April 19, 2008

Reaching for the Ring of Diversity

Justin Katz

It appears that Rhode Island has made the national diversity news feed. Here's Roger Clegg:

Portuguese business owners in Rhode Island are upset with a proposed state law that would strip them of their official "minority" status — and the contracting set-asides that go with it. There are no heroes in this story, however, which provides a nice lesson in the perils of racial preference in an increasingly multiracial society. ...

So you can sort of feel sorry for the Portuguese. On the other hand, they aren't demanding equal treatment for all: They still want other European and Middle Eastern Americans to be discriminated against. And, if push comes to shove, they are even happy for some Portuguese companies to be discriminated against, so long as it's not them personally. Says one Portuguese owner, "I think if they're going to go through with it, people should really be grandfathered in. That's the only fair way to do it." Right!

One suspicious aspect of the whole diversity thing is that, as this sort of controversy brings into the light, it is actually quite profitable to be discriminated against. Declare "the era of discrimination is over!," and thousands of minority interests and members of the diversity industry will respond: "Not on our watch."

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The vast majority of minority contracts are given to female owned companies. Portuguese is second place leaving the rest a very distant third.

However, the affirmative action plan to ensure minority contracts results in discrimination.

The state is allowed to accept a bid from a minority owned company that is 5% above the next closest competitor. In other words, the state discriminates against non-minorities by forcing them to bid at least 5% less than a minority owned company.

To make sure that that 5% doesn’t cost the state too much money, they limit those awarded contracts to the low gross dollar RFP’s. They can do this because the affirmative action is measured by number of contracts, not total contract value.

The solution is NOT to change affirmative action to measure gross expenditures to minority companies. The solution is (screaming with the choir) to treat every one equally and eliminate the affirmative action program entirely.

Posted by: William Felkner at April 19, 2008 4:08 PM

I get into this all of the time. I was hired in 1991. My minority friends were hired in 1991, without affirmitive action they would not have been selected. Our children have had the same opportunities, same lifestyle and same family income. Should our kids choose to follow our career path, the minority candidates would be hired first. I think is is an insult to the integrity of everybody involved. Affirmative action may have been necessary decades ago when descrimination was rampant and pretty much accepted by society. No more.

Posted by: michael at April 19, 2008 4:43 PM

Normally I wouldn't react, but I have some time on my hands. Justin, I think your last comment in this post is pretty baseless.

What type of data would you like that would demonstrate that the 'era of racism' is not over?

i'm curious what would make you believe it is over and how you would justify that indeed it is over? I'm not going to reply further until it is clear that i'm understanding your position.

Posted by: donroach at April 19, 2008 5:18 PM

I believe that Justin's words "the era of discrimination is over!," were not a declaration of the end of racism or discrimination, rather a hypothetical declaration used to illustrate the hypocracy of the minority and diversity crowd. Racism is far from over. The streets of providence are ripe with discord. Established latino businessmen prey on their own countymen, luring them here with promises of streets lined with gold, then putting them to work in their factories, new African immigrants are treated poorly by the established African population, Asian gangs fight one another, Russian immigrants had better learn English, there are no Russian interperters anywhere, unless they provide their own, from my view, we have a very long way to go.

Posted by: michael at April 19, 2008 5:45 PM

Michael's got the right idea, but I'd expand on what he says.

I do not believe that human society will ever be free of racism. The parties may change, the emphasis, the qualities noted, and so on, but it will always exist to some degree, with something a little below the current American reality as the low-point of its prominence.

That said, I think it manifestly evident in our law and in our culture that The Era of Racism — delineated by racism's codification in the law and cultural acceptance — is over. Sadly (and this was pretty much my point) the existence of discrimination is far too profitable for powerful classes for them to allow it to be squelched.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 19, 2008 8:37 PM


I'd say as long as you have affirmative action laws on the books then 'racism's codification in the law' is far from over. Until we're at the point - and we seem to be fastly approaching that era, where affirmative action becomes irrelevant, from a legal standpoint racism still exists as a legal concept even if the remaining legal concepts 'protect' minorities versus harm them as Jim Crow did.

Thank you for the clarification. I don't disagree many leaders exploit the concept of racism and discrimination for their own good, all the while ignoring real issues - take our immigration 'debate' in Rhode Island.

But it is a still unfortunate fact, that racism still exists and still affects our nation.

Posted by: donroach at April 19, 2008 9:07 PM

10% of all State contracts are 'set-aside" for minority contractors. That leaves 90% of all contracts,for ME and my sons.
(white heterosexual males)
Life is a bitch.
I do not have to worry about competition from Mr Katz..he does not have the nerve to try to compete with me

Posted by: Roger at April 19, 2008 10:58 PM

I am looking for editorial suggestions for my following web site:


If you have any ideas, please let me know. Yes, it is a real web site.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at April 20, 2008 12:07 AM

Well, Roger, since I have no idea what you do, I can't say whether I can compete with you (although it has nothing to do with nerves). If you mean just generic competition, heck, I'll take you on at thumb wrestling any time.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 20, 2008 6:47 AM

I'd like to clarify (or have clarified for me) something in your comment, though: I don't believe it's the case that the government picks 10% of contracts and puts them in a "diversity" pool. Rather, of all the contracts it offers, it gives weight to "minorities" in order to achieve at least 10% acquisition by them.

It's substantially racist of you, by the way, to suggest that the other 90% are virtually allocated for white males, considering that minorities are still able to compete for those bids. I guess no [slur]s, [slur]s, or [slur]s can compete with such superior light-skinned alpha males as you and your sons, either.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 20, 2008 6:52 AM

Citizen Critic,
Here's a motto for your organization,
"Stagnate and Die."

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 20, 2008 10:03 AM

Speaking of First Source, I've always wanted to see a study detailing if there are 10% minority businesses out there that could fill the 10% goal. I mean if there are only 5% minority owned electrical contracting companies, is racism running rampant if only 5% of the contracts go to these contractors?

Not knowing enough about the industry, I admit to some naivety. But while i like the idea of such laws to level the playing field, I'm not sure if there are enough minority players to field, rather to take advantage of, the 10% threshold.

Posted by: donroach at April 20, 2008 10:29 AM

Minority set-asides/ quotas only make sense to justify actual instances of discrimination.

There are many instances of quotas actually hurting minorities, such as when demographics change and decades old quotas which at one time were supposed to increase minority positions --now actually LIMIT them.

I think the Center for Individual Rights (www.cir-usa.org) had a case like that where old quotas actually limited minorities at a school. That public interest group is one of my favorite charities in the world.

Are minorities really so inherently deficient that they can only compete when the contracting/ academic/ professional rules are bent in their favor? That theory seems very patronizing, and yes, racist.

Would it really be hateful to question the qualifications of your black surgeon, based on the existence of racial preference programs which often promote or reward unqualified persons? I don't think so. This is just one of many unintended consequences that flow from these horrible racial preference policies.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at April 20, 2008 12:34 PM

As is typical of most liberal policies, they end up causing more harm than good. It's always the the law of unintended consequences with the liberal idiots. I just laugh at the absurdity of it all. I mean, it is so easy to see what the result will be, yet these seeming "do-gooders" proceed, with their heads up their butts, down a path of obvious ruin. Take for example the "fix" to the mortgage mess. Does anybody really believe that the "remedy" is going to do anything but shut out less than stellar borrowers from the credit markets? When you have whore politicians, trolling for votes, they institute all kinds of stupdity in the name of helping people, with the result being severe damage to those they purport to "help". But, that is the liberal way - it doesn't have to BE good - it just has to SOUND/FEEL good.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at April 20, 2008 12:57 PM


Thank you for your suggestion. However, literally, it does not match my request. I am not looking for a slogan. I am seeking deep content such as: news links, exclusive articles, videos, etc..

That said, I do agree with you that you have come up with a catchy tag line! It seems to have excellent relevance to the current state of the RI economy.

Perhaps the RI Democratic party, the Poverty Institute, or the RI public sector unions would be interested? The General Assembly always needs some better spin, er... I mean, marketing. Have you talked with Larry Berman? "Stagnate and Die" seems bang-on for their objectives.

If you follow the economic indicators, they have brilliantly succeeded at their mission. RI is tops in the nation for STAGNATION. DEATH has been slightly postponed, but --with $5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, $600 million in structural deficit, and $600 million in urgently needed infrastructure repairs --that would appear to be right around the corner.

KUDOS to you!!

Posted by: Citizen Critic at April 20, 2008 1:03 PM

So the Portuguese will have to put their businesses in their wives' or daughters' names like everyone else?

Posted by: JP at April 21, 2008 1:33 PM

"So the Portuguese will have to put their businesses in their wives' or daughters' names like everyone else?"

BINGO. And people in many other "non favored" ethnic groups already do use "straw" bidders, if they want a piece of the set-aside action. Everyone knows someone who does it.

My father and much of my family (who are ethnically Italian) are contractors, and therefore, bid on a lot of stuff, mainly at the municipal level. However, because their ancestors apparently came over on the wrong boat, they don't seem to qualify for the special treatment, even though I would dare anyone to deny that Italians didn't encounter some discrimination when they emigrated from Italy at the turn of the last century. If one wants to pit ethnic groups against each other, I dare say that Italians were treated far worse than the Portuguese, but maybe not as bad as some other groups, but better than others. In other words, it's subjective.

Let's just state it plainly -- the current system is largely arbitrary, and most certainly capricious. It's mainly based on perceived feelings about certain groups and how they may have been treated in the aggregate in the past -- and in some cases, in the distant past -- and not necessarily by how they are or should be treated as individuals in the present. Just on the face of it, why should someone get a preference (or lack thereof) in bidding on work, based on their skin's melanin content, as opposed to any other immutable characteristic? Short people, old people, bald people, etc.? What does it have to do with their ability to actually do the job?

PS It so happens, I'm 1/8th Portuguese. Is there anything in the current system allowing for ethnic pro-rating? ;)

Posted by: Will at April 22, 2008 2:41 AM


"Arbitrary and capricious..."


You hit the nail on the head.

Those two words very effectively sum up Affirmative Action and it's perfumed twin, Diversity.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at April 22, 2008 1:32 PM
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