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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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University of Guelph - Guelph, Ontario

Thursday, January 31, 2013

When quotas collide

It's been amusing to watch the antics in Massachusetts as Governor Deval Patrick (a Democrat) announced his decision regarding the appointment of an interim replacement for outgoing Senator John Kerry who has been appointed Secretary of State. His decision to appoint his former Chief of Staff William Cowan, who is black, isn't sitting well with retired Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay. Frank is "troubled" that his gayness didn't trump Cowan's blackness:
Former Rep. Barney Frank said he wishes consideration of being LGBT would have been weighed more heavily as a diversity factor in the decision to appoint an interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
In a brief interview with the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Frank said he didn’t want to discuss his personal feelings about Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) passing him over for the role in favor of former chief of staff William “Mo” Cowan, but noted he was “eager to get in and work on the issues.”
“But let me tell you, there was one thing that sort of troubled me in the discussion about it — nobody was particularly quoted; they attributed something to governor’s office and others — was that the governor would want to appoint someone who’s either a minority or a woman,” Frank added. “And what troubled me is the question of LGBT people was just kind of swept out. I’ve never asked for any appointment based on me being gay, but when they begin talk about the importance of diversity and leave us out, that troubles me.”
While Cowan’s appointment was hailed a milestone for diversity in terms of race because he’s black, Frank said the lack of attention to being LGBT as a diversity factor suggests those involved with the decision were unaware of President Obama’s inaugural address in which he mentioned the 1969 Stonewall riots in the same line as other iconic civil rights moments.
That's the problem when you see everything through the lens of identity. When you primarily identify yourself as a member of a "community" (typically an oppressed minority) rather than strictly as a citizen, then all politics is identity politics. Important decisions like the appointment of a US Senator are based on quotas rather than merit, and eventually there are so many competing identity groups clamouring for recognition and state support that it becomes impossible to satisfy anyone. Electoral districts are gerrymandered to ensure that legislatures reflect the "diversity" of the electorate. Private corporations are pressured to ensure that their management is suitably "diverse". TV and movie scripts are adjusted to make sure that all identity groups are suitably and positively represented.

Patrick must have agonized over this decision, since he's a rising star in the Democratic Party and has to show his true liberal colours to the faithful. Surely there is a disabled black autistic lesbian living somewhere in Massachusetts who would have made an outstanding Senator?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too, too funny. And who is going to get the seat afterwards permanently since the black guy says he is not going to run?

Read an article about the hit HBO series Girls and how it was criticized for not showing more minority people in New York. The creator of the show said something about not expecting to see girls like herself in the movie The Colour Purple. But they have since caved and will try to be more diverse for the second season...

hunter said...

There's truth in your last sentence. Who is more of a minority than the next...slippery slope thinking. What happened to hiring/appointing the most able to fill the job?

newcenturion said...

Since sexual acts between consenting adults are usually done in private; I'd like to know when a person's sexual proclivity qualified them to be a "visable" minority.

onefineguy said...

@ newcenturion: I'm sure that I was better off not trying to give thought to Barney Frank's sexual proclivity.