That Larry Summers’ name has been tossed about as a potential Secretary of the Treasury has stirred up quite a bit of debate. Feminism’s skeptics are expressing their concern that feminists have overreacted to his public statement about the diminished innate scientific abilities of women, and are overreaching when they suggest he is not qualified for this reason. People are saying that his history of unequal treatment of women (and blacks) doesn’t affect his suitability for the job, because of his strong economic and academic credentials.
Mr. Summers’ past treatment of people belonging to traditionally oppressed/marginalized groups in society is indeed important when considering whether he is the best candidate for the job. If sexism/racism and other forms of discrimination are institutionalized, and we value changing that, one way to deinstitutionalize them is to make sure that institutional leaders aren’t oppressive.
Mr. Summers’ has had poor working relations with many of his female and black colleagues. This is documented. He created a climate at Harvard where his female and black colleagues were resigning in order to get away from him. Is the past an indication of the future?
Mr. Summers’ potential work as a powerful official will not occur in a vacuum. In fact, if he obtains this position, his work will affect the millions of people who live in the United States. We have no evidence that he would suddenly treat non-whites and non-males any better if he is rewarded with a powerful position. I can’t advocate further institutionalizing bigotry by supporting his appointment.
(c) idyllicmollusk 11/16/08