Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Cult of Racial Victimology Backlash

David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks offer a penetrating attack on the cult of racial victimology in today's Los Angeles Times.

It turns out that Gloria Jeff, a political appointee at L.A.'s Department of Transportation, won a $95,000 award for wrongful termination from the city last week after she was fired for incompetence and uncollegiality. Jeff is black, and according to Lehrer and Hicks, her the award, probably handed down to avoid a lawsuit, "was appropriately lambasted in local editorials, which decried paying out a princely sum."

The authors argue that the ultimate message from the episode is that victimologists will defend racial favoritism at all costs, in their effort to maintain diversity in minority representation:
The award to Jeff and the discussion about her firing leave a uniformly negative residue. What prevailed is a worldview in which racial/ethnic identity is more important than any other factor in judging a person. Jeff had to be a victim of bias because of her color, regardless of whether there were legitimate reasons for her dismissal.

This method of viewing the world -- solely through a prism of race and ethnicity -- has a serious and, one would assume, unintended side effect, no matter the intentions of those who employ it. It tells the world that colorblind practices that hold minorities to the same standards as others may simply not be good enough. If an at-will employee terminated by an elected official like Villaraigosa, with an unparalleled record of minority hiring, can extract a sizable monetary settlement, what are the prospects for a run-of-the-mill private employer who wants to terminate a minority employee when no bias is involved? A very public precedent has been set: If the merest assertion of bias is made, the expectations of reward will probably be there.

There are employers who will understand this and, when faced with a choice between hiring a non-minority or a minority, may well think twice about hiring the minority because of a fear that any decision to terminate or discipline the employee would be subject to allegations of racism -- based solely on the employee's minority status.

African American leaders who assert racism at the drop of a hat presume to be advancing the cause of minorities by being vigilant. In fact, they may be inadvertently adding to the discrimination in our country and doing their constituents, and the public, a grave disservice.
Obviously, that's not a message that members of the victims' cult want to hear.