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July 8, 2020
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Karel Holomek: "Positive discrimination" - nonsense or a total misunderstanding?

Brno, 25.6.2014 20:27, (ROMEA)
Karel Holomek  (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)
Karel Holomek (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

The news that Czech Human Rights Minister Dienstbier intends to submit the 2020 Romani Integration Strategy to the Government has sparked horror in political circles across the political spectrum here, or at best has sparked a reaction of total rejection. This has happened on the basis of a suggestive question asked by the tabloid daily Parlamentní listy, namely, whether these politicians support the "positive discrimination" of Romani people?   

That particular tabloid has negatively distinguished itself rather often through such lapses, by the way. The politicians' responses show us what's happening on the Czech political scene and in this society. 

Their answers to this question bring to mind the absurd fictional village of Kocourkov. They also remind me of events from the depths of the totalitarian era, during which people expressed rejection for "The Two Thousand Words", for example, even though most of them had never read it - but they rejected it in droves, how could they not?

Our anointed legislators are doing the same thing today! It is almost certain that none of them have read the program at issue, and none of them evidently has any idea that it is still undergoing a comments procedure and many changes might lie ahead for it. 

I myself am a rather significant critic of this document, both as a person who has read it from beginning to end in great detail, and as a member of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, whose members include several ministers, rather a lot of Deputy Ministers, and about 18 members from the NGO sphere.  The facts, however, are these:  In the entire program you will not find the terms "positive discrimination", "positive action", or "affirmative action".

Nowhere is it written, as Parlamentní listy claims, that Romani people are to be preferentially supported within the framework of employment policy, or that Romani people are to be employed in high posts of the state authorities, or any other such nonsense. Of course, the document does discuss members of groups at risk of racial discrimination, who can be included among the target groups within the framework of the active employment policy for preferential support in their job searches.

That, however, is something completely different than what our confused politicians are saying. To prove this, all we have to do is to investigate some of their specific claims.

For example, one "expert" who is being taken at his word is Czech MEP Ivo Strejček (Civic Democrats - ODS). He claims that the entitlement to an education in this country is not formally subjected to segregation.

The MEP is correct. However, he has either forgotten to add, or does not want to state, that as far as the actual provision of education here is concerned, it is completely evidently segregated!  

Then there are Miroslav Antl and Zdeněk Škromach (both Social Democrats) and Czech MP Langšádlová (TOP 09), who correctly point out that any such proposal, if it were to be made, would be unconstitutional because problems are to be solved here according to the principle of civil equality. Certainly I agree with that.  

However, these legislators have forgotten about the actual inequality that has existed in reality here for 20 years already and that no one has been able to budge. Then there is Czech MP Bronislav Schwarz (ANO) - just to show that all the parties here find themselves in a mutual agreement that is almost touching - who shouts:  "I don't support positive discrimination, they need to work!"

I can shout too:  They need to work, and someone needs to give them a chance and create work opportunities! This legislator doesn't even know how to say any of that to us.

Isn't this precisely proven by the inequality that exists in Brno, where the unemployment rate is only 10 % overall, but is 90 % for the Romani community? I don't want to hear any claims that Romani people don't want to work.

Jiří Koskuba of the Czech Social Democrats says angrily:  "We will not let our taxes be squandered!" Here I cannot refrain from the following gibe:  Who has squandered our taxes even more than any of the Roma, sir - can you guess?!

Czech Senator Jaroslav Zeman (ODS) made the crowning remark:  "I'll declare myself a Rom so I can get a job in the state administration!" There is no need to comment on this, but it would be advisable to ask whether the senator has some sort of problem with racial prejudice. 

Shall we continue? I assume this perfectly suffices for you to form your own opinion of the mental capacities of our politicians. 

My question is this: Are they interested in pondering how to deal with this problem objectively and in the interests of the country, or are they they only interested in presenting their own inner core, revealing it to the nation so as to set a good example for the people, showing them what thinkers they are and how they support the nation in its general mindset? Perhaps it is high time to clarify what benefits this nation and what harms it.  

What might be a rational solution to correcting the situation, after such a long time during which it has been proven that the programs instituted to date have failed? The answer is not that difficult.

All it takes is to realize whether it is more feasible to give people work and establish a program so that everyone who wants a job can get one, strictly based on the principle of civil equality (thereby reducing welfare expenditures, possibly by hundreds of billions), or whether it is more feasible to insist on the politicians' populist clichés that flow, at best, from their lack of education and at worst from centuries of prejudice. Perhaps we could achieve actual equality in the segregated Czech schools, thereby contributing to a future, more tolerant atmosphere in society, since the lack of such an atmosphere has so far prevented us from fulfilling such a program and others like it?  

The argument made by the teachers' lobby is that it would harm the Czech schools if this inequality - which they concede does exist - were to be removed. How do they know this, wherever did they verify that this would be the case?  

Is something like this even possible in a functioning democracy? In other words, what serves the society as a whole should never be considered "affirmative action" (to say nothing of "positive discrimination"), and it is up to the Government, which constructs this state, to support such programs even despite general resistance to them. 

I have stated only these two essential things here, since I am restricted as to space. I will also just briefly address the question of the "Gypsies" and their entitlements in response to the fatuous remarks of Czech Senator Doubrava and Czech Senator Zeman:  Has any "Gypsy" here ever asserted a right to a high official post?

I have never noted the name of any such person, and I also am unaware of and have not heard that the "Gypsies" implanted such a notion into the programs proposed by Czech Human Rights Minister Dienstbier. I also must comment on Czech MEP Strejček's extensive statement on how harmful the policy of affirmative action was in the USA during the 1960s - I simply ask him the following:  "Would the American president today be a Black American, and would Black Americans be an active, effective component of that society today (at least 40 %) without affirmative action? What do you think?"  

This article was first published on Karel Holomek's blog.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Karel Holomek, Politika, Pozitivní diskriminace, Strategie, Strategie romské integrace do roku 2020


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