Reverse discrimination?
March 22, 2002 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Reverse discrimination? Kathleen Carter, who is white, says that when she became chairman of the education department at historically black Delaware State University in 1995, she was told that she was usurping blacks' right to govern themselves and that whites in the department were trying to make blacks look bad. via Fark
posted by Rastafari (16 comments total)
Terrible news reporting. I would like to know how she became chairman--elected, appointed? I have never heard of a chairman (chair, a woman) without tenure being made head of a dept since the chairman has to sign off on tenure appointments at any decent college, and then the admistirators aboive (Dean, provost or pres) sign to make it official.
What you have is a third-rate subject (alas, it is true) being taught at a 4th rate school, and still managing to make further fools of thewleves.
posted by Postroad at 10:53 AM on March 22, 2002

There's no such thing as "reverse discrimination." Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.
posted by waldo at 11:06 AM on March 22, 2002

Want to read the actual opinion? Here you go! (pdf file). All the background that's fit to print.

I just skimmed it, but her case got dismissed because she couldn't produce evidence that the person making the tenure decision was actually motivated by race. It's not enough to merely point out that two people of different races were treated differently. You also have to show that the nondiscriminatory reason given for the decision is a bald-faced lie, and that the real reason was racial animus. Inferences alone aren't enough. That's not to say that her race wasn't a factor -- just that she was unable to offer enough proof to let the case go to a jury.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:16 AM on March 22, 2002

You might be interested to read this piece. The point, which may have something in it, is that black professors at black colleges may be able to teach black students better, because they can relate to the students better, speak the same lingo etc. But if that's true, it seems that being black would be a genuine qualification for working there, so it wouldn't count as discrimination. Hmm.
posted by Gaz at 11:42 AM on March 22, 2002

The university, which has 3,000 students, was established in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students. Administrators denied there is racial discrimination.

Wow! So the place is established to serve people with a certain skin color, yet there is no racial discrimination! I like the way CNN thinks. I really wish they'd got the whole way and just say "non-white" students instead of colored.
posted by Keen at 11:49 AM on March 22, 2002

No Gaz, that would still be discrimination. There's nothing wrong with discrimination per se -- it happens all the time (discrimination on the basis of pay, or skills, or education, etc.) What is improper is discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, etc.

I think the argument that racial discrimination should be excused because "blacks can teach blacks better" is a shitty road to go down. It's nothing but the flip-side of what racist whites argued for years.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2002

What waldo said. He took the words out of my mouth (give them back!)
posted by adampsyche at 12:05 PM on March 22, 2002

pardonyou?: Well, I think there an ambiguity in the meaning of discrimination between 1) differentiating between people on any old grounds and 2) differentiating on grounds other than merit (definition). So on the second reading (which I think is the useful one) it's not discrimination if the criterion used is relevant to how well you can do the job.

Now I agree that "blacks can teach blacks better" is a dangerous argument. If it's just that black students don't like white teachers then that's no justification at all - I imagine that at one point white students didn't want black teachers, but that was irrelevant. On the other hand, it may be that black teachers genuinely have extra skills (in terms of cultural understanding etc) which would enable them to teach black students better. That wouldn't justify use of race as a criterion, because some white teachers might have those skills and some black teachers might lack them. But it would justify some imbalance in the proportions of white and black teachers in such schools.

Anyway, I think that on balance it would be a bad idea to go down that road, because you'd do more harm than good. But I think that the argument should at least get a fair hearing.
posted by Gaz at 12:15 PM on March 22, 2002

Black teachers teach black students better -- whoa, is that a dangerous idea. Like can only teach like? Girls can be taught better by women teachers? Boys can be taught better by men teachers? Koo koo. In fact, you learn the most in life from the people who are the LEAST like yourself. That's what learning is. Going beyond your self and your identity, and bringing something back. Let's have black students taught only by white teachers, and white students taught only by black teachers for a while, and you might get some interesting learning.
posted by Faze at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2002

Uh, Keen, 1891 is more than 110 years ago. Many schools were segregated back then, and most have tried to clean up their act. Not that "historically black" colleges have to apologize for their history, I doubt they ever refused white students anyway. (The University of Delaware didn't admit blacks until 1948.)
posted by Wood at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2002

I want my child to be taught only by handicapped Eskimo lesbians. Handicapped Native American lesbians will do in a pinch, but only for the soft sciences. And P.E.

No one else can really reach him.
posted by UncleFes at 12:57 PM on March 22, 2002

My (white) mother attended Delaware State University back when it was Delaware State College, although not back when it was the State College for Colored Students. She was busy attending segregated high school at the time.
posted by jennyb at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2002

Gov't mulls reservation [affirmative action] for women on company boards

The Department of Company Affairs has suggested that all public limited and joint stock companies in India must have at least 20 per cent representation by women on their boards ... "By god's will, the proposal will go through ... Let us see how the men will react." ... Dr Reddy also informed that his department is planning to set up a National Academy of Corporate Governance in line with the model of US Conference Board ... Less than five per cent of industry have female executives. Asked if the reason for that is prejudice on the part of the male shareholders, his answer is an evasive, "Maybe." ...

Chairman and CEO of IT giant Infosys N R Narayana Murthy said that there was a need to have a relook at the reservation policy.

"While the reservation in admissions to schools and financial assistance for economically weaker sections is desirable for a limited period, there are grave doubts whether economic backwardness should be determined by caste, as is done in India today,'' he said at the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Technology."No society that has shunned merit has succeeded in solving its problems and it is ironical that people here see sustenance of backwardness as an instrument of progress than turning to hard work ... "

The government's reservation policy for the small scale industry is hindering the growth of the sector, a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry has said while recommending doing away with the policy.


The sad fact of life is that when the issue of affirmative action for the Dalits & Adivasis come up, it is vehemently challenged by the already empowered section of the society who are potent and vocal. The perpetual victims of the thousands of years of oppression are literally voiceless. ...

For arguments sake, let us say we have Mr X who holds degree A and Mr Dalit who possess the same degree facing an interview in a multinational company. Mr X is a city boy, having been educated in the best of schools and trained in debate societies, groomed by professional institutes while Mr Dalit has struggled his way through the village school and town college. He has reached here due to his efforts. He does not have the finances to 'look presentable' for the multinational company. He is petrified by the speed, language and coverage of his competitors. He naturally falls out. The competition, one could say technically was 'equal' and 'fair' in that all participants were given equal opportunity to respond. But is the individual really able to face the competition? There can be fair competition only when all the competitors are in a position to compete on an equitable basis.

There is a question whether the wrong of a past can be undone by another 'wrong'. The argument would be right, if the second action was a 'wrong'. The civilised nations and advanced democracies see 'affirmative actions' and 'reservations' as a 'right'. Even in the US, the government is having policies that have positive bias towards marginal groups like the American Indians (Red Indians) and certain other groups. Many countries in the world now have a policy of affirmative action for it's minorities, marginalised ethnic groups and poorer sections. It would be a 'wrong' not to provide them relief with 'affirmative action'.

posted by sheauga at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2002

It is stupid to think there is some sort of objective, quantifiable thing called "merit." Judgements need not be completely arbitrary and subjective, but they cannot be incised in stone regardless of context and circumstances.
posted by Rebis at 3:26 PM on March 22, 2002

I'd read the .pdf file, but it crashed my computer twice (which I consider a bad sign).

In any event: rule #1 of tenure cases at public institutions is that there has to be a paper trail. If the university does even the teensiest little thing wrong, and you can demonstrate such to be the case, then you're going to win. Easily. For example, if you come up for tenure after having received merit pay increases every year and glowing evaluations at your third- and sixth-year contract renewals, and there is no negative information in your file, then...they'd better give you tenure, or you'll be taking them to the bank.

At a private institution, however, you can pretty much lose tenure because they don't like your hair. It's almost impossible to sue a private university or college for denial of tenure, which is why suing Harvard (which tenures almost no-one) is one of life's less worthwhile activities.

Which is a rather roundabout way of saying that, had Dr. Carter been able to document her claims, the university would almost certainly have lost. Once you show a procedural error, the deck against the school is stacked a mile high. It wasn't enough to argue that because someone in the department didn't like her, she didn't get tenure; she had to demonstrate that somebody on the appointments & tenure committee didn't like her and then hijacked the review process. If not the APT committee, then also a) the dean and b) the president, and quite possibly a provost or academic VP as well. (The department can only recommend you for tenure; the dean and/or the president can and sometimes do overrule the department, just as the dean will regularly inform departments that certain job candidates are wholly unacceptable--whatever the dept. thinks.)
posted by thomas j wise at 4:04 PM on March 22, 2002

The review recommends naming black professors to replace several white departmental leaders. Notations in the margins include "bring in black Ph.D chair," "hire black chemist" and "build up science and math (black)."

Wow, want to add "kill whitey" to that to-do list?

a search committee at the school received about 100 applications for an opening a few years ago, and no black candidate turned up. The search was reopened, and the lone black applicant was hired.

Is Gaz in charge of Human Resources over there or what? (jk, Gaz)

Personally, I think they should be able to do whatever they like. If you want an all-black faculty, hey, knock yourself out, even though in the long run it's a bad idea. If that were acceptable, then all-white faculties would have to be acceptable as well, and that's not good for blacks in general because exclusivity always favors the majority, which in turn keeps the minority at a disadvantage. It's a self-defeating notion, and you would think people running an institution of higher learning would realize that.
posted by David Dark at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2002

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