Monday, May 15, 2006

The boy can't help it 

David Beito continues the saga of Glenn Singleton, the "diversity expert" called in to help impose mandatory diversity training at Bellevue CC in Washington. Vincent Carroll of the Rocky Mountain News runs a two part story (Part I, Part II) in which he reports that Denver suburb Cherry Creek paid "a six-figure fee" to implement "equity teams" and "courageous conversations" in its district schools. Intended to be a program to encourage high expectations of minority students, Carroll describes what Singleton's program also does:

The program also promotes a worldview in which American society is relentlessly oppressive; in which individuals, even today, remain at the mercy of their racial origins; in which "white talk" is "verbal, impersonal, intellectual" and "task-oriented," while "color commentary" is "nonverbal, personal, emotional" and "process-oriented."

The "courageous conversations" of the book's title are supposed to engage teachers in frank interracial dialogue. But as envisioned by Singleton and Linton, these conversations are successful mainly to the extent they follow a structured format in which participants examine and embrace specific premises, such as the ubiquity of white privilege and racism, and thus raise the consciousness of whites.

Participants must "come to recognize that race impacts every aspect of your life 100 percent of the time." Meanwhile, "anger, guilt and shame are just a few of the emotions" whites should expect to experience "as they move toward greater understanding of Whiteness."

Enlightened whites, in the authors' description, speak in the chastened, cringing language of someone who has emerged from a re-education camp. Singleton and Linton praise the example of a white male teacher in North Carolina who has this to say about his new perspective: "Although I often try to seek counsel of colleagues of color, it is inevitable that times arise where it's only after the fact that one of them points out some flaw in my reasoning. The flaws are often the result of my ingrained Whiteness and my own blindness to its perpetual presence."

Those are the success stories. SCSU, of course, had its experience with these re-education programs as the result of work done by Nichols and Associates, a gang well-exposed by Penn and Teller's show Bullsh*t, but matters are only getting worse.
Winning a big employment lawsuit these days often requires a bit of magic. After all, companies are awash in diversity training, equal opportunity policies, and 800 numbers aimed at rooting out bias. Managers have been well trained to keep their discriminatory thoughts to themselves, edit all hints of racism and sexism out of e-mail, and couch pay and promotion decisions in legally defensible language. So how do plaintiffs' lawyers prove their cases?

Enter the magician. Sociologist William T. Bielby is the leading courtroom proponent of a simple but powerful theory: "unconscious bias." He contends that white men will inevitably slight women and minorities because they just can't help themselves. So he tries to convince judges that no evidence of overt discrimination -- no smoking gun memo, for instance -- is needed to prove a case. As Allen G. King, an employment defense attorney at the Dallas office of Littler Mendelson, puts it: "I just have to leave you to your own devices, and because you are a white male," you will discriminate.

Which makes one wonder how we got over "unconscious bias" with Asians? Vincent Carroll again:
Asians were not always perceived as a "model minority" - think of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and later measures aimed at restricting Asian immigrants. Think too of the nasty stereotypes of Chinese and Japanese that were common for many decades. It is simply demeaning to suggest Asians now owe their rise to white indulgence as opposed to their own hard work.

Moreover, Asian students haven't merely replicated white academic success; they've outstripped it. Their enrollment at nearly every prestigious university is several times - and sometimes many times - greater than their percentage of the overall population.
It is in part a cultural distinction; Asian culture values education. But why? Is it genetic or is it geography and history?