Saturday, May 26, 2007

San Antonio News

I'm in San Antonio for another weekend. A couple of stories caught my eye in this morning's San Antonio Express-News:

The first involves a federal discrimination suit. While the court did not agree that Richard O. Cook had been fired because he had filed a discrimination suit against the Texas Human Rights Commission. But these details, from Jaime Castillo's column in the Metro section this morning, are alarming and Castillo's conclusions spot-on:

This is no time to question the jurors. They heard all the testimony. They judged the statements and the body language of the accused and the accuser over several days of trial.

But a piece of evidence introduced in the case speaks to how woefully inept we are as a country at having honest discussions about race, ethnicity and discrimination.

During the trial, Cook testified about finding a "Mexican Application for Employment" on his desk shortly after he filed the complaint with the human rights commission.

"It is not nessesary (sic) to attach photo since you all look alike," the application begins.

Under the space reserved for a person's address, it states: "If living in car, give make, model and license #."

The choices under estimated income include, "welfare," "unemployment" and "theft."

Skipping to near the bottom, the application asks: "How many children do you have?"

There are spaces reserved to "1st wife," "2nd wife," "best friend's wife" and "neighbor's daughter."

The capper is the blank left for the applicant to "sign your name as it appears on your tattoo."

Now, there are those who will argue that this is funny between friends. But put yourself in Cook's shoes.

He's a Mexican Iraqi working in a Hill Country sheriff's office where only four out of the agency's 41 employees are Hispanic.

Although he attempts to ignore it, throwing away the application doesn't do any good.

Cook testified that he was given a second copy by a fellow deputy who said he took it off the bulletin board at the Gillespie County law enforcement building, which houses the sheriff's office, the Fredericksburg Police Department, some state troopers and a local game warden.

The response to Cook's allegations, even before a trial could be held, is the way too many so-called "minority" issues are greeted today: with sneering.

To my mind, this case is not about whether or not Cook has a sense of humor. In some contexts some might find it funny. But in the context of a job that sort of behavior is unacceptable. In the workplace people have the right not to share someone else's sens eof humor, especially when the joke is about the ethnicity of the target. Most Mexican Americans i know might be able to laugh at the faux application. Few would find it funny if it were placed on their desk (not once, but twice) when they were applying for a job.

The second story represents an equally problematic decision by Texas authorities. For a decade students from Texas high schools who graduated in the top 10% of their classes have been guaranteed admissions to UT-Austin or Texas A&M at College Station. republican lawmakers are trying to repeal that law and in so doing to restrict access to the best state universities. Who will lose in this scenario? Studnts from poor districts and disproportionately minorities. Who will gain? Students from affluent districts and disproportionately whites:

The House Mexican American Legislative Caucus notes the law has resulted in 170 high schools in 71 counties being able to send students to one of the state's two flagship campuses — UT-Austin and Texas A&M-College Station — for the first time.

But the law created a backlash in wealthier suburban communities with highly competitive schools. Parents say their children instead are attending universities outside Texas.

The policy was put into place in order to get away from a policy of race-based admissions that Republicans, of course, opposed. Now the state GOP shamefully wants to scuttle that compromise. There is no excuse for enacting such a policy that will only serve to restrict access for those who most need it. And we are not talking about opening up the admissions floodgates -- we are talking about kids who have excelled at their own public high schools. The solons in Austin, however, have decided to privilege affluent and overwhelmingly white suburbanites over the rest of the state. So much for fairness and standards.

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