The Democrats’ Race Race

Last night, in what I am happy to say was the last Dem debate before the Iowa caucuses next week, the candidates engaged in a spirited competition to see who could appeal most to the 5% of Iowans who are black or brown.

I’m not sure there was a winner, but my favorite exchange is summarized in these two paragraphs from today’s New York Times report:

In one of the sharper exchanges of the whole campaign season, the Rev. Al Sharpton confronted Dr. Dean with what Mr. Sharpton described as the lack of minority officials in senior positions in Dr. Dean’s administration as governor.

“Do you have a senior member of your cabinet that was black or brown?” Mr. Sharpton demanded, after Dr. Dean had earlier suggested that hiring more minorities was a key to racial understanding in America.

I will not pause to quibble with the Sharptonian syntax (“Do you have … that was”) — actually, as you will have noticed, that was a pause to quibble — because I find Dean’s answer so interesting.

The key to racial understanding is to hire more minorities? How would this work in real life? Let’s say, to pick one possible scenario, the Vice President for Personnel sends a memo to his staff: “Hire and promote more blacks. No more white middle managers until we get more blacks in here and moving up.” This will generate good will toward the new minority hires and promotees, especially among any whites or Asians who were not promoted, right?

Dean, apparently like most Democrats, doesn’t realize that this sort of racial favoritism is the problem, not the solution.

Among the many nasty effects of Sharpton’s question is that it virtually requires someone to note that no one asked Sharpton how many whites or Asians or Jews he had on his staff, now or in the past.


Dave Huber also discusses the Sharpton–Dean race riff.

Say What? (1)

  1. Stephen January 12, 2004 at 9:21 am | | Reply

    The newspaper article in which I read this story noted that Vermont’s black population is 2%. Where is Dean supposed to find some blacks to hire?

    This is somewhat akin to the determination of managers to hire blacks into programming and other high tech businesses. The problem was that… well, no blacks actually existed who had the education and credentials for the jobs. Part of the reason for this was that the competition for blacks in managerial positions was so fierce that blacks chose the path of least resistance… the HR or other social type of job, instead of the job that required hard rote education. Wouldn’t you make the same decision?

    Maybe cloning of the available professional black is the answer.

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