“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — MLK, August 28, 1963
In the last couple of weeks I applied for a National Science Foundation grant (to go to Antarctica as part of their artists and writers program) and an FAA flight instructor’s certificate, both of which involved cumbersome Web-based application systems. The NSF won’t let you proceed with any application unless you tell them your race, your sex, and your “ethnicity” (Hispanic/non-Hispanic). They say that they won’t look at an application unless the cover sheet includes an explanation of how you are going to spend the money in a way that helps what they call “underrepresented groups” (i.e., you’re supposed to say how you are going to hire people with particular skin colors or sex chromosomes).
In using the FAA system a few days later it struck me as odd that they didn’t ask my race, sex, or ethnicity. In fact this might be one of the last government agencies that handles applications for its services without regard to race, sex, or ethnicity. The FAA doesn’t say “We really like your skin color, Mr. Airline Transport Pilot certificate applicant, so for you we’re going to cut the required number of hours of experience from 1500 to 500.”
[In case you’re curious, the NSF won’t let me know for some weeks but folks who’ve gotten the grants say that one is almost always denied as a first-time applicant. I passed my flight instructor test with the FAA examiner (3.5 hours of oral exam plus 1.7 hours of flying a rented Piper Arrow with retractable landing gear).]