Notes From Babel

Archive for the ‘Diversity’ Category

Should Judicial Appointments Be Used As a Mechanism to Quell Racial Tensions?

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Bill Handel this week extolled Obama for picking a Latina for a high position of power, explaining how it was a carefully calculated move to help mend relations between blacks and Hispanics. Two problems with this. First, aren’t distinctions based on race supposed to be bad? This is not the same argument against affirmative action as “reverse racism.” Affirmative action involves the idea of “setting things right,” of “leveling the playing field” to make up for years of abuse of legal and political rights and processes. That is, because whites enjoyed power and wealth off the backs of minority groups for a period of time, some degree of promotion of minority groups ought to be permitted. In this way, the argument goes, we might achieve a degree of parity that we might otherwise not achieve, and thus truly become color blind.

But the Sotomayor appointment is different. As Handel argues, there are petty grievances between two minority groups, and we have a chance to fix it by doling out positions of power to selected members of those groups. That is, the appointments are made not because one group has been disadvantaged, as is the case in the affirmative action model. They are made instead because, without the appointments, some irascible members of the groups will continue to feel slighted, and the clash between the two groups will continue. This is a different sort of racial realism. And I find it extremely disappointing. Even if such racially motivated appointments quell these conflicts (which seems highly dubious to begin with), do they deserve to be quelled? And what about the costs? Are we to sacrifice the integrity of our crucial governmental functions to placate injured egos, to balance the demands of thugs?

Decisions based on race are infuriating. There is no end to the complications that are created when we make decisions based on race in the hopes of ending the practice of making decisions based on race. The answer is much simpler than that: stop making decisions based on race.


Written by Tim Kowal

May 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm

National Mock Trial Group Agrees To Accommodate Sabbath Needs

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From Religion Clause:

Under intense pressure, the National High School Mock Trial Competition yesterday, at the last minute, agreed to a compromise that will accommodate the Sabbath observance needs of the Jewish team members from Maimonides High School of Brookline, Massachusetts in this week end’s tournament. (See prior posting.) JTA reported that the team will be permitted to start the competition Thursday afternoon and, if Maimonides reaches the finals, the start of the championship round will be delayed from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., after sundown, on Saturday. Maimonides had originally wanted all of its rounds scheduled on Thursday and Friday– a change that organizers said was unreasonable.

Does this deserve the collective “oh, jeez” it certainly would have received if were an Islamic accommodation?

Written by Tim Kowal

May 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Diversity, Religion

eHarmony Settlement in Gay Discrimination Suit

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Eharmony, having been sued under New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws, has settled a lawsuit and agreed to design a separate site for gay-seeking singles. A copy of the settlement can be found here.

Back in May 2007, the company was sued in California. That lawsuit is moot now that the company has agreed to launch its new site.

As a Californian, I find this a very ironic juxtaposition with Prop 8, which reaffirmed the right of the citizens of this state to refrain from issuing a badge of cultural normalcy to certain lifestyles that do not yet resonate with their sensibilities. [more…]

As long as gays are not treated with hostility, or deprived of useful employment or services because of some invidious, wholly irrational purpose, private companies and individuals must be permitted to make up their own minds and make their own choices. But I see no reason why a dating service, especially one that prides itself on an innovative mechanism for pairing certain types of individuals for life-long relationships, should not be entitled to determine whether or not it wants to monkey with its own system to see if it can work as well for same-sex couples. Eharmony should be permitted to decide for itself whether it wants to make this investment, take this risk, and modify its business and marketing models to provide this entirely new service.

In California, Prop 8 just passed because people felt, just as a matter of knee-jerk reaction, that traditional heterosexual relationships were most conducive for marriage. But in New Jersey, a legal system cajoled a company—whose business it is to study hard, empirical data about relationships and make money off of its ability to achieve consistent success in pairing certain types of people—into experimenting with this model and gambling with its success rate by promoting nontraditional, less studied types of relationships. It makes perfect sense, then, that eHarmony reserved for itself in the settlement the right to display disclaimers that its new “CompatibleCouples” website for gay customers “was developed on the basis of research limited to married heterosexual couples,” given that eHarmony has no idea whether this thing is going to float—a company built on data and research is certainly entitled not to move into new sectors in which there is a dearth of data and research.

Apparently recognizing this, the settlement also requires that eHarmony “enlist the assistance of a media consultant experienced in promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of gay and lesbian people in the media.” In other words, the settlement itself recognizes that this was not just a matter of discrimination—it is a big, risky undertaking that eHarmony should properly have the discretion to determine for itself and its shareholders.

“Discrimination” is a lost word. It no longer means what it used to mean, and it is no longer appropriate in communicating any serious thought. It now lives in the unscrupulous civil rights attorney’s toolkit.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 20, 2008 at 7:36 am