Thursday, October 09, 2008
When we last left our little board -- located in a stairwell in the building I work in -- we had had a poster placed by someone unidentified (as was the board's user or users) twice placed on it which indicated opposition to affirmative action. �Such action is an indication that someone is asserting a private property right, rather unusual in that the board is on state property, not near someone's office or classroom, and had hitherto been used for postings by the dean's office for the college in which I work. �I had asked once about its ownership to someone in the dean's office (after the initial display was made) and got in return a shrug of the shoulders. �Adverse possession might attach to the board so many months later.
So I thought I should ask what happened to the counter-poster and wrote a note "Who took down the poster that was here this morning? Who owns this board?" �I signed the note. �Rather than answer me by email or phone, they simply wrote on my note:At the bottom the respondent noted that the poster would return next week.
It did Monday afternoon, as the centerpiece of a brand new display:
Sorry to have cut off that little bit, as you might guess the first letter on the banner across the top is a 'w', as in "White Identity and Affirmative Action". The subtitle reads as a quote, "I'm in favor of affirmative action except when it comes to my jobs."�(Italics and red in original.) �This time our interlocutors made clear their mission:
By our responses, it appears, someone in the department who now claims this board has removed the counter-poster, taken it to his or her classroom (which class? we do not know) and asked the students to draw their responses. �It is interesting that the title is called "White Identity...", for as best we know the artist who drew the counter-poster could be a person of color, or of disability. �The assumption is that anyone who disagrees with affirmative action�must�be white. �This would be news to Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams or Justice Thomas. �And the subtitle ascribes a bad motive for the counter-poster's opposition to affirmative action: �He or she would be for it except that it was she or he who lost the job. �As John Hood noted a few years ago, what matters here is who is doing the hiring:
...I think there may be good reasons for me to engage in race-conscious affirmative action. The key distinction involves agency. Government institutions are purportedly "owned" by all of us and at least can be said formally to represent all citizens. Thus they have no business adopting policies that discriminate--regardless of whether they are designed to advance or to redress bigotry--unless those policies are narrowly tailored to the needs of specific jobs, slots, or contracts. (As Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute once put it, it's OK for fire departments to turn down wheelchair-bound applicants for the job of fighting fires but not for the job of dispatching the firefighters.) Private actors, on the other hand, should enjoy the latitude to associate or disassociate with others in a free society, even if they do so for reasons most of us would find repugnant.But judging the responses of these students, that is not OK with them:One of the classes that could have been the creator of this display is a course titled "Community and Democratic Citizenship." Nothing could be less democratic than the suggestion that one's free speech rights are dependent on someone else deciding whether or not you were 'ignorant'. But it could have been part of a different class. Would not that context help us understand the previous bulletin board and this one?