I grew up well after the Civil Rights Era, so maybe I just have a different perspective than people fifteen years or more older than me. However, I was at least told that all racism was bad. Got it: racism = bad. Everyone should be judged on the “content of their character”, not the color of their skin.
By the time I was eighteen, however, I was well aware that not all racism was considered bad. In fact, certain forms of racism were held up as positive goods. Namely, racism that promoted certain minorities on the basis of the fact that their ancestors were discriminated against. (There’s something else that goes into the equation, obviously, since the Irish, Italians, Catholics in general, Eastern Europeans, and other groups were also discriminated against, sometimes violently, but never receive any consideration for preferential treatment, but we’ll have to leave that aside for now.)
This is the same thing the feminist movement has largely devolved into: you did it to us, so we’re going to do it to you. Reverse discrimination is still sexist or racist, and it hasn’t created any truly improved situations, but, in spite of its track record, it is still promoted as the answer to all of our discrimination issues.
Apparently, the Navy isn’t into thinking logically or looking at the actual consequences of social engineering lately. First, the Navy announced a push to make the body of admirals reflect the ethnic make-up of the officer corps as a whole (of course, that was right around the point that the President was also charging into the realm of post-racial race-based appointments, so I guess you can’t lay all the blame on the CNO). Never mind that you might have to promote every single eligible ethnic minority captain you have to admiral to attain today’s diversity levels, since the officer corps back when they entered wasn’t very diverse at all. Never mind that you would almost certainly be promoting less-qualified captains because they had the right skin tone over more-qualified captains who had worked for decades to build their expertise and leadership abilities, but fell off the bottom of the list for being white. The stated goal is “diversity” not “talent”.
Now, gee, how shocking, a professor at the Naval Academy has come out with some insider information and hard facts about the Academy selection process that, frankly, many of us had long suspected. Pat Buchanan commented on the dumbing down of the Academy selection process, but don’t hold your breath to see it mentioned much of anywhere else. It seems the Navy instructed the Naval Academy Superintendant to make sure that the incoming class reflected the ethnic diversity of the enlisted corps, no matter what that meant to actual admission standards.
Newsflash to the Navy: the officer corps has never looked like the enlisted corps. Officers have generally been drawn from better-educated, and often politically placed, classes. Guess what? The enlisted corps has generally been drawn from poorer, less-educated, disenfranchised classes.
In the case of, say, the heavy Irish influx into fire and police departments early in their pattern of immigration, those firefighters hauling hoses and cops walking a beat could work their way up to a position of some influence and respect.
The Navy, on the other hand, draws a much stricter line between enlisted and officers. A few enlisted people are tagged for programs that lead to a commission as an officer, but the vast majority can only rise to the top of the enlisted ranks. Navy Chiefs are highly respected, and any ensign worth his/her salt knows that you do not go againts the chief’s advice without very, very good reasons. However, there is a difference in the level of education you need for the job that just can’t be ignored. I had some really great, self-motivated, squared-away enlisted people who worked for me in the Navy; what made them memorable, however, was that they stood out from the rest of the enlisted. They were the ones who were usually tagged for early promotions, additional responsibilities, and, occasionally, officer programs.
(I knew one particular midshipman who we all knew would make an incredible officer. He was prior-enlisted from the Marines. I think he spent his entire Academy career scraping by academically, but he had real experience as a Marine, and we were all happy to see him graduate. “Experience” as a suburban black female just isn’t the same thing, nor does it merit the same level of respect or aid.)
Even if you can juggle numbers to make the skin color mix on Induction Day at the Academy look like the enlisted corps, there is no guarantee that the less-qualified candidates you picked to *improve* the diversity will graduate. There were a number of people in my company who started Plebe Summer with me who did not graduate. Some were bright enough, but obviously ill-suited to Academy life, which has its, shall we say, *quirks* (as we often said, we’d love to find out what a normal university is like someday…). Most of the rest who started but failed were there because they played a sport or fulfilled an ethnic or gender quota. Something besides officer potential got them in, but it didn’t do the homework for them, often in spite of intensive tutoring and less-demanding majors.
(One exception: some jobs in the Navy are not open to women. Even if the top 1100 candidates for the Academy were all women, you couldn’t take all of them, because there wouldn’t be enough jobs for them upon graduation and other positions would go unfilled. There is, realistically, an upwards limit on how many women the Academy can accept, but not a lower limit.)
So, at the end of the day, did the Navy advance or kill a post-prejudice mentality?
I’ve said it before: quotas only reinforce prejudice. The fact that some minorities are accepted to the Naval Academy not for their grades, SAT’s, and officer potential, but for their skin color or gender, casts a shadow on everyone else in that minority: “Are you here because you earned it like I did, or are you here because you’re black/Hispanic/football player/female?” When they fail to succeed because they weren’t qualified in the first place, it only reinforces negative prejudices about the entire minority: “Those people can’t succeed without something propping them up.”
I heard it in the Academy and in the Fleet: “You only made it here because you’re a girl.” “The captain made you the senior officer of the deck just because you’re a woman.” And that’s just what was said to my face by people who claimed to be on good terms with me.
No, in fact, I know that my qualifications on both counts were much higher than those of the people who made those statements, and our comparative records before and after those conversations proved it. But that shadow of doubt remained in some people’s minds, because of the fact of the lowering of standards for women and minorities to force “diversity”.
We need to remove the shadow. We must remove all ethnic quotas and considerations if we really want to end racism.
Let everyone know that they rose or fell on their own efforts, and be proud or not based on their abilities, not the presence or lack of melanin in their skin or X or Y chromosomes.