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Protectionism, Not Racism

Though I realize there was just recently a letter to the editor pleading those submitting their opinions not to consult a dictionary [“Dictionary Duds,” March 9], I was tempted to direct Mr. Nesmith to one for his article on “racism” in the outsourcing debate [“Give Me Back My Job, Foreigner,” March 16]. Nesmith should realize that racism involves discriminating against people based on race, not their country. True, there are many Mexicans in Mexico, so I certainly could see where confusion might arise, but the truth is that choosing not to give a Mexican a job in order to keep American money in America’s economy is protectionist, not racist.

On the off chance that there’s still some lack of clarity in the argument, it should be pointed out that there are, for example, former Americans living in India taking advantage of the relatively high wages in the tech industry when compared to the cost of living there. Opponents of job outsourcing would rather an immigrant Indian in the U.S. take the job than the white immigrant in India; the money in the latter case still leaves our country, only to benefit the outsourcing corporation and not those (numerous) unemployed workers in our own country.

How one could find racism in all of this is both puzzling and telling of Mr. Nesmith’s misunderstanding of the situation. And perhaps a couple semantic subtleties.

Aston R. Motes ’07

[LTE]The Benefits of Offshoring[body]
Mr. Nesmith [“Give Me Back My Job, Foreigner,” March 16] is right that offshoring should not be banned, but his justifications are questionable. He compares protectionist trade policies to Jim Crow laws and other types of discrimination without acknowledging a key fact; a black man in Mississippi is an American who deserves the full protection of the American government. Our legislators are under no similar obligation to strive for economic equality across countries; call it nationalism or jingoism if you want, but our government’s first responsibility is to our own quality of life.
Yet offshoring does economically benefit the American people, although recent political posturing indicates otherwise. Hal Varian’s March 11 column in the New York Times [“What Goes Abroad Usually Comes Back, With Benefits”], also available on his personal Web site, explains that if dollars that go abroad don’t come back in the form of purchases of American goods, we have in effect exchanged green paper for shoes and programming. Of course these dollars do come back, but not to the people who were laid off; American agricultural exports have been growing for the past several years. While the unemployed manufacturing workers may have trouble finding new jobs, offshoring is definitely a productivity boost for the American economy as a whole.
I hope that our government doesn’t legislate away offshoring for something as short-term as a presidential election. But I hope we do it for the right reasons, instead of irresponsibly throwing around charged words like “racism.”
Amal K. Dorai ’04[sig]