Race: October 2004 Archives

I received the following email this morning:

To all Syracuse University students:

We take pride in working together to make Syracuse University a welcoming, safe and respectful living and learning environment. The efforts of students, faculty and staff to promote and develop the appreciation of differences and similarities on this campus are numerous and ongoing. To continue promoting a safe and secure community free of crime and/or policy violations that are motivated by discrimination, sexual and bias-related harassment, and other violations of rights, we must work together every day! At this time of year, we especially need your assistance.

Halloween-related activities can be fun, but they are not an opportunity for carelessness, insensitivity and disrespect toward others. Incidents here and on other campuses have drawn attention to bias-related incidents, and we ask that everyone in the Syracuse University community become engaged in making this
campus safe, secure and bias-free.

The student organizations listed below and I ask that everyone who chooses to wear a Halloween costume please take a minute to think about what kind of response your costume may elicit from others, and make a mature and responsible decision as to whether your costume is appropriate. Portrayals of ethnicity and race, gender, class, religions, cultures or sexual orientations, just
to name a few, may be considered in poor taste or offensive.

As members of a university community, we ask you to think about how others may be impacted by the costume you choose to wear. These portrayals, while sometimes considered harmless, tend to reinforce stereotypes, inaccurately represent cultures, demean groups or individuals, or make a mockery of Syracuse University values and beliefs. While the intent may be harmless, in many instances the end result may be unintentionally yet unfortunately damaging. If you choose to take part in any Halloween-related festivities this year, please be respectful and responsible. Thank you.

This is the 6th part of an ongoing series, beginning here. The links to all the other parts are in the inaugural post. I've looked at a few arguments in favor of affirmative action so far, and we're now up to the argument based on equal opportunity. Affirmative action opponents insist that affirmative action leads to less equal opportunity for those who are not intended to benefit from it (i.e. white people for the most part, also Asians at many elite schools, and men for gender-based affirmative action). There's something to that, because someone in that position has to meet higher standards to be accepted than someone in an under-represented group, and something similar occurs in workplace affirmative action cases. However, those who argue for affirmative action on equal opportunity grounds want to make a case that those in the underrepresented groups don't really have equal opportunities. Many of them are in a demographic group that has a higher instance of being impoverished, though most of those who apply to college are not in that group as it turns out and are thus not representative of their group. One problem has to do with less access to necessary tools for doing well in school, including computers, though most public libraries have those now, and SAT preparation classes, which aren't necessary to doing well on the SAT but do give a distinct advantage, and only the upper end of the middle class will want to shell out the money for them, but once that's clear it's not longer a racial issue but a financial issue, and poor white people will need to be given the benefit of lower standards also. No current policy I know of does that. If there is indeed discrimination that's harmful enough to people in these groups, then there's less opportunity to succeed. That was the subject of the first argument I considered. I could spend some time listing the ways there might not be equal opportunities, but that's not so much the point. I don't think any conservative on the issue of affirmative action will insist that there are no ways in which underrepresented groups will in general turn out to have a lower level of opportunity to achieve as high scores and grades as others. As a group, they have a lower level of opportunity.

OED Definition of 'Racism'

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I pulled this definition of 'racism' off the Oxford English Dictionary website. Most people can't access it unless they have access through a university or other academic organization, so I'll quote the whole thing here. My question is: what's wrong with this definition?

[f. RACE n.2 + -ISM; cf. F. racisme (Robert 1935).]

a. The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race. b. = RACIALISM.

1936 L. DENNIS Coming Amer. Fascism 109 If..it be assumed that one of our values should be a type of racism which excludes certain races from citizenship, then the plan of execution should provide for the annihilation, deportation, or sterilization of the excluded races. 1938 E. & C. PAUL tr. Hirschfeld's Racism xx. 260 The apostles and energumens of racism can in all good faith give free rein to impulses of which they would be ashamed did they realise their true nature. 1940 R. BENEDICT Race: Science & Politics i. 7 Racism is an ism to which everyone in the world today is exposed. 1952 M. BERGER Equality by Statute 236 Racism, tension in industrial, urban areas. 1952 Theology LV. 283 The idolatry of our timeits setting up of nationalism, racism, vulgar materialism. 1960 New Left Rev. Jan./Feb. 21/2 George Rogers saw fit to kow-tow to the incipient racism of his electorate by including a line about getting rid of �undesirable elements�. 1964 GOULD & KOLB Dict. Social Sci. 571/2 Racism is a newer term for the word racialism... There is virtual agreement that it refers to a doctrine of racial supremacy. 1971 Ceylon Daily News (Colombo) 18 Sept. 8/5 Mr. Seneviratne is welcome to his ideal of inter-racial marriages as panacea for Racism. 1972 J. L. DILLARD Black English iii. 90 In the British sailors' reactions to the slaves.., the very early existence of racism is as well documented as the difference in language. 1974 M. FIDO R. Kipling 50/2 In The Story of Muhammad Din he wrote one of the most economical and bitter attacks on British racism ever penned. 1976 Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) 4 Mar. A2/4 The Vatican radio said,..�Racism might have different faces but it will always be reprehensible.� 1977 M. WALKER National Front vi. 155 A strike of the Asian workers against racism in the factory.

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