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GOLDSEA | IDENTITY

THE VIRTUAL WHITE MAN
Is it possible for us to go too far in the name of equality?
by E. G. Satirico

"He didn't just thumb his nose once, he stuck an index finger up there too."
hese days there are a lot of white men out there banging their heads, asking themselves what went wrong. They are licking their wounds, wondering how they became so downtrodden. They can't even get hired; they're losing their jobs, not to mention their hair. But now they've empowered themselves. In our equal opportunity world, white men have become the New Minority.
     To some of us Asian folk, a white man in the minority is a ludicrous thought. It's a little like being the oppressed and the oppressor in the same body, a duality defined by the American humorist Ambrose Bierce as "one who professes the virtues that he does not respect, who secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises."
     This White Minority Syndrome is a well-documented phenomenon. You can catch it at the video store through movies like Falling Down. White men are ticked off. But how could it all happen? After all, weren't they in charge? Well, apparently not. So white men are losing it. They're blaming immigration, birth control, feminism, anything. They are losing their grip.
     To a veteran of the color wars like me, it's obvious what this new minority needs: a good five-cent affirmative action plan. And Chinese American Stanley Dea is just the man to give them one.
     As you may know, Dea is the new patron saint and hero to all white men. Soon white people will be naming their children after him, starting scholarships in his name to send poor white kids to Harvard and Yale. This is an Asian American who is making an impact.
     What did Stanley Dea do? He did his duty for white men, those poor things. He stood up for them.
     Dea is a Washington bureaucrat who works for the area's wastewater and sewer treatment commission, so he knows "foul" when he sees it. Dea was a manager who actually tried to hire white people. Unfortunately, his bosses, bound by equal opportunity laws, told him specifically to hire minorities to correct imbalances in the workplace.
     But Dea thumbed his nose. In fact, he didn't just thumb his nose once, he stuck an index finger up there too. Twice he went against his bosses and tried to hire white men, prompting observers to comment, "He just doesn't get it."
     Dea's bosses didn't ask him to do anything illegal. In fact, the bosses were simply asking him to implement his workplace's official affirmative action plan--one that the agency is obliged to follow by federal laws. Dea chose to go against it. Why? "It wasn't long before I began to see the subtle injustice of the affirmative action plan," he told a reporter. "To promote minorities, we had to do so at the expense of other, better qualified candidates." He sounded like a spokesperson for the white version of the NAACP.




     Dea's white guys may have had better-looking resumes, but consider how as white men they probably have had the best career opportunities too. No one said the minorities were unqualified. I'd suggest that if their backgrounds looked anemic next to the white candidates', it's probably because their opportunities have been limited.
     And that's what affirmative action is about: giving qualified minorities a push. A jump start due to being systematically shut out of the arena. Dea did not understand this. Unfortunately, a lot of Asian Americans don't understand this. They'd rather count Maj-jongg tiles. Yes, Mah-jongg tiles. The Job Luck Club.
     In Dea's mind we live in a world where the highest score wins. Just like Mah-jongg. And that's because Asians have traditionally fought discrimination by trying to go beyond skin color and race. Dea, and many others among us, are merit-ocrats. They say, "My number-crunching is better than your number-crunching. Damn straight, high score wins. We're the virtual white men. Give us our due."
     That's great. But that's not the way the game is played. Diversity is about mixing and matching, creating a balance. Workforces should look like society. We shouldn't want workforces that are all white, or for that matter, all black, brown, Asian or all left-handed Lutherans. Of course, we want the best workers, but this is where we have to combine different factors to get the best balance and mix possible. What's irksome about the Asian American meritocrats is that they give Asians, in general, a false sense of equality. Are we equal? "Tell that to the Asians who are stuck in middle management and hit their heads daily on the proverbial glass ceiling.
     Even worse, the meritocrats like Dea end up making people think of Asians as those "model minorities"--super intelligent, infallible and practically white. In other words, in the eyes of the mainstream, "just like us," er, them. Yet the truth is just the opposite. We aren't just like them. Our Asian American community is over 50% immigrant and in as much need of social services and help as ever before.
     Nevertheless, Stanley Dea is being propped up as a hero because he helped white men. For his courage, he's been co-opted by a group that calls itself the Institute of Justice, which sounds vaguely like a conservative think tank along the order of the Heritage Foundation. Whose heritage? Not Dea's real one, but certainly his virtual heritage.

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