The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 63.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Special treatment of minority groups is a discriminatory act against SWAMees

As I read the letters in response to Timothy G. Wilson '93's commentary on Straight White American Males (SWAMees), I was struck by the assumption that all three authors appeared to make, and yet none of them stated explicitly ["SWAMee letter misunderstood discrimination at MIT and beyond," "This SWAMee supports efforts to end discrimination," March 12].

Ellen R. Spertus G, Rex F. Babiera '91, and James N. Rees Jr. G all stressed the fact that discrimination is still quite evident in our society today, and yet never explained why this simple statement of fact justifies the institution of affirmative action policies.

To state that Spertus believes SWAMees should be discriminated against, in matters such as college scholarships for example, in order to compensate for the discrimination against minorities in society is only a slight oversimplification of her letter; her claim that Wilson, as a SWAMee, would not be hurt by such a policy of reverse discrimination is absurd. Why discriminate in order to correct this evil?

Babiera's letter, stating that affirmative action policies are "not a perfect solution," at least hints at the inequality introduced by this policy supposedly meant to fight inequality.

Babiera realizes the bitterness which an affirmative action policy creates, but seems only to give it a cursory examination. He recognizes Wilson's bitterness, but does not understand it. Let me venture a guess at why Wilson would be bitter.

Since he was a small infant, he has been told that race and gender are irrelevant, with few exceptions. Given this background, when he grapples with the problem of college funding and finds himself excluded from many scholarships an special programs based upon his race, he becomes frustrated and bitter. This is made all the worse because those people who are excluding him strictly because of his race claim that they are in fact champions of equal rights, fighting discrimination, not committing it.

Rees seems to propose that minorities be compensated for the harassment they receive at the hands of the evil SWAMees. And nobly, he proclaims that he does not "mind paying slightly more tuition so that women can find a quiet place to relax on campus or that so a gay student can enjoy the benefit of a support group."

In all honesty I find both of these concepts worthwhile, but why not add to the list a room where SWAMees can complain about reverse discrimination without people assuming they're racists, a detailed replica of the USS Enterprise bridge for persecuted Trekkies, and dozens of other special interest rooms, all of course, funded by the Institute with money that would otherwise have been spent on education.

Besides, if Rees feels his money is being well spent, that is hardly reason enough to justify a policy which affects all students.

The implicit assumptions that Spertus, Babiera, and Rees made was that since there is discrimination, it must be corrected no matter what means are necessary, no matter if the innocent are hurt.

I ask why they condemn discrimination and then commit it. If discrimination in the form of affirmative action is an acceptable way to solve a problem then why shouldn't discrimination in other more heinous forms be considered an acceptable way to solve a different problem.

The acceptance of affirmative action as a just and fair policy hampers, instead of speeds, any movement toward a discrimination-free society. What else could possibly be expected from a policy which legitimizes discrimination as a solution.

If the removal of discrimination is truly our goal, then would it be more productive to have a policy based upon the premise that discrimination is wrong, no matter what the end?

James W. Reiner '94->