Monday, May 23, 2022

  • Monday, May 23, 2022
  • Elder of Ziyon
In 2003, Scott Plous edited a celebrated anthology called "Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination" that includes a section widely spread across the Internet called "Ten myths about affirmative action." 

The "myths" include:

Myth #1: The only way to create a color-blind society is to adopt color-blind policies.

Although this assertion sounds intuitively plausible, the reality is that color-blind policies often put racial minorities at a disadvantage. For instance, all else being equal, color-blind seniority systems tend to protect White workers against job layoffs, because senior employees are usually White (Ezorsky, 1991). Likewise, color-blind college admissions favor White students because of their earlier educational advantages. Unless pre-existing inequities are corrected or otherwise taken into account, color-blind policies do not correct racial injustice—they reinforce it.

Myth #7: You can't cure discrimination with discrimination.

The problem with this myth is that it uses the same word—discrimination—to describe two very different things. Job discrimination is grounded in prejudice and exclusion, whereas affirmative action is an effort to overcome prejudicial treatment through inclusion. The most effective way to cure society of exclusionary practices is to make special efforts at inclusion, which is exactly what affirmative action does. The logic of affirmative action is no different than the logic of treating a nutritional deficiency with vitamin supplements. For a healthy person, high doses of vitamin supplements may be unnecessary or even harmful, but for a person whose system is out of balance, supplements are an efficient way to restore the body's balance.

Myth #8: Affirmative action tends to undermine the self-esteem of women and racial minorities.

Although affirmative action may have this effect in some cases (Heilman, Simon, & Repper, 1987; Steele, 1990), interview studies and public opinion surveys suggest that such reactions are rare. For instance, a recent Gallup poll asked employed Blacks and employed White women whether they had ever felt that others questioned their abilities because of affirmative action (Roper Center, 1995c). Nearly 90% of respondents said no (which is understandable—after all, White men, who have traditionally benefited from preferential hiring, do not feel hampered by self-doubt or a loss in self-esteem). Indeed, in many cases affirmative action may actually raise the self-esteem of women and minorities by providing them with employment and opportunities for advancement. There is also evidence that affirmative action policies increase job satisfaction and organizational commitment among beneficiaries (Graves & Powell, 1994).
This isn't my field so although I might have some intuitive issues about whether these ideas are myths, I cannot bring studies to argue with them.

Until now.

Because a recently available paper criticizes Israel for doing exactly the things that are celebrated by progressives elsewhere - and Israeli academia is positioned as being racist because of it.

Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder is a well-regarded Bedouin sociologist and expert on gender studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. She wrote a paper in 2019 titled "The paradox of diversity in the Israeli academia: reproducing white Jewishness and national supremacy." The abstract:

This paper claims that policies designed to promote diversity and provide Ethiopian Jews with opportunities in Israeli institutions of higher learning create a paradox where, rather than diversifying student bodies and faculties in universities, they bolster the reproduction of national and religious supremacy of white Jews in the Israeli academia. Interviews with 50 Ethiopian students reveal that the racialized cultural indexes on which Israeli society structures its racialized attitudes towards Ethiopian immigrants have not been purged from university campuses. Instead, I argue, they continue to suffuse and shape those very programs designed to combat them by reinventing Jewish privilege and national exclusivity in Israeli universities.

In short, when the most progressive and liberal Israelis do exactly what progressives worldwide insist must be done with minority students, those very progressive actions are racist themselves.

Her paper is a remarkable funhouse mirror that supports conservative arguments against affirmative action in the West, twisted to position progressive Israeli Jews as racist Jewish supremacists.

Using the most modern sociology methodology, Abu Radia Queder interviewed 50 Jewish women either born in Ethiopia or with parents who had been born there,  using open ended questions so they can construct a narrative that she synthesizes into a coherent whole.  (I suspect that this methodology leaves great latitude for subconscious bias by the researcher to be manifested, but this is not the place for that discussion.)

The interviewees speak of a situation in which the academic establishment is interested in aiding the Ethiopian population and facilitate its access to the academia through extensive full-funding scholarships to Ethiopian candidates, but also describes how this ‘generosity’ stigmatizes its recipients, and the Ethiopian population as a whole, as dependent. As Herzog claimed (1993, 264), the inherent problem of affirmative action is that it strengthens the group’s boundaries rather than dissolves them and fuels stigmas about them, essentially that ‘Ethiopians’ cannot compete on the basis of merit. This is echoed on Shoshana: 

I won’t say no to funding. But to me it’s kind of another nail in our coffin. Makes us more and more dependent. And you’re always getting stuff: in the army you’ll get a special course to help you out, in the university they’d give you extra courses. It’s as if they never let you go, never let you actually compete for anything. It’s also important to make the distinction between Ethiopians who immigrated during the 90’s and the 2000’s. Because it really is two entirely different stories. But the issue is, as far as the government is concerned, I’m basically still a newly-arrived immigrant [Ola Khadasha]. There’s one definition to every immigrant in Israel, and then there’s one for an Ethiopian immigrant. An Ethiopian immigrant is anyone whose parents were born in Ethiopia. That’s to say that my child, when and whether they’ll be born [in Israel], would still be labelled as ‘newly arrived’. And to me it’s very disturbing to think that I’ll have a child who’ll be eligible from birth to benefits of a newly arrived immigrant, when he really isn’t one, never immigrated anywhere. 

This extension of such lavish aid to black women effectively robs them of credit for their achievements, their success is always seen as derived from the aid they have been given, as Rachel tells: 

If I pass something it’s because they’re doing me a favor and I’m Ethiopian. And that’s kind of disappointing. It’s like it’s not an empowering experience. There’s no question of forgetting . . . that the academy counts it to its own benefit, the place I am at right now.
We see that Israel is pouring money to help Black people - "lavish aid to black women," full scholarships - and this is framed as more evidence of white Jewish racism!

The paper includes more quotes: An Ethiopian academic who thinks that white colleagues consider her having been hired to meet a quota, self-congratulatory and irritating white progressive students constantly complimenting Ethiopians about how articulate they are or how amazing their culture is.

The three "myths" about affirmative action quoted above are all contradicted by the interviews of strong, proud  Ethiopian women this paper. 

To be sure, the Ethiopian interviewees experience some classic racism in the progressive halls of Israeli academia that mirror that of Blacks in America. One of them makes a stunning point about how the curricula maintains a racist attitude, which is perhaps worth its own post. But while American universities are positioned as trying their best to eradicate racism, Israeli universities are framed as being racist precisely for their efforts to eradicate racism - the same efforts that are defended to the death by academics in the West.

Perhaps the most ironic section and telling section of the paper is at the end: 

The racist Jewish supremacist white Israeli government funds, for three years, the research of a Bedouin Muslim woman - but she disrespects the state so much that she cannot properly capitalize the name of the government ministry that gave her the funds to write a paper damning Israel as racist.

Racism exists - on the Right and the Left. It is not likely to ever go away. But the double standards shown here against the most progressive Israeli Jews for doing exactly what progressives insist must be done to end racism in the West proves that antisemitism is just as systemic in the Left as racism is.




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