Job postings on the group

Linnea Ista lkista at
Thu Oct 19 11:40:33 EST 2000

bmartin at wrote:

> In article <39EDF613.7B417228 at>, Linnea Ista <lkista at>
> wrote:
> > I would agree if the posts came from an institutional representative.  If it
> > is from an individual on the list, I believe that is what the old boys would
> > refer to as "networking".   Some of us are not subscribed to the other list,
> > after all.
> >
> > I am quite often amused at how the recipients of affirmative action, who
> > receive it because of a history of overt discrimination, are somehow required
> > to be absolutely certain that we ourselves are  perceived as scrupulously and
> > totally fair even as we are still fighting bias directed at us.   If the
> > playing field were truly level, I would agree.
> Like it or not; logical or not, you lose folks to the anti-affirmative
> side if bias is perceived.  Many folks see no merit in exchanging one
> unfair viewpoint for another unfair viewpoint notwithstanding any
> efforts to dissuade them.
> B. Martin

I guess I stated my case badly here.

What bothers me about this "You must not only actually be fair, but PROVE that
absolutely no white male has ever lost out unfairly" is the following:

It seems like part of what is being said is that we somehow EARN the right to
equality by being "better people".   Even if not all issues of equality have been
addressed.  Even if much of the anti-affirmative action sentiment comes from the
deep down feeling that those receiving it are just simply less deserving of the job
than those whom they would supposedly be displacing.  I am sure you have all heard
it "This Black guy got the job and he doesn't know what he is doing. "  "This woman
got the job and she is SUCH a ditz!"  This presupposes that EVERY white male
holding similar positions was supremely qualified and that everyone has a learning
curve and, quite honestly, if the person is facing hostility from her/his
colleagues, that is going to show as well.  There is also the problem that people
of color and women face where  bizarre behavior or incompentence in a white male is
perceived as an individual aberration, the same thing for the rest of us is
considered a reflection on the group as a whole.

I saw a glaring example of this early in my career in this very lab.  We had three
seniors working for us one semester.  Two white men, who had more or less B
averages, had hung out around here and not done co-ops (big CV builders for
engineering students), and one African American woman who had an above 4 GPA, had
spent her summers doing internships, AND, who I might add, did a stellar job on her
project in the lab.  I walked into the lab one day to hear the men complain how
they just were NOT going to get jobs because they were white men  and "Look at
Amy.  I mean SHE is getting all those job interviews at big companies.  It must be
nice to be a black female."   In other words, they somehow were equally qualified
to for jobs when they were slightly above average and "Amy" was clearly above
average, and the only explanation for her success was that she was getting "special
treatment". COME ON!  It seems to me that some people are very intimidated that
they are actually going to have to compete with someone they feel internally is
somehow less deserving or still has to prove that s/he belongs.  Wasn't it Bella
Abzug who said something like "we will have achieved equality, not when a female
Einstein gets a chance at a job at MIT, but when a female schlemiel has just as
good of a chance as a male schlemiel".

The second part is this.  There are still many advantages that accrue to those who
are white and/or male (as well as straight and Christian).  They are intangible,
for the most part.  They are "affirmative action" in other ways -- making sure your
fraternity brother knows about a job that would be perfect for him; children of
alumni getting admittance to a school,  considering the application of a  less
qualified person from the same branch of the service in which one served (I have it
on good authority that the Marines, for example, encourage that) and the well
discussed issue of mentors simply being more comfortable around people that look
like them, as well as being assumed to be competent when you walk in the door.
Sitting on that high wall of privilege, which is often times assumed and mistaken
as a "right", and then looking from that vantage point and whining about how unfair
it is that someone else is getting "special treatment" or that one a victim of
"reverse discrimination", is to me, a bit disingenuous.  After all,  there have
been over 200 years of affirmative action going on in your direction and you are
still benefiting from it.

I spent a year (which seemed like a BIG waste of time at the time and probably hurt
my career a little bit), mentoring a student who was someone who was a member of an
underrepresented group.  He got a bunch of extra chances ,which was hard because if
I had pulled the same stuff he did, it would have been further evidence that women
in general, and, I, in particular, were just to "scattered" or "flighty" or "not
serious enough" for a research career.  I, and he, stuck it out, and now he is a
treasured and valuable colleague.  There is one more person who "looks like him" in
the pipeline and he plans to go on to teach others.  There has been a forward
stride, and one that I had to pay for a little more than I thought was strictly
"fair".  On the other hand, I had advantages going into the whole thing that he did

I guess my point, and I do have one, is that it seems really, really insulting to
insist on complete fairness at all times from the group that is trying to catch up,
while at the same time enjoying the fruits of your own privilege, no matter how
unapparent and unasked for.

Thanks for listening,

More information about the Womenbio mailing list