In our minds, the word quota is associated with restrictions and therefore the idea that what is subjected to a quota is somehow negative.
When quotas are mentioned, it’s mainly to remove or restrain something: we want quotas on migrants so the country can cope with the new arrivals and isn’t “submerged”, we have quotas on our food production in Europe because over-production is by definition waste and money thrown out of the window, we have quotas on the number of soldiers Germany or Japan can have so we never have to fight yet another World War “because of them”…Our mindset is that quotas are for the great and the good in that they limit something that could be potentially damaging.
No wonder in this mindset that even feminists or people fighting against racism and segregation see quotas as the wrong solution to making the plagues they are fighting disappear. They say they favour education rather than imposing something on the white man to end his dominance. And I agree but we need to do both.
Education is indeed the key: let’s make girls understand that there are not limits to what they can do and what they can be interested in, let’s teach to boys accept it. Let’s make people understand from a very young age that the colour of your skin has no bearing whatsoever on your personality, your ability, and that being a Christian does not make you any more tolerant or enlightened than belonging to other religion. Just to name a few examples.
Hackneyed clichés, yes, because most of us agree with them and we are working towards them. Towards tearing down the narrow sides of the boxes in which we put people so we have to make a an effort to actually get to know them for who they are rather than relying the shallowness of prejudice and making life-changing assumptions based on what we see.
I disagree in that we need quotas because we cannot afford to wait another 50 years for the narrow-minded white men currently in power to all wither away and finally get the new generations in. Also these new generations, these young girls and women, these people of different skin colour and religion need role models to look up to. Not just in fiction but in reality so they can see that everything is possible as long as you are a human being, not just a born white and male.
However, we need to change how we deal with quotas. As the LSE puts it in their last report after Ireland’s decision to impose certain quotas, we have been making a mistake with our discourse. We have used quotas to force women on men making women in power the issue when the problem we want to address is the over-representation of men.
Putting a quota on women forced the focus on the under-representation of women but, in that way, it also pits against one another all the ‘minorities’ looking for fairer representation or share of power, because it’s not just women who are under-represented in Western countries. If we have a quota on women, we need a quota on black people, one on Asian people, one on gay people, one on Muslims, one on Jews, one on single parents, one on young people so our institutions, at least, do represent the society they have a duty to serve. So everyone gets a genuine voice: all the under-represented individuals of the Western societies who still have to rely on aloof, unconcerned white men when it comes to life changing laws and decisions.
I am not saying that all white men are unable to understand and serve greater purpose that the ones of their own kind but it does take a great amount of enlightenment and empathy to make selfless decisions that could possibly even trigger the end of your own privilege. And such men are few and far between, especially in Right-wing circles and increasingly an endangered species on the Left.
The economic plight of the young and single mothers, the half-baked solutions to fight racial prejudice, the constant questioning of abortion and women’s rights, the rise of Islamophobia and racism, and the ever-slow recognition of the gays as normal people all spring from the dominance of one group of people: the white, heterosexual, Christian male, old “enough to have experience”. That very male who has never been a majority when it comes to number but has been playing on dubious scientific and religious beliefs to impose and justify its privilege across the world.
All inequalities today find their source in the fact that people in position of responsibility have very little to no idea what it means to live with these prejudices and economic conditions they have created. Provided they actually care and are not completely blinded by their eagerness to ensure the order that favours them remains unscathed, which they unfortunately mostly are.
How many times was I told, as a gay man, that there were “more important things to deal with” than my right to marry? That may not be the focus of straight white males who like to make people think they have a duty as “a real man” to flee marriage like the plague but it does matter to me. And the fact that it’s not the mighty economy doesn’t make it any less important.
I am all for quotas but we need to use them in a constant manner: to contain a problem. And the problem is the ubiquity of white men in all public and private, national and International institutions and bodies.
What we need are not countless quotas to address the fair representation of women, each skin colour, each religion, each sexuality, each level of wealth but a quota on “males in power”. One quota limiting their presence. If we do, it will force us to genuinely look and prepare for viable alternatives for the present and the future.
The question is: will the white man be enlightened and selfless enough to dare put the spotlight on himself as a problem we need to solve?