Maybe we should abandon trying to swim against the tide, accept the inevitable, get with the program, and just agree to change our name from the “United States of America” to the “Confederate Races of America.” For, despite the lip service still given to such apparently quaint and outdated notions as “individual rights” and “equal opportunity,” our national fixation on fixing racial and ethnic “underrepresentation” and continuously monitoring and fine-tuning the proper mix is leading us away from “e pluribus unum” and to a de facto confederation of races, whether we admit it or not.
These gloomy thoughts are prompted by yet another report on “underrepresentation” that is so typical and generally unremarkable in the sea of such reports as to be utterly banal, and that’s what’s so depressing. This report, In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, can be found on the web site of the Institute of Medicine, and it is discussed in an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education. (Note how the appearance of the term “Compelling Interest” in the title signals that an argument is being made here for the legitimacy of racial discrimination to cure the identified problem.)
First, the familiar problem:
Hispanics comprised more than 12 percent of the U.S. population in 2002, but only 2 percent of the nation’s registered nurses, 3.4 percent of its psychologists, and 3.5 percent of its physicians. And while blacks accounted for one in eight Americans that year, blacks made up fewer than one of every 20 dentists and physicians in the United States.
Note that there is no mention of discrimination as a problem, only underrepresentation. But in the absence of discrimination, exactly why is “underrepresentation” such a pressing problem? Judith A. Winston, identified in the Chronicle article as a Washington lawyer and former undersecretary and general counsel of the Dept. of Education, has the answer:
“You can not provide care effectively without being able to communicate with people across a broad racial and ethnic spectrum,” added Ms. Winston, who served on the committee that wrote the report.
(The Chronicle doesn’t say, probably because one could guess, that Ms. Winston was an appointee of the Clinton administration.)
Note the stark assumption here that people of different races or ethnicities can’t communicate with each other. What, exactly, is the evidence for that? If it’s true, then it’s probably equally true that Red-staters and Blue-staters also speak different languages, and that the Blue schools should take active measures to ensure that Red-staters are adequately represented in faculties and student bodies.
So much for the problem; what’s the cure? Again, depressingly familiar:
• Programs that train doctors, nurses, and other health professionals should stress the importance of medical care that takes into account a patient’s culture, and they should establish guidelines for achieving a diverse student body.
• They should also require faculty members to demonstrate specific progress toward achieving the program’s diversity goals as part of the promotion and raise process.
• Schools should also set up an informal, confidential mediation process for students and faculty members who feel they are being harassed or discriminated against.
• Federal and state health agencies should expand loan-forgiveness and tuition-assistance plans that make education more affordable.
The only thing missing here is the familiar reassurance that “guidelines” that require the demonstration of “specific progress” toward “diversity” do not amount to (heaven forbid) a quota. Nor, for that matter, is it explained why limiting “loan-forgiveness and tuition-assistance plans” to minorities would be legal. Presumably it’s because in our post-Grutter world it is simply assumed that all such racially exclusive awards will be based on a “holistic” review, thus allowing Justice O’Connor the comfort of her delusion that she has done no lasting damage to a formerly fundamental principle.
The Chronicle article referred to above provides a link to an earlier (Nov. 24, 2000) article that is also quite interesting, “The Unusual Rules for Affirmative Action in Medical Schools.” What is “unusual,” claims the article, is the 30-year old policy of the Association of American Medical Schools “that limits racial preferences to African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, and mainland Puerto Ricans.”
Thus the sad plight of Dafnis Carranza:
Dafnis Carranza lived in a remote village in El Salvador before escaping the war-torn country in 1981 and moving with her family to a cramped, one-bedroom apartment in South Central Los Angeles. A factory worker’s daughter who dreamed of becoming a doctor, Ms. Carranza might seem like an ideal candidate for affirmative action.
Certainly the author and Ms. (presumably now Dr.) Carranza thought she was an ideal candidate.
“I think they should look at an individual person’s economic status and background,” says Ms. Carranza, who was accepted by the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1998, a year after she received a stinging string of rejections. She’s now a third-year medical student whose growing debt is partially offset by a race-neutral scholarship.
“It seems silly to say that some Latino groups are eligible for minority scholarships and others aren’t,” she adds.
Of course if “they” looked at “an individual person’s economic status and background,” then they wouldn’t be awarding preferences and money based on race or ethnicity, would they?
What is truly “silly” is not that “some Latino groups are eligible for minority scholarships and others aren’t,” but that anyone should be entitled to a preference simply for being Latino, of any group. If Latinos, why not Arabs or Afghanis or … ? Why should a poor Salvadorean immigrant be assisted in graduating from medical school debt-free while a poor Appalachian student should not?