Thank you for writing to express your views on affirmative action. Although the article to which you responded is one I wrote nearly three years ago, your argument is timeless. You are black. I am white. Therefore, I “owe it to you” to support race-based affirmative action.
I want to thank you for saving me from being the token affirmative action opponent in the “forums” my university occasionally holds on the subject. Recently, I was asked to join one such “forum” to discuss the subject with five affirmative action supporters. A “forum” with five supporters and one opponent was my university’s first attempt at viewpoint diversity in nearly a decade. That was because a student organized the event. If the administration organized the event, I would have received no such invitation.
But I declined the invitation for the same reason I once declined a philosophy professor’s kind invitation to share my opposition to affirmative action with his class. The reason is that I simply don’t have enough material to “support” my position. I’m just opposed to racial discrimination. I cannot muster more than that one sentence. I’m just opposed to racial discrimination.
And so I have always considered it the duty of proponents of affirmative action to convince me that I am wrong. Today, Owen, you have done just that. You are black. I am white. Therefore, I “owe it to you” to support race-based affirmative action.
In your missive you also indicated that there is nothing I can do to fully erase the debt incurred by what “my people” did to “your people” before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Correct me if the following misrepresents, in any way, the crux of your position:
Regardless of whether he is guilty of racism, a person is to be punished for racism carried out by other members of his racial group. Regardless of whether he is a victim of racism, a person is entitled to benefits for racism carried out against other members of his racial group.
The implications of your position are potentially far reaching, especially when I consider that my mother’s side of the family is German. Does your logic apply to nationality, Owen? Does it apply to ethnicity? What precisely do we German-Americans owe to American Jews?
The questions are troubling but, for now, I’ll just accept your strong feelings on the subject. You are black. I am white. Therefore, I “owe it to you” to support race-based affirmative action.
And so today I am your ally, Owen. I support extra points on the SAT for blacks. I support higher salaries for black employees. I support all of the things that constitute affirmative action in both the public and private sector.
Owen, your statement that there is nothing I can do to erase the debt incurred by what “my people” did to “your people” motivates me to do far more than what is currently considered affirmative action. For example:
I plan to take affirmative action to new heights by allowing blacks to cut in front of me in the line at the grocery store.
I will do the same at Barnes and Noble or in the line to buy movie tickets.
I will let blacks merge into traffic in front of me, never allowing whites the same privilege.
The possibilities are endless, Owen. If a black man ever asks why I’m letting him cut in line, I’ll just tell him I’m making up for 400 years of oppression. If a white man gets offended, I’ll remind him of your position: “We” owe it to “them.”
I guess this means that I now support my university’s practice of having special “minority achievement awards.” I guess that I must also applaud those medals the university puts around the necks of black graduates – all for the simple achievement of being black and still managing to graduate.
I guess that by now you are pretty mad that I have responded to your angry email with a publicly disseminated satire. And I guess that few have missed my point about the condescension and racism inherent in 21st century affirmative action.
Despite your anger, you still have a point, Owen. I do owe you something. That something is emancipation from a new form of slavery called affirmative action. But, more importantly, you owe it to yourself.