Friday, December 19, 2008

The dangers of ethnic math

Steve Benen has a piece today in which he discusses a topic that Matt Yglesias brought up, namely, the fact that the Obama cabinet has no Jewish members. Yglesias points out that there are important Jewish people in the administration (Axelrod, Summers, Orszag), to which Benen adds Rahm Emanuel, so he concludes, "No cabinet spots per se, but not bad, either."

Now maybe this was intended as something relatively light-hearted for a Friday, but that's not clear, and I find this discussion off-putting. Supposedly, we're trying to move beyond this kind of crude counting game, where every group has to be represented in at least the proportion they are found in the population. We've heard Hispanics complain about what they feel is too little attention being paid them by Obama, now we're seriously discussing whether some religious group is getting enough seats at the table.

Look, it's funny when this is lampooned on 30 Rock through the character of Toofer (so called because he's black and from Harvard), but we've got to move beyond this. There is no guarantee that someone of your (pick a group, ethnicity, faith, color, gender) will represent you better than someone from another group. Do we think Serbians are proud of Governor Blagojevich's background these days?

Our problems are too great, too challenging, to believe that "proper" representation will solve them. Discrimination is wrong; being unable to assemble a management team that precisely reflects the makeup of America is not.


Greg said...

I remember seeing on election night that Jews had some of the highest ratios of votes for Obama. Although there are only about 5 million Jews in the US, Jews tend to be more politically active than the average Americans, which is why there is some thought about supporting the Jews. For what that's worth.

Androcass said...

I get why some want to factionalize us; there's power in that. I just don't find it a luxury that we can afford right now. Perhaps it's sour grapes on my part; no one's counting the number of WASSGPs in the new administration (that's white, Anglo-Saxon Swedish German Protestants, the group to which I proudly belong).

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