Diversity hiring on law school faculties, cont’d

by Walter Olson on June 5, 2012

Point of Law has been continuing its discussion of racial preference and diversity hiring at law schools in the wake of the Elizabeth Warren brouhaha. I’ve now concluded my contribution with a second post (first one here). Excerpt from my new post:

…were competing approaches to diversity permitted, newcomers would be more likely to find an institution that suits their own desired experience: some would seek a pledge that advancement would be race- and sex-blind, others an assurance of encountering colleagues from backgrounds very different from their own.

Of course that’s not the world we live in. In our actual world, all law schools must conform to a prescribed format. Accreditation officials will haul up any institution that tries to be race-blind, and HLS will scramble to claim hiring credit for Prof. Warren’s vague family lore of Cherokee ancestry.

Should outsiders care? One reason to care might be if the prevalence of identity politics tends to reinforce the problem (assuming it is a problem) of ideological imbalance in the legal academy. In Schools for Misrule I conclude that it does, though only as one of many contributing factors….

{ 5 comments }

1 wfjag 06.05.12 at 5:59 am

An issue I have not seen addressed is that since Affirmative Action is supposedly to address the effects of slavery/ Jim Crow de jure discrimination, why the preference and glorification for descendants of a tribe (the Cherokee) who were slave owners and traders and who fought for the Confederacy?

2 David Schwartz 06.05.12 at 8:12 am

That’s the old rationale for affirmative action. The new rationale is that diversity is an end in itself.

3 Ron Miller 06.05.12 at 10:24 am

Wfjag are you serious? The purpose – agree with it or not – is to lift up those who have been historically oppressed. Does anyone really question the historical oppression of the Indians?

4 gitarcarver 06.05.12 at 12:39 pm

Does anyone really question the historical oppression of the Indians?

As it applies today and as is used by people like Elizabeth Warren, yes.

Even assuming your premise is correct, when are people accountable for their own actions? Should I be held accountable for something that happened long ago? Should Warren be held accountable for Indian atrocities?

At what point in time are we accountable for what we do, and not what those generations long ago did?

5 wfjag 06.06.12 at 9:42 am

@Ron – yes I am serious. You might
try learning the history of native tribes. They were not all treated the same. The Trail of Tears was genocidal. However, after re-establishing themselves in what became Oklahoma, the Cherokee became strong. Unlike the rest of the Confederacy, there were no successful Union Army incursions into Cherokee territory. After the Civil War they were punished, as was the rest of the Confederacy. However, the Cherokee always fared better than tribes that allowed themselves to be merely herded onto Reservations and reduced to dependency on the federal government.
For a couple of generations being able to claim Cherokee lineage has been a point of pride. That is much less true of most other tribes (e.g. you don’t see many people claiming to be 1/32d Navaho or Blackfoot. People with such lineages usually only they are part Indian or Native American, without identifying a tribe.)
As far as historical discrimination goes – nearly every American can claim it. People didn’t leave their homes in Europe (or Asia) because they were comfortable. The Irish, Scots, Italians, Poles, Jews, Chinese – name your group – were forced one way or another to come here. And, except for family, there was no one welcoming them on arrival. And, many died in poverty after they arrived. One of my ancestors was Press Ganged into the Royal Navy and jumped ship at the first opportunity. Another arrived because one on the King Louies decided it was cheaper to
clear out the Debtors’ Prisons then keep feeding the inmates.
All of our ancestors were discriminated against, and many returned that favor to others. The Cherokee are like all Americans in that respect.
I believe that all Americans should be proud of their ancestors. I wear Green and Orange each March 17th – and that is only one of the ethnic
festivals I observe. But, I don’t claim any work preferences because B- is a common blood type in my family (hint: that’s a non-European genetic trait).
So, why should a blond-haired, blue-eyed Ivy League Prof receive special consideration because her supposed high-cheek bones allegedly come from slave owning and trading ancestors who probably supported the Confederacy so they could keep their slaves?

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