* A couple of thoughts on the Texaco case

Topics: AA
17 Nov 1996

From: "DG ervan@cs.rice.edu"

Really from: "Ervan Darnell"

I surely find racist hiring practices obnoxious and absolutely do
not want to defend the mentality that pursues them. But the
accusations of racism in the Texaco case hinge a lot of criticism on
punishment on very little real evidence (at least so far). It smells
more like a witch hunt for the evil racists on which we blame all of
our problems.

The Houston Chronicle [1] opened a story with this line:

> America gasped when it heard the tapes. A group of former Texaco
> executives was discussing how "all the black jelly beans seem to be
> glued to the bottom of the bag."

My first reaction to this was "That's a rather odd epithet." Later,
I learned why. This was the term the diversity cops used in their
sensitivity training. The very group which is responible for
lowering racial tensions proceeds to do so by heightening racial
awareness and characterizing different races as being substantially
different. Coming to appreciate that other people have different
desires is a laudable goal, but explicitly injecting race into the
work environment is a dubious way to get good results. In any case,
when the executives fed back the racist sentiments they had been
primed with, they were the guilty ones, not the racist liberals who
set up distinctions.

Even worse, the above quote, the most infamous of the set (pending
the resolution of the debate on whether the word "Nicholas" or
"nigger" was on the tape), was said by which executive? The one who
was taping the conversation! In other words, the same guy who was
spying on his fellow executives was also trying to entrap them with
leading comments. If you listen to the tape, they did NOT take the
bait. This is like the cop trying to sell the drugs and then his
sales speech is used as the evidence even though the target never
bought anything. The Chronicle article never explained this. They
just went blinding ahead with this as proof of racism. I guess the
facts just don't matter in a case like this.

The content of the conversation is relevant too. They were not
discussing firing blacks, nor how to avoid hiring blacks. Instead
they were bemoaning that they could be forced to subsidize another
holiday by "diversity" concerns. While I'm not particuarly amused
that most corporations just assume everybody gets Xmas off, I can
understand equally they are not happy to have to deal with
celebratory demands of a few workers just because they are black.
That doesn't do much for tolerance either. If I were to demand 6/16
off because it's a high holy day of druidism, I would be laughed at,
and rightly so, even if it were true and I really believed it. It
would be my personal problem to deal with it (by negotiating a
contract that let me have that day off).

Which brings us to another problem: anti-discrimination law really
does make blacks more expensive to hire. It comes in several forms:
1) Special considerations like the above
2) Extra enforcement overhead to make the sure the law if followed
3) Turning every black employee into a liability bomb

And just what is the evidence that Texaco actually discriminated (as
opposed to the evidence that its managers paid too much attention in
diversity training):

> About 22.3 percent of Texaco's employees are African-American,
> Hispanic, Asian and Native American, company records show.
> While Texaco's diversity rate is below the national average of
> 24.9 [...]

In other words, they failed to meet their quota.

I like this little factoid too:

> Last year, 6,021 students received degrees in chemical engineering,
> including 521 minorities, the National Action Council reported.

So, they should have 9% minority engineers? If they don't will it
be more evidence of discrimination? It shouldn't be because already
that 9% figure is inflated by quotas at the educational institutions.
That 9% will be substantially less qualifed on average than the
other 91%.

[1] Thanks to Dan D. for bringing the following URL to my attention:
Ervan Darnell |"Term limits are not enough.
ervan@cs.rice.edu | We need jail."
http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ervan | -- P.J. O' Rourke