Systemic Racism and Affirmative Action

Classical music is under attack by the “woke” because the overwhelming majority of classical musicians are either Asian or white. Heather Mac Donald tells the depressing story. Her whole article is worth reading, but for now I want to focus on this: in recent history, orchestra auditions have generally been “blind,” i.e., the performer is behind a screen so that the judges are not influenced by his or her gender, race, or whatever. Liberals now are demanding an end to blind auditions:

The lead reviewer for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, urged that orchestra auditions no longer take place behind a screen, in order to address the “appalling racial imbalance” in orchestral ranks. Currently, musicians’ identities are concealed by a screen through most, if not all, stages of an orchestral audition to prevent favoritism or bias (a process known as a “blind audition”). But colorblindness is now regarded as discriminatory, since it favors merit over race.

Liberals want the musicians to be visible to enable discrimination in favor of blacks over more skilled musicians of other races.

Next, an essentially identical story from the U.S. military. Leftist Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is demanding more promotion of black officers throughout the services. As part of that effort, he decreed that officers deciding on promotions not see photographs of the candidates so that “unconscious bias” would not hinder blacks:

In a memorandum to the service secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Esper outlined a series of steps aimed at eliminating “discrimination, prejudice and bias in all ranks” to promote equal opportunity, morale and the readiness of the force.

The steps include “prohibiting the use of photographs for promotion boards and selection processes pertaining to assignment, training, education and command.”

Only–oops–it turned out that this order did not have the intended effect:

The Navy could include service photos in promotion packages again after data suggested minorities are less likely to be selected blindly in some situations by promotion review boards, the service’s chief of personnel said Tuesday.

Diversity among leadership dropped after photos were removed last year from Navy promotion packages, Vice Adm. John Nowell said during a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.

“I think we should consider reinstating photos in selection boards,” he said. “We look at, for instance, the one-star board over the last five years, and we can show you where, as you look at diversity, it went down with photos removed.”

So officers are more likely to be promoted if their superiors know they are black, just as musicians will now be more likely to be selected for orchestra positions if those making the decisions know the musicians are black. The “woke” don’t like color-blindness because they don’t want advancement to depend on merit.

These stories remind us that every major institution in the United States has engaged in “affirmative action,” which means discriminating in favor of blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics, for the last 50 years. If any “systemic racism” has become embedded in our society, it is the racism of affirmative action. I would have thought that everyone knows this; certainly, anyone who has been active in the business or academic worlds in the last half-century is well aware of it.

It seems odd that anyone–like Mark Esper–could have imagined that blacks would fare better if race were taken entirely out of the picture, but perhaps he really is that out of touch. And it is a sign of the times that, when meritocracy conflicts with promoting more blacks, meritocracy loses.

Affirmative action has seemingly been memory-holed in the current woke, Black Lives Matter moment. Are we really supposed to forget that for the last 50 years, every educational institution, every government agency, and every significant corporation has discriminated in favor of blacks? Somehow that seemingly important fact is neglected when liberals lecture us on “systemic racism.”

Today’s racial firebrands tell us that present and future discrimination are the only remedies for past discrimination. Do they seriously not understand that this is exactly the philosophy that we have been following for the past 50 years? Somehow it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Maybe someday, out of sheer desperation, having tried everything else, we will finally adopt a policy of non-discrimination, fairness, equality and meritocracy.

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