Nov. 4th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm trying to lead up to a big post on affirmative action, but I keep getting side tracked by other things I need to explain first. So here's my latest one: I think discrimination against women and LGBT people is fundamentally different than racial discrimination.

I ran into someone at a party last week who gave me some really awesome career advice. She didn't know me very well, but then it didn't take much effort from her to be really helpful to me, and most people like feeling helpful. I may never see her again, but then I may never again see the man whose brother I saved from wasting four years at Digipen either, and I still feel good about telling him to direct his brother towards a real CS degree. And there are probably thousands of smaller examples of people I knew socially moving something from unknown to known that have benefited me.

Men probably get more of this. It is mostly men in power, and people especially like to help people who remind them of themselves. But the only thing keeping those men from helping me are their choices and mine. I run into men with power as much as my male friends in similar jobs and social strata, and if those men started evenly distributing their largess, I'm in position to benefit. Similarly, while LGBT people face horribly discrimination, as soon as people stop doing that, the wound will close.

This is substantially less likely to be true if you're black, because black people are significantly more likely to be poor. Even if you're black and have money, most of the people you know and are related to don't. I spent my entire life preparing for four-year undergrad college and then grad school, and while it was stressful as hell, it was also very known. Just considering a different kind of schooling (and funding type) after 8 years in the workforce is scaring me; I can't imagine what it's like doing it at 17 when no one you know has been to college.

There are white people with these difficulties too, of course. I know some of them. Part of me thinks it's not fair to devalue their struggle just because of their skin color, but then I remember that white privilege is a thing, and the fact that it would be unfair to group certain people together as then declare that group worse off in an alternate universe does not have a lot of bearing on what I should do in this universe, where there is systemic discrimination.

Because women and gay people don't come from women and gay people, the impact of discrimination isn't heritable.* And that's before taking into account how much easier it is to get white men to empathize with someone who reminds them of their sister or cool uncle. And thus there will be substantially less overlap in remedy than a naive interpretation would have you believe.


*Fun fact: the way heritability is defined scientifically, sex is not heritable. The difference between heritability and genetic determinability is is important to keep in mind when reading genetics studies.

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