Time: Sat Sep 20 13:40:19 1997
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Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 13:32:58 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: "Victimhood beginning to know no bounds," by George F.
  Will (fwd)

Victimhood beginning to know no bounds 


 T is generally wrong to assume that any government policy,
 however preposterous it has become, has hit bottom. In
 today's government, the bottom is a downward-moving

 The New Republic calls a new wrinkle in affirmative action
 from the Small Business Administration "the reductio ad
 absurdum of victimhood politics." But a late entry in the
 absurdity sweepstakes is a theory discussed at the
 Commission on Civil Rights. 

 The new nuance in the SBA's racial spoils system concerns
 set-asides for federal contractors deemed "socially and
 economically disadvantaged." Since 1987 the presumption
 has been that contractors are "socially disadvantaged" if they
 are black, Hispanic, Native Americans, Asian Pacific
 Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. Now the
 golden door to the advantageous status of "disadvantaged,"
 and to set-asides, has been opened wider. 

 One "distinguishing feature" that the SBA will now assume
 to have contributed to social disadvantage will be "long-term
 residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of
 American society, or other similar causes not common to
 individuals who are not socially disadvantaged." That isolated
 environment criterion makes members of Congress or the
 Harvard faculty eligible for "socially disadvantaged" status if
 they decide to moonlight as contractors. 

 Furthermore, set-asides shall be available for those who have
 had "personal experiences of social disadvantage" that have
 been "substantial, chronic and long-standing." Furthermore,
 when parceling out set-asides the SBA will consider
 "education, employment and business history to see if the
 totality of circumstances shows disadvantage in entering into
 or advancing in the business world." 

 The New Republic notes that almost every entrepreneur can
 be stuffed under the shelter of those capacious criteria of
 victimhood. The magazine reports that a federal judge has
 even ruled that white men are socially disadvantaged, and
 thus eligible for affirmative action, if they have been denied
 contracts because of affirmative action. 

 What could be more absurd? Perhaps this: 

 Recently the Civil Rights Commission discussed "ability
 grouping" of students on the basis of aptitudes. Why is this
 considered a problem, let alone a federal civil rights matter?
 An answer was supplied by Commissioner Yvonne Lee, a
 Clinton appointee, who began by noting that "within the
 Asian-American community you do see an
 overrepresentation of Asian-Americans in certain so-called
 honor groupings or advanced classes." 

 That, she said, "discriminates against the students" by
 preventing them from "being exposed to other courses of
 studies." She said the discrimination problem of "ability
 grouping" does not involve only "students who are stuck at
 the bottom rung. It also affects students who get labeled as
 whiz kids and they get stuck in the upper rank and never get
 exposed to other opportunities." 

 Commissioner Robert George, a Princeton professor of
 government, was politely nonplused. He asked if Lee really
 was saying "that ability grouping is inherently discriminatory"
 and is particularly discriminatory against Asian-Americans
 because, by grouping them at the top of certain categories, "it
 deprives them of other opportunities." 

 Lee, who runs a San Francisco public relations firm, said yes,
 she believes "Asian-Americans are overrepresented in
 middle management, technical, professional ranks because
 throughout their educational ladder they've been shifted
 toward that area because they were thought to be smart in
 math and all the technical areas." Thus "they were shielded
 away from other social studies and other courses." Ability
 grouping put them "in a certain track," thereby denying them
 "the opportunity to be exposed to other aspects of
 education." Asian-Americans "are being hurt in later years
 when you see the other aspects of development that they did
 not have in their social interaction." 

 Getting "stuck in the upper rank" is a "civil rights problem"
 that millions of young Americans are studying diligently in the
 hope of acquiring. But Commissioner Lee sees people
 through contemporary liberalism's lens -- as members of
 grievance groups, but essentially passive, and who need to
 have their consciousness raised. She thinks they are victims
 who are "shifted" here and "put" there, allowing themselves
 to be stigmatized as "whiz kids." And they are improperly
 concentrated ("overrepresented") in the academic and
 vocational areas they choose to be in. 

 The implicit premise, central to the logic of contemporary
 liberalism, is that their choices result from social pressures
 and stereotypes and other facets of victimhood, and
 therefore are not really free choices. Therefore their choices
 need not be respected, and can be considered ripe for
 remedial government action. 

 Thus is the government, locked in the logic of group
 preferences, drawn toward the receding bottom of a
 bankrupt policy. Its descent is rationalized by a new social
 science, victimology. 

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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