A bad idea?
There’s apparently a bill in the Montana legislature to require an American Indian on the state Board of Pardons and Parole.
As it stands, Board members are required to have “training in American Indian culture and problems.” And, as Jamie notes, Montana requires that:
As vacancies occur and appointments are made, all appointing authorities of all appointive boards, commissions, committees, and councils of state government shall take positive action to attain gender balance and proportional representation of minorities resident in Montana to the greatest extent possible.
As Jamie also notes, 42% of the current board is American Indian. So why does this bill exist? This is the reason given:
Our greater concern, and the concern of Indian leaders who have fought hard for this bill for many sessions, is with who will make these appointments after our current leaders are gone.
Doesn’t this seem kind of weak? There is no problem with the board now, according to Jamie. He doesn’t claim that the current provision for training on American Indian culture and problems is insufficient for the board to carry out its responsibilities fairly. He doesn’t claim that the parity requirement isn’t effective. It’s just that, maybe, in the future, our leaders might allow the board to lapse to a point where American Indians are not treated fairly.
Whatever you think of affirmative action-type measures (I am generally opposed to them, though I do support some of the more minor forms), I think most would agree that they are not ideal solutions, but may be necessary. If we’re going to take the extraordinary step of mandating that a certain position be filled by someone of a specific racial background, I think we need a very compelling reason. We would need to be reasonably confident that our current provisions are failing. Perhaps it’s unfair to Jamie, who just put up a blog post about this, but I don’t think he even hinted at compelling reasons for a new measure above and beyond what we already have.