Not the least bit helpful

Abortion is an emotional issue for many people on both sides of the debate. That is just the way it is, and there is no changing it. However, it is an issue that is emotional enough, contentious enough, without adding any unnecessary fuel to the fire. That is just what Alabama state congressman Alvin Holmes did on Tuesday, however.

The Alabama state legislature was debating a bill that would ban abortions in Alabama after a fetal heart beat can be detected. Holmes, a Democrat, proceed to make abortion a racial issue by claiming that white lawmakers–specifically white Republican lawmakers–would make their daughters get an abortion if they became pregnant by a black man.

The Independent Journal Review quoted Holmes from an audio recording of his speech it obtained from AL.com. Here is an excerpt:

If you ask the people in here now to raise their hands for those who are against abortion, 99% of all of the white people in here gonna raise their hands that they’re against abortion. On the other hand, 99% of the whites that are sitting in here now, if they’re daughter got pregnant by a black man, they’re gonna make their daughter have an abortion. They ain’t gonna let her have the baby.

You ain’t gonna have no black baby – if she got two other white children, and she gonna have a black baby – running around there in the living room, in the den with the rest of them. They’re not gonna let that happen – you know that and I know that. You will never admit it – you know that and I know that. All this stuff about abortion and this and that – that’s just a con game. That’s for whites, ain’t for blacks.

Holmes went so far as to ask a white woman in the chamber if she would allow her daughter to give birth to a mixed-race baby. When the woman replied that she would, Holmes said, “Well, I need to commend you, then. There wouldn’t be one out of 100,000 who would do that.” Really? Does Mr. Holmes truly believe that 0.00001 percent of whites would support their daughter and encourage her to give birth to her child if she became pregnant by an African American? I do not know if he believes it or not or if it is purely hyperbole, but his position is incendiary, offensive and not the least bit helpful.

The IJReview asks, “Why must Democrats resort to race baiting in order to try to win an argument?” Why, indeed? The issue of abortion is not a racial issue. Unlike homosexual marriage and other gay rights controversies the issue of abortion truly is a civil rights issue. If Mr. Holmes and others would allow themselves to debate the merits of an issue rather than tainting the matter by accusing those of another race of holding a position solely because of the color of their skin there would no doubt be much more beneficial discussion. If Mr. Holmes chooses to continue to support abortion on demand then I can take issue with him on that and he can take issue with me on my position that there is no constitutional right to abortion and that it is a practice that should be severely restricted. That he is black and I am white really doesn’t matter at all.

Why label?

The whole idea of labels is one that grows tiresome I think.

Around Washington, DC, where I grew up, there was a very large population of African Americans. (In fact, there are areas where the African American population is the majority. I taught in a school where less than one-third of my sixth grade class was Caucasian). But that label has always bugged me, too. First of all, very few of those African Americans have ever been to Africa, so is that really accurate? What about a Caucasian born in Africa who moves to the U.S.; does she then become African American? Or a Caucasian born in the U.S. who moves to Africa; does he become an American African? What about an African American who moves to Africa? Is he then an African American African?

As a Caucasian I suppose I am a European American but that seems tedious. If I wanted to be more specific I would have to label myself a Scots-English-German American. My point though is why label at all? I was born in America, as were my parents, and their parents, and their parents, and back quite a way (I have genealogies from both sides tracing back quite a ways, and the arrival in America of my ancestors goes way back) so why not just say I am American? I think that there is really just one race…human. Wouldn’t it simplify things greatly if we just eliminated labels all together?

This discussion reminds me also of a mini-controvery that came up in a professional network I am a part of this past year. Our school has a number of international students, and the issue came up from another school that also does over the use of the term “native language” to refer to the language that the international students learned first. This individual, and apparently others he claimed to be speaking for, found the use of the term “native” to be offensive since it implied that the language was somehow inferior or less civilized. He suggested the use of the term “first language.”

It seems that (1) people get too worked up over some terms and perhaps too easily offended, and (2) we all sometimes get too concerned with labels in general. So I ask again, why label at all?

Labels also create the problem of trying to ensure that each label is adequately represented in any given group, which leads to policies such as affirmative action (AA). I guess I would fall into the camp of the opponents of AA policies because I feel that admission to a school or hiring/promotion within a company should be based on merit. While I can appreciate the richness that diversity can bring to any school or organization, and I can agree that diversity is often desirable, I do not think it helps anyone to create diversity by lowering expectations or requirements. In other words, if in order to have diversity, a school or organization has to accept individuals that would not otherwise qualify for acceptance, the organziation will suffer. It may well become more diverse, but it will also become less rigorous.

I think AA policies are self defeating. In the instance of schools, they result in the admission of students who would not otherwise qualify, but then if those students who came in under AA policies do not succeed that does not look good either, so then the standards for success at the school must also be lowered in order to ensure that those who probably should not be there anyway are not all flunking out. As these standards are lowered, the overall quality of the students at the school will enevitably decline, and more than likely the level of the faculty members and the rigor of the teaching will, too.

I believe that admission to schools should be based on merit only. In fact, I would advocate that race not even be indicated on application forms or be a consideration for admission (or gender either, for that matter, unless it is an all-female or all-male school).

At the end of the day, when it comes to race, I see no good that comes from the labels.