Lawrence Summers, I feel your pain.
The sad truth about a society that becomes increasingly politicized by the day is that the principal victim is integrity. Thoughtfulness and honesty count for less and less and appearances count for more and more.
Summers, president of Harvard, speaking informally at an economics conference dealing with diversity, suggested that one possible reason for fewer women on science and engineering faculties may be less inherent ability in women to perform at the highest levels of these fields.
Is this possible? Yes. Can you say this at a university? Apparently not. Summers’ remarks provoked a furor from many members of the Harvard faculty and now, of course, Harvard has a new task force to recommend procedures for hiring more women.
If truth, rather than politics, is what interests the Harvard faculty, this is what I suggest be done. Convene an inquiry into the proposition that women may not be as genetically disposed to math and science as men. If the result of this inquiry is a conclusion that this might be a possible _ not is the case, but might be possible, which is what Summers suggested _ then the faculty that attacked him is fired. If the inquiry shows that this is not a possibility, then Summers gets fired.
My guess is that Summers would submit to this exercise, but the dissenting faculty members would not. They would not because they know they would lose, and careful courageous inquiry is not what interests them. Their concern is that they maintain political power to advance their preconceived notions about how the world should be.
The first reactions at Harvard were to attack Summers, force an apology and demand politically motivated action. Why wasn’t the first reaction to rigorously examine his hypothesis? Isn’t this a university? Isn’t the point of a university the pursuit of knowledge?
I feel Summers’ pain because, as a black conservative, I deal with this sort of thing all the time.
Today my organization sent out a press release saying that reforming Social Security with personal retirement accounts is good for blacks. I received a one-sentence e-mail from the editor of a black newspaper calling me an Uncle Tom.
Clearly facts and analysis are of no interest to this man. He had no questions for me about why I have drawn the conclusions I have. It was just simply clear to him that if I hold this particular view, I must be a turncoat to my race.
This is the case in general in black politics. It is generally assumed that a black Republican is making it because he or she has sold out to the establishment. Doesn’t anyone wonder why the NAACP does not have events celebrating the first black woman secretary of state? Why does an organization whose mission is to advance the lot of blacks not celebrate Clarence Thomas, our black Supreme Court justice?
The issue, of course, is politics and not substance. The goal is not a thoughtful and just world, but a world that reflects preconceived notions of those who want to exercise power.
Suppose Summers said he simply had no idea why there are fewer women on science faculties. Or suppose he suggested it is impossible to understand. These responses too would have been unacceptable. The only acceptable response could have been what those protesting wanted to hear. Discrimination.
The women’s movement began with complaints about women being stereotyped and being treated like objects.
But quotas amount to treating people like objects. As do generalizations that correlate earnings to gender. However, dehumanization that produces politically acceptable results is fine to those who like the results it produces.
I discuss in my book Uncle Sam’s Plantation the meaninglessness of the term “minority.” What is it? It obviously has nothing to do with numbers. There are certainly ethnic groups that are fewer in numbers than blacks or Hispanics that are not considered minorities.
Black history is unique. There is no other group whose ancestors were dragged here in chains and enslaved. What is it that we have in common with other groups who are labeled “minority”?
“Minority,” of course, cannot be defined because it is a label that is purely political and used exclusively for politically motivated purposes. These purposes, through all sorts of attempts at special treatment, wind up producing the same dehumanization that we supposedly want to combat.
This former welfare mother has news that may disappoint many on the faculty at Harvard. There are no ultimate political solutions to making this a better or more just world.
I would suggest to them to consider “thou shalt not covet” as a productive alternative to head counting. And I would suggest that the use of universities in the honest pursuit of knowledge rather than politics will produce a far better world.
Star Parker is president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education and author of the newly released book Uncle Sam’s Plantation.