Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Making the World Safe for White Males

Let's have a moment of silence for all the indignities heaped upon white males (of which I am one).

That's enough. And now let's turn to Walter E. Williams latest article. Walter E. Williams recognizes the vast indignities we white males have suffered (due in no small part to his race, the African Americans). So he is working through a series of articles designed to make us all a bit more comfortable in our resentment of the blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, the Women, and anybody else we might want to resent. His first one, from last week, told us it's ok to assume that people who look different than us are dangerous.

Today he assures us that it's ok to assume that people who look different than us are incompetent as well.
Imagine an employer plans to hire 20 strong people to manually unload a ship. Fifty people show up for the job, and they all appear equal, except by sex. The employer has zero information about any other attribute, and he would like to hire the physically strongest people in the group. How might he select employees?

I'm guessing the average employer's first approximation would be to select the men in the group. He does so because he surmises that sex is highly correlated with physical strength. Of course, some of the women in the group could be just as strong, or stronger, than the men, but the employer is playing the odds.
He then goes on to discuss under what circumstances an employer might decide on an approach more nuanced than "Boys are stronger than girls. Me hire boys!" First of all he notes that time is money, and so investing in a more rigorous process is an expense for the employer. Actually finding out how strong everybody is takes more effort than just hiring the males. So why would an employer expend that effort? Well he might see some value in finding the best candidates, or the government might force him too. He also suggests that women who want to work as ship unloaders might be willing to work for less money - in that sense they are a bargain, and this might inspire the employer to hire them.

Of course it is one thing for Mr. Williams to say that Men are, on the whole, physically stronger than women. It would be another for employer X to say that Blacks are just not as smart as whites, or Asians just don't have what it takes to be good sales people, or Hispanics just don't have a solid work ethic and so can't be trusted with serious work. But William's logic works just as well in those situations as well, doesn't it?

"Look I'm sorry Mr. Jaurez, but I just don't have a good track record with Hispanics and I'm not interested in taking a chance on you - maybe if you were willing to do the job for 75% of what I'd pay a white guy I'd be interested. But until then, I'm just not."

He then concludes with this justification of his constant support for racism and prejudice.
A few readers, in response to my discrimination discussion, said that my argument justifies the racial segregation of the past. To explain phenomena is not the same as justifying phenomena. You could fall off the roof of a tall building. I explain that your death is a result of the forces of gravity that caused you to accelerate at 32 feet per second and the sudden deceleration when you hit the ground. Wouldn't it be silly if someone accused me of trying to justify gravity and your death?
This is almost as silly as his tiger example. The fact of the matter is that the damage caused to ethnic minorities, women, and others is avoidable, but you argue strongly against any attempts to fix the problem. If people are tripping and falling off of high places, we eventually put up a fence to keep them safe (well, safer). But if people are choosing to exclude some races or religions or genders from a seat at the table, Williams argues that is their right.

Or to put it another way, I can't blame you for describing how the phenomenon grinds people up. I can blame you for your consistent arguments against keeping the phenomenon from grinding people up.

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