The Bear and I went to get our passports renewed. His Postal Service name tag said Bob. Bob was efficient, thorough and a mother fucking racist.
He wasn’t wearing a hood or driving a Dodge Charger with a confederate flag; he was just mumbling while he worked.
It started off fine. He takes new photos of us.
“Hey, you look like Brett Farve.” I hadn’t shaved and the gray was sticking out from my double chin to the flat spot on the back of my head. Proves he’s not too smart, but that’s just a stupid mistake, not a racist one.
But then it turned ugly. Don’t know how, but college came up.
“I used to own a business and hire people,” he said. “They had degrees in Liberal Arts — worthless. You might as well print a diploma yourself. You don’t know anything about what you need to do on this job.”
“Hey, my degree is in Liberal Arts,” I said quietly. Bob moved on.
“I had the dean of the Mesa Community College in here,” Bob said. “I told him one of his graduates just came in here and spelled University with a “c”. He just shrugged his shoulders.”
Then Bob jumped the shark. Might as well have pulled the white hood over his head.
“Must be affirmative action…”
Jesus fucking christ, where do I start with this guy. That’s exactly saying: “college grads have become stupid because they let in too many black and brown people…”
I just want to get my passport and get the fuck out of there, I don’t want to start a fight in the post office — with bald-headed Bob. It’s not like any rational argument would change his mind.
But let’s just take a second for some rational thoughts here:
- Affirmative Action accounts for less than 5-10 percent of a class. Less than the number of “legacy” entries because dad is an alum, or “favored” entries because mom and dad made a big donation. If your kid didn’t get in, it’s not the affirmative action kids that kept your kid out – it’s that fucking Aunt Becky and her ilk who buy their way past the system.
- Many of the beneficiaries of lower test scores are whites who score lower than asians, but still get into the competitive schools.
- Affirmative Action does allow more black and hispanic students to gain entry to competitive schools.
- But it is often accompanied by lower graduation rates for minorities. Lots of different theories about “why”. When California eliminated affirmative action, the number of accepted minority students went down, but the graduation rate went way up. Number of graduates remained about the same. Good evidence that the standards are not being reduced for graduation.
- SAT (and other entry tests) scores are the most often cited “evidence” of favorable treatment (letting in people with slightly lower test scores). But tests are bullshit. Enty tests suck at predicting success. High School grades and family income/wealth/zip code are much better predictors of graduation and “success” in college. And people improve test scores by taking practice tests or prep courses. The poor can’t afford to do either.
- The SAT/ACT test has gotten tougher over time. The test is normed — meaning it adjusts every year to compare students to their cohort. If a question is too hard or too easy, it gets tossed. Over time the questions have gotten harder to reduce the number of people who get perfect scores.
- Some years the percentage of high school grads taking the test increases. That usually means more stupid people take the test. So that year, overall scores may drop — even if the number of smart kids is the same.
OK that’s the affirmative action list. I’ll have to do a different blog on benefits of Liberal Arts — critical thinking, analysis, ability to spot (or spout) bullshit on demand…
One small point on spelling, Bob. You are working with 19th century technology — the passport was a paper form. Here in the 21st century, we use keyboards and screens. If you throw a “c” into University, close enough, the software will fix it.
For this generation, learning how to spell perfectly with a pen would be like Baby Boomers learning Latin. It might impress at parties (or the post office) but it doesn’t mean shit.
We drove away, and I was kicking myself for letting Bob mumble his anti-intellectual and casual racist crap.
I wouldn’t ever change his mind, but I should have at least made a point to say:
“You sir, are full of shit.”
While I was thinking:
You mother-fucking, dumbass, anti-education, can’t-tell-the-difference-between-me-and-Brett-Farve, racist who lost his business and is pushing papers at the fucking post office — — Bob — are full of shit.
UPATE: July 2, 2020
I wrote this in 2018. If the recent #BlackLivesMatter movement has done anything, it’s convinced me I’m complicit when I’m silent. I can’t just kick myself later.
We (especially white people) must challenge casual racism. Mumbling can be mistaken for agreement. Allowing their bullshit ideas to fester hurts everyone.
I’m not going to change Bob’s mind. It’s just going to raise both of our blood pressures. But he would hear one Brett-Farve-looking-white-guy doesn’t believe his bullshit. It might make Bob hesitate before spewing his toxic gas at his job again. Hearing less of it, might make others hesitate too.
Making big societal changes can’t happen unless we sweat the small stuff. Next time I run into a Bob (or Karen) spreading this shit, I’m not letting it go. It may make no difference in Bob or Karen’s life, but it will make one in mine.
Update: July 7, 2020
I added this explanation after Bob say’s “must be affirmative action…”
That's exactly saying: "college grads have become stupid because they let in too many black and brown people..."
I felt I had too, after Gibson said he read the story three times and didn’t get it. I often call Gibson (or his fellow believers) fucking stupid and accuse him of not being able to read. I do that not because I think he is stupid, but because he doesn’t agree with me. Subtle difference.
When Gibson said he didn’t understand why blaming lower standards on affirmative action is racist, I figured I better spell it out in simple words.
The words might not be the same, but there’s really no other interpretation for saying college kids these days are dumb and it must be “affirmative action.”
I don’t think Gibson is any more racist than other people (or me). I think he believes in simple “standards” as set out in the absolute of a test score.
But that’s the point. The tests are not absolutes. They basically cluster kids into groups — likely to succeed versus not likely to succeed. Once over that threshold, rates of success are pretty much identical.
Admissions is a matrix of many factors. Culture and background should be considered so we have a diverse and equal chance for everyone. Complex problems take judgement.
We should develop admissions systems that reward good judgement that encourages diverse cohorts of leaders and students. Blaming one program designed to let more people of color in for a bullshit perception that people are getting dumber is racist.