are so clearly the most privileged and over-represented. They run everything. Our whole society is based on worship of their culture and their heroes and their historical narrative. Everyone knows that if you criticize them your career is in danger. Every movie and TV show is basically just propaganda for SMWASP hegemony. Another show about Davy Crockett? Yet another movie about those heroic early British colonists fighting off hostile savage Indians? Enough already. Our kids are already brainwashed by third grade. They’re only told about the achievements of SMWASPs. They never hear about The Reverend Martin Luther King Junior, Doctor of Philosophy, for example. Isn’t it time to expose people to someone else’s experience and perspective and history? And within the discipline of philosophy, our canon and methodology are not just Euro-centric but, more specifically, SMWASP-centric. Seems like every second professor is a SMWASP. All those John Smiths and Peter Browns and Henry Joneses. What happened to everyone else?
Just kidding. I am thinking, of course, of Jews. (Especially the ones who are male, able-bodied, don’t think they’re women, etc.) And since so many of them are also Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) I assume they’ll readily agree with my proposal once I lay out the reasoning. Within the generic class of the non-preferred, there is no other sub-class so astoundingly ‘privileged’ and ‘over-represented’ in positions of power and prestige and influence both within our larger society and within the discipline of philosophy. Jews are maybe 2% of the US population but almost 50% of all US billionaires. If Obama gets his way, they’ll be almost half of the Supreme Court justices. Jews really do have a greatly disproportionate power over the media and the banks. The Chairman (Chairperson?) of the Federal Reserve is always Jewish. Look at who owns the big media companies and networks. On my desk I have some typical introductory anthology for a class in ethics, and almost half of the essays by contemporary philosophers are written by Jews. In the history of the discipline in the last century, for example, we find that Jews make up an absurd proportion of the Great Philosophers. Jewish perspectives and interests tend to be given far greater importance than others, both in the larger culture and in philosophy. How many movies and TV shows and books and university courses have there been about the Holocaust as compared with the Holodomor? Why do we have the term ‘anti-semitism’ as a completely familiar and ordinary thing in our language, when the term ‘anti-gentilism’ sounds weird and fake? (Is it because there’s never been much anti-gentile prejudice or animosity within Jewish religion or culture, or it’s never had any important effects on society?) Finally, if we have any worries about ‘systemic’ bias and unfairness, it seems hard to deny that the massive over-representation of Jews tends to create a ‘chilly climate’ for people whose interests conflict with theirs, that Jews may tend to be a little nepotistic or even hostile to non-Jewish groups, and that this may tend to operate in the form of ‘systemic’ and often implicit bias against others. At least, if we accept the arguments along these lines meant to support claims of ‘systemic’ bias or oppression in support of generic white hegemony, similar and equally compelling arguments hold with respect to Jewish hegemony.
Thus, in deciding who to hire, the committee should always prefer any other kind of candidate over the Jew. If you’re stuck with a short list of straight white males—a bunch of SMWASPs, for example—and just one Jewish guy you should either cancel the search or, if that’s not feasible, you should throw the Jewish guy’s application in the trash without even looking at it. Maybe there should be a freeze on all hiring of Jews, or Jewish men, at least, for the next 30 years. That would open up a lot of positions for other kinds of people, even if we kept on discriminating against non-Jewish straight white males. In fact, depending on some number-crunching we have yet to do, we might well find that discrimination against the non-Jewish whites was not warranted, or that it should be much less intense than it currently is. Anyway, at the very least we should always strongly prefer the non-Jewish straight white male over the Jewish one in those regrettable cases where those are the only two options available to us.
I don’t endorse this line of thought myself. It depends on those really bad arguments that are supposed to justify actual AA policies in place of the more reasonable ones I like. I suspect that Jews are ‘privileged’ and ‘over-represented’ at least in part because they tend to have certain abilities and motivations that are less common and less pronounced in some other groups. But that’s crazy talk. After all, if that were true about Jews, something similar might be true about non-Jewish white people. And, as many prominent Jewish intellectuals have pointed out, that kind of thinking—about non-Jewish white people—leads inevitably to anti-semitism and genocide. So never mind my crazy idea. All those sensible people who accept the arguments I reject should be open to my proposal. As far as I know it hasn’t received much attention yet. I hope this little essay may open up one of those edifying and important ‘dialogues’ about race and ethnicity and privilege we’ve so often been told we need.