Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's Not Fair! -- Insights on Equality, from David, Age 9

So, last night my son challenged my definition of equality... Well... not really. It was a fairly standard kid argument resulting from some perceived injustice. I won't go into my parenting style in detail, because I'm pretty sure no one cares. Suffice it to say, he got himself in trouble and his punishment was the loss of a privilege which, at the time, his sister was enjoying.

"It's not FAIR!" he shouted as he stomped his way up the stairs to pout in his room.

That's about the time I stopped him and called him back down stairs so that I could explain to him, in a simple yet detailed fashion, precisely what 'Fair' is. It forced me to reevaluate exactly what equality IS and exactly why equality is important to me, and what kind of world I want both my son AND my daughter to be prepared for.

I came to a few basic conclusions about what makes a situation 'Fair'. I'll start with a little story and I'll explain myself afterwards.

Lets imagine, for a moment, that we have three kids. We have Tyrone, Chris and Joe. Tyrone lives in a low to middle class neighborhood with a single mother in an apartment. Chris lives in a rural area with both parents who are self employed. Finally, we have Joe and Joe lives in a suburban neighborhood, also with both parents who are both gainfully employed.

All three go through school at about the same rate, end up getting about the same grades and have relatively similar experiences. All three end up applying to the same college, but Tyrone doesn't get in, even though all three have approximately the same SAT and ACT scores... So why didn't Tyrone get in?

Ask yourself a few questions, first. What genders are these three kids? You'll note I didn't give them. What ethnic/racial background do you believe each of them is? You'll note I didn't give that either. Economically, all three are widely varied, but in my little story...

Tyrone is a caucasian male
Chris is a caucasian female
Joe is a black male

This isn't me popping up a straw-man, it's an actual example of how college acceptance works. There are bean counters at most major universities who keep track of how many woman and minorities (non-caucasian) are being enrolled. Non-minorities (white males) are bumped to a lower priority to make room. It all has to do with affirmative action and 'White Guilt'.

Now, I'm by no means racist or sexist, but by the definition I gave my 9 year old, what I've described above is expressly not 'Fair'. Fair would be measuring all applicants by the same standards. Why there's even a check box for gender and race on these things, I'm not sure. Tyrone is no less deserving of the opportunity than anyone else. Lets go back to that example and add in a chance at a scholarship, which may be the only way Tyrone gets to go to college in the first place, all things considered. Because he's male and not a minority, though, he gets passed up for that as well.

I'm all for changing standards to make those standards more appropriate for a larger section of the population, but apply the same standards to everyone, regardless of gender and/or race. There's no reason to have three different sets of standards for three different demographic groups. In my mind, Affirmative Action did a lot to set the civil rights movement back several decades, because it tells employers to expect LESS from non-white male applicants and tells universities that they HAVE to accept more non-white male students, even if those who are accepted don't meet the standard level of qualifications normally required for acceptance.

To look at it another way, if Tyrone scrapes through and manages to get a four year degree, and he and Joe both end up applying for the same job (lets say as a RN in an ER), but Joe graduated at the top of his class while Tyrone just barely made it through... wouldn't you rather have Joe meet your ambulance at the door than Tyrone? I know, I switched that up on you, but my point is... does it really matter what color a person's skin is, if they're the most qualified individual for the position? Does their gender matter?

So, maybe that's a bigger issue than belongs on a tiny little blog like this. What about social interactions? Should some one have to stop telling a joke, if some one who happens to be a part of the ethnicity/gender the joke is about shows up? Does that mean I can't tell jokes about ignorant southern white guys? Pretty much EVER? I live in fucking Mississippi, those assholes are EVERYWHERE! But, fair is fair, either I can't tell jokes ABOUT a group of people IN FRONT of that group of people, then that rule applies to all groups. Not one or two in particular.

Equality means treating everyone the same, regardless of who they are. It definitely does not mean changing one's behavior in relation to one particular ethnicity/gender/religion/sexual orientation but not another.

That's not what 'Fair' means.

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