Alito in Action

The Supreme Court this morning announced that it would hear two, related affirmative action cases next fall, setting up another showdown over the controversial use of race as a factor in determinoing public school assignments. Coming just three years after the Justices reviewed two other affirmative action policies in the school context of schools, and with a key switch in the makeup of the Court in the meantime, the news is as unwelcome to supporters of affirmative action as it is welcome to folks who want to do away with the practice.

Why in the world would the Justices want to revisit this issue if not to change the law and undercut their own 2003 precedent? That's the question folks on both sides of this debate will be asking themselves in the nine months or so between today and the day the Court finally tells us what it thinks about the issue. I suppose optimists among affirmative action supporters might try to convince themselves that the Court merely wants to refine and further clarify its 2003 rulings. But that's like hoping you are in for good news when the IRS calls. No, affirmative action is in big trouble because Sandra Day O'Connor is off the Court and Samuel Alito is on it.

Nothing in Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing or judicial background suggests he is a friend of affirmative action. Nothing suggests that he would vote the same way that O'Connor did when she was faced with similar but not identical race-based issues in the University of Michigan's admission policies. Nothing suggests that he would be unwilling to overturn the Court's 2003 precedent-- to nullify the Court's carefully crafted standards

If you have been waiting for the demise of affirmative action, your time now may be near. If you are have been hoping that affirmative action would last forever, you may soon be very disappointed. And if you think that presidential elections and the impact they have on the makeup of the Supreme Court don't make a practical difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans you have never been more wrong.

By  |  June 5, 2006; 2:15 PM ET
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The "carefully crafted" standards of the 2003 Grutter decision were anything but. That O'Connor decision was an invitation to government bureaucrats to engage in racial decision-making, unmolested by the color-blind ideal of the Constitution. The likely outcome the instant case is that such government-sanctioned discrimination is on the way out. If it outlaws race-based preferences, the Court's promotion of a color-blind Constitution will fulfill Dr. King's appeal that people to judged on the content of their character, rather than by the color of their skin.

Posted by: Christopher | June 5, 2006 02:55 PM

Kudos to you Christopher! I couldn't have put it any better myself. The only real basis for one to support these programs is to either want an unfair advantage over one's competitors or to alleviate, but never satisfy, one's personal guilt.

These programs offer no substance to our institutions and put the public at risk of substandard services, including, but not limited to medical, police and fire protection.

To choose applicants for their race, which is what the programs amount to in application, regardless of the alleged carefully tailored standards, is shameful.

Posted by: Eric | June 5, 2006 03:50 PM

Affirmative action based on Race or any other factor including legacies are inherently unamerican. If the Supreme Court only tackles affirmative action based on race and leaves rest in place - this would pose a grave danger to our democracy.

I have no doubt that is precisely what this court would do.

The political establishment including the justices of the Supreme Court should worry that the scores and test results of their off spring will be subject to open debate.

News media has a moral obligation to investigate, for example, how Harrison Frist, the son of Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, had gotten into Princeton? Newsmedia should also focus on whether John Roberts' children would be admitted into some Ivy league college with sub standard grades, unless of course the Supreme Court rejects affirmative action in totem.

Posted by: Navin | June 5, 2006 04:08 PM

Welcome to color-blind racism 21st century style. The United States has moved into an era where no one can be racist unless one is wearing a white sheet and a funny hat. It's ironic that a black man and two Italians (all three of whom were once considered subhuman) will be leading this charge in defense of all those white men out there who are discriminated against every day by black people. No matter whether it's education, housing, health care, arrest and incarceration rates, measures of wealth, etc. blacks hold such an enormous advantage over whites. It's about time we do away with affirmative action (excuse me, reverse racism) so that whites will finally get a chance to succeed. In the meantime, putting "the public at risk of substandard services" continues unabated under the Bush administration with its "you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" culture.

Posted by: David | June 5, 2006 04:20 PM

Christopher's comment that by outlawing race-based preferences, "the Court's promotion of a color-blind Constitution will fulfill Dr. King's appeal that people be judged on the content of their character, rather than by the color of their skin", is almost infuriating.

I ask you sir; do you believe that if Dr. King were alive today that he would believe America to be a country free of racism and prejudice and that all people of any color are on an even playing field? I hardly think that he would. The statistics do not lie.

Finally, I believe that affirmative action needs some clarification because many of you have the wrong understanding. When 2 candidates of opposite sexes or races are applying to college (for example) and both candidates are EQUAL, the minority or woman should be chosen. What's wrong with that?

Listen, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was officially disbanded in 1974. It received taxpayer dollars to promote the "Mississippi way of life." We all know what that entailed, so please don't tell me that racism is dead and that it's a fair playing field. My last girlfriend was born that year and she's older than me.

Posted by: Amazed. | June 5, 2006 04:54 PM

Just as the Bush-packed Supreme Court painted a bulls-eye on the backs of brave, patriotic, citizen-protecting governmental "whistle blowers"...they now plan to revisit affirmative action in order to take Supreme action.

The vote removing protections from whistle blowers was 5 to 4.... those ruling against the First Amendment guarantee to freedom of speech: Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

That vote should end the speculation on whether or not the new justices, Roberts and Alito, are upholders of the law, or groveling Bush administration toadies.

We can expect much more of the same.

Posted by: Truth Hunter | June 5, 2006 08:46 PM

But the cases to be considered are NOT about affirmative action! They are about whether race can be considered in deciding distribution of students in public schools. This not about giving any preference to anyone of any race, just using race as one of the criteria when distributing students. The proponents believe that schools with diverse student bodies serve the educational goals of the district better than schools that might otherwise end up being largely segregated. All students of all races are treated equally in this distribution, they just want to mix them. Please read some of the background on this before commenting!

Posted by: Arana | June 5, 2006 08:52 PM

We can comment and discuss this "problem" all we want but the probability of changing the inevitable result is pretty slim. For you folks who claim that "affirmative action," is a mean-spirited program that takes advantage of "we poor whites," let me SUGGEST first you read more than ONE history book, if you read any at all.

More than likely the supporters of "the new Court," are the same folks who supported tax breaks for the wealthy and the Iraq War.

As usual folks who think with their emotions and not logically will run this country of ours into the ground.

Kudos to the "geniuses out there." But remember when your kid gets maimed or killed in Iraq, when you lose your home due to the loss of a job, when your health deteriorates due to the stress and strain of justifying lies and deceipt for the sake of "patriotism and morality," well I say, ENJOY.

Posted by: louis revilla | June 5, 2006 09:00 PM

Regarding Amazed's comment that , "When 2 candidates of opposite sexes or races are applying to college (for example) and both candidates are EQUAL, the minority or woman should be chosen. What's wrong with that?"

If Amazed has looked at the statistics for college graduation rates lately, he or she would be aware that women graduating with bachelor's degrees now outnumber men graduating by a ratio of 56% to 44%. Therefore, the men are actually "the minority." Based on this fact, in a world governed by Affirmative Action, the male candidate should be chosen for admission.

I personally oppose the concept of Affirmative Action because it is simply another form of discrimination. Discrimination in any form is wrong, no matter who is the beneficiary! I understand from history (and, yes, I have read quite a few history books, and I have seen televised footage of the horrors perpetrated by the police and other figures of authority both before and during the struggle for civil rights) that there has been a great deal of discrimination in the past. However, when does the past end and the future begin? When do we start treating all people equally regardless of race, creed, color, country of national origin, veteran's status, sexual orientation, etc.? You can't possibly cure the evils of discrimination by discriminating! By definition, when you favor one group or person over another group or person, you are discriminating. We should treat all people equally and just quit talking about all of the alleged discrimination being perpetrated on the various aggrieved (and very vocal) groups! Continuously pointing out all of this alleged discrimination only brings the issue to the forefront and exacerbates the problem! (Of course, I have no method of making the likes of Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson just go away! But I wish that I did!)

Just because I oppose Affirmative Action does not make me a racist or a conservative. Because of my abhorrence of discrimination, I fully support gay marriage! The very idea of writing an invidious form of discrimination into our Constitution goes against everything that we are supposed to stand for as a nation! Our history has been that of extending freedom and rights to all, and this would be a tremendous step in the wrong direction, to enshrine discrimination into our Constitution.

When I heard President Bush's speech on creating a Constitutional Amendment to "defend traditional marriage", I felt sick! In fact, I oppose virtually every policy of the Bush administration, especially those policies that erode our rights as American citizens and blur the lines separating church and state. Frankly, the fact that the Republican Party controls all three branches of our government causes me great concern for the future of our rights as American citizens. Fourth Amendment? We don't need no stinkin' Fourth Amendment!

Regarding immigration: I oppose the idea of "amnesty" for those people who have illegally immigrated into the United States. My wife is Russian, and she had to fill out the appropriate paperwork and wait her turn to legally immigrate. She had to wait to earn her "green card" so that she could legally work. I would like to see us enforce our immigration laws, starting in the workplace by making employers hire only legal workers, with hefty fines for those employers who violate our laws. This is also a security issue. If we cannot control our borders, we cannot stop terrorists from entering into our country. Our current policies are based on the "needs" of business, and both parties have been complicit in creating this situation. How will we resolve this and keep our borders secure?

Posted by: Stephen | June 5, 2006 10:13 PM

"Affirmative Action" and "race conscious" remedies or practices have been and continue to be controversial and charged with emotion. Like a lot of other issues handled by the Supreme Court. I'm on the side of those who believe that, after about 35 years of affirmative action, we should try to stop categorizing people by race/ethnicity/gender if we want to get to the point where people are judged by their abilities, qualifications, etc., rather than as a member of an immutable group. These diversity programs, though established with good intentions, nonetheless continue categorizing people as black, white, hispanic, asian, etc., as if one's skin color or ethnic heritage are determinative of his/her character. Could we try to stop discrimination by ceasing to establish and support government programs that . . . "discriminate."

Posted by: alano | June 5, 2006 10:34 PM

One thing not mentioned is whether the schools involved in these cases are public or private ones. Public schools, including public universities, are funded directly by the taxpayers and should provide, I believe, an equal opportunity for admission to all, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Thus no race - or gender-based preferences (or alumni preferences for that matter) should be permitted. I believe, on the other hand, that private schools, which are not funded directly by the taxpayers, should be provided with more leeway. Thus we do have single-sex private colleges, and alumni preferences at private colleges, and it would seem to be acceptable for a private college to say that it wants an equal number of boys and girls, racial composition identical to that in the general population, etc. Legally, the 14th Amendment prohibits the denial of equal protection of the law by a STATE, not by a private body.

Posted by: larry | June 5, 2006 10:36 PM

This is not a difficult issue. All people deserve to be treated equal. Period. Those that can, should, should be allowed to, and will. How is that hard to grasp?

Amazing: You amaze me! If two people bring the same things (attitude, ethics, intelligence, etc.) to the table, you have a single choice. In order to be absolutely fair, you either accept both, or deny both, depending on the circumstance.

Posted by: just me | June 5, 2006 11:02 PM

Whoops, meant the second half of my earlier post to be addressed to "Amazed".

But, while I'm on my soap box, I am almost FORTY years old, I see very little discrimination in the environments that I have been in, and those environments that I have seen it in, well, the old fogeys have moved on. It really is time for the pendulum to swing back... Let's just hope we can stop it at the middle.

Posted by: just me | June 5, 2006 11:12 PM

Affirmative action as it is implemented right now across the U.S. is a joke. For instance, Chinese immigrants, definitely a minority, are DENIED the benefits of affirmative action, when, at the same time, Vietnamese immigrants are GRANTED the benefits of affirmative action.

When officials are asked to explain this 180 degree difference in the treatment within members of one race (Asian race), evasive answers are given.

The truth is, affirmative action never had anything to do with RACE, but remains a thinly disguised attempt to ease the path of disadvantaged but VOCAL socioeconomic groups into college.

Again, Affirmative Action is unfair as can be: Why should the academically underachieving son of a African-American trial lawyer be helped into a top college, but the Chinese daughter of minimum wage cannery laborers be denied this privilege?

In my opinion, Affirmative Action should be either abolished or replaced by a system based on household income.

Posted by: Greg | June 5, 2006 11:28 PM

Sorry Greg, I was with you until the household income thing... Income, Race, Religion, Whatever the heck else you want, has absolutely nothing to do with it...

All people deserve a fair shake. And, there should be NO freebies. You want it? You earn it. Done deal.

Posted by: just me | June 5, 2006 11:42 PM

I taught high school in a public school in New York City. The kids were mostly African-American and Hispanic.

Many of them were very bright -- if they had been white kids in the suburbs, they would have easily gone on to good colleges. Unfortunately, many had poor family lives, bad study habits, and too few role models to help them understand the importance of doing well in school.

Why? Many reasons. The racial tensions between whites and blacks in New York in the 1950s and 1960s led to segregationist policies (imposed by both sides) that destroyed public education in Harlem for many years; "white flight" forty years ago turned middle-income communities into ghettos when black families tried to move in (white families sold their homes in droves, dropping property values and turning neighborhoods into ghettos); sharecropper families moved north into the urban areas, where manufacturing jobs were available -- when those jobs went away in the late 70s and early 80s, families were destroyed. These events were not unique to New York -- they happened all over the country.

I don't think any white person was ever openly racist towards any of my students (but i'm sure many white people looked at them disapprovingly, when my kids were rowdy and loud on the subway).

I think everyone interested in the affirmative action debate agrees that black children don't have the same educational opportunities as white children in America. I also think everyone agrees that it's not their fault.

If we're interested in making educational opportunities more equally available to black children, what kind of policies should our school systems develop? If we don't look to race, how can we ensure that school -- the only tool by which these children have any chance for a better life -- will be successful for them?

I now attend law school at the University of Michigan. The school uses affirmative action in its admission policies, and the results have been very good. We do have a diverse student body, and I think that makes for better discussion of law among the student body, in and out of class.

Possibly more importantly, some of the students admitted to the law school through the affirmative action policies will go on to public service. They will be mentors to children like the ones I taught, and those children, I hope, will be inspired. They will work harder. They will believe they have a seat at the table. And I think (and I hope) that this will make a better America.

Posted by: tom | June 5, 2006 11:57 PM

To Just Me

Are you saying there should be no means based student aid -- all student aid may only be merit based no matter whether the tuition is a real burden on a family below the povery line but no big deal to others?

I think that would deny America the talent and ingenuity of some of its most gifted and certainly doesn't seem to provide equal opportunity to all independent of family income.

Posted by: Bob | June 6, 2006 12:16 AM

"I think everyone interested in the affirmative action debate agrees that black children don't have the same educational opportunities as white children in America."

You are somewhat correct, however, all it would take is for somebody to take the time to convicingly illustrate what can be accomplished to these young minds, and the problem would be half solved. It's up to them after that...

"I also think everyone agrees that it's not their fault."

I disagree with you. That is one of the most pandering attitudes that I have seen. You are giving them zero incentive to be the best they can be with this attitude.

This country (USA) and THE WORLD needs all children to BE THE BEST THEY CAN BE. Should they fall short of that mark, then they are not contributing, and without people striving to be their best, we fall right back into the hole...

Posted by: | June 6, 2006 12:39 AM

To Bob: Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. I have worked since I was 12 years old. I bought my own clothes for school. I bought everything beyond absolute necessities (Food, Roof, etc.). My parents were absolutely strapped during this period of my life, and I helped out where I could.

What student aid did I get? The standard student loan. Yep, I'm still paying on it, not long to go though.

And yes, I make a pretty good living now. I'm not a rock-star, but I'm comfortable.

I was able to accomplish this because I was shown that I needed to make it on my own, and not rely on handouts from others, at an early age.

Posted by: just me | June 6, 2006 12:48 AM

Just me --

Well goody for you. But I have a problem allocating scarce educational resources to the affluent while talented people like you languish swiming upstream. One can argue that maybe all -- rich and poor --should have to struggle and learn to make it on their own. But that would be socialism. So the other way to level the playing field is to give the disadvantaged a little boost in order to more fully develop their talents. You can be proud of your achievements, but we can still wonder if that extra boost would have given us another Einstein.

Posted by: Bob | June 6, 2006 01:47 AM

Affirmative Action appears to be unfair by discriminating against the best possible applicants on the basis of race we still have the problem of unequal education.Take public Schools for example. Here in San Diego the best Public Schools are located in the most affluent areas, such as Del Mar and La Jolla. They also have money coming in from foundations set up by the Parents who get contributions from the Corporations which they either run or are work for. There was an article the other day in the local paper where many of the kids at Torrey Pines High School drive Luxury cars such as lexus, Mercedes and BMW's. The Schools they attend, which are public, have many advanced placement classes available and many have GPA above 4.0 due to the availability of these AP classes.
The Public Scools in the less affluent parts of town do not offer AP Classes and do not have any Foundations set up to augement the public's funding. They have fewer computers and less available resources . Even if the student is doing the best they can they can not compete due to the lack of AP classes. Even if they were a straight A student throughout high school there GPA would be only 4.0. Thats not high enough for the best colleges which prefer the above 4.0 available from AP Classes. Realistically, how many perfect student are there? The rug continues to be pulled out from under these students from the same people who have had everthing available to them from birth. I personally do not think Affirmative Action is the answer because by that time it is already too late. They will not have the skills to succeed unless they get remidial help. The solution is to be sure that the poorer schools have access to the same resources as the affluent schools and that AP classes are available in every high school. It appears as true today as in Jack London's time that "Affluence means Influence".

Posted by: Rene Figueroa | June 6, 2006 02:20 AM

Someone said:

"I personally oppose the concept of Affirmative Action because it is simply another form of discrimination."

Several other someones (likely all white males who have never experienced any actual discrimination in their lives) have said pretty much the same.

I disagree. Affirmative action is not a form of discrimination. It is an effort to make up for a culture that has been awash in discrimination in favor of white men for 400 years. Even a cursory glance at socioeconomic data proves that it has made some, but not nearly enough progress in achieving that goal. Without affirmative action, minorities will be effectively locked into a place on the bottom rung of the ladder perpetually. THAT is what people opposed to affirmative action want to happen. They want all positive opportunities to be conferred on people who look like themselves and are furious when that doesn't occur. Make no mistake about it, most of them are racists.

As another commenter observed, the use of Dr. King's name to try to rationalize 'keeping the n------- down,' as Christopher has done, is reprehensible. If Dr. King were alive he would be advocating that the U.S. do much more than affirmative action to create real, tangible socioeconomic change.

Posted by: Julia Gomez | June 6, 2006 04:42 AM

Facing two identical applications, and a limited number of positions, how should one decide to choose one candidate over another?

Is a coin flip fair?

Posted by: Terry G. | June 6, 2006 10:05 AM

It is understandable that many of you dislike affirmative action. It is also unfortunate that your outrage and selfishness has clouded your judgement. For example, on every college application there is a place for one to write in the names of any family members or ancestors that attended and graduated from the institution. If my great, great grandfather graduated from the Univ. of Alabama, I write that in and I get a positive mark in the admission equation. Unfortunately, that isn't possible because the institution didn't allow minorities. That is SYSTEMATIC RACISM. I challenge anyone to counter that.

This provides all white people an advantage over every other minority. In actuality, affirmative action only levels an uneven playing field. Why is this so difficult to understand? Why do white males attack affirmative action with such vigor and pretend, as Stephen, Just Me, Alano and others of you do, that 30-40 years somehow makes up for CENTURIES of discrimination and oppression? In the face of such reality, I ask myself what provides the motivation for the "end affirmative action" side of this debate? It's obvious that racism is alive and kicking, so why would and how could anyone argue against it? Unfortunately, it all comes back to one thing.................racism.

I hate to say it, because the word has such negative connotations invoking thoughts of skinheads and KKK members, but nevertheless it is there. It is possible to be racist and not be a member of one of those groups and unfortunately, that's what many of you are. And listen, my mother is white. That means that I KNOW A WHITE PERSON WHO DOES NOT HAVE A SINGLE RACIST BONE IN HER BODY AND SHE WOULD NEVER SAY OR BELIEVE MANY OF THE THINGS THAT MANY OF YOU DO.

You gave billions to the jews for the holocaust, billions to the native Americans for wiping them out and millions to the japanese for the WW2 internment camps. Why is it so difficult to give black people an even playing field when it comes to education, I mean after all, we could be asking for the 40 acres and a mule promised to us after the civil war? How about this, when all of you noble, Martin Luther King quoting, non-racist, white people convice our government of the same makeup to honor it's word, I'll drop my calls for affirmative action. Until then..............................the struggle continues.

Posted by: Amazed. | June 6, 2006 03:06 PM

Affirmative action should go, not because it is reversed discrimination, which it is, but because it is actually racism disguised as white guilt.

Affirmative action deals a double blow to minorities. First, minority groups that over perform (such as some Asians, but not all Asians), are denied access in the name of equality, so that other minorities may advance (including different Asians of the underperforming kind). This is pure non-sense. Race has nothing to do with performance (or else racism would be justified); family make up, cultural expectations, and economics are much more relevant and can be dealt with without affirmative action. Second, and perhaps most important, affirmative action preserves the notion that ethnic minorities are not capable to "make it" on their own. To succeed, they must be helped by whites. This may redeem white guilt but it perpetuates racism and inequality because it permanently turns unique individuals into equal group members whose success depends on whites. In other words, it allows individual whites to keep their "supremacy" over entire groups of inferior ethnic minorities but without feeling guilty.

By lumping individuals under rigid racial and ethnic groups, affirmative action robs people of their self and reduces them to and abstract sub-human entity, which is what racism is all about. At a time when most Americans are the product of some racial mix, trying to draw bright lines between ethnic groups to justify some notion of social justice is racism at its worst (i.e. only unmixed races need apply, or "if you are mixed you are a minority").
There is only one human race. Hopefully the Supreme Court will be wise enough to recognize this much.

Posted by: I am not a PANTONE color | June 6, 2006 08:31 PM

There often is a threshold difficulty in any discussion of "affirmative action": The term sweeps too broadly. (I speak from some experience -- I have spent the last 16 years, or so, representing clients in challenges to affirmative action requirements in government construction contracting programs ... but I also correctly predicted [and supported] the outcomes in the two 2003 cases involving higher education.)

The first question that properly should be asked is, "What governmental interest is being served by using race as a criterion?"

Second, it must be determined that the interest -- that is, the problem that is supposedly to be solved -- actually exists.

Third, it must be demonstrated that the proposed solution actually works to solve the identified problem.

Fourth, because the categorization of people by race is such a pernicious practice, there can be no other, race-neutral solution that can reasonably be devised that is likely to solve the problem.

Now, in construction contracting, race has no possible relation to the ability to do the job. Therefore, a well-enforced antidiscrimination law (with effective, meaningful remedies) must be tried before even considering the use of race-conscious remedies.

In education, however, it is (I think) the very exposure of students to the different experiences of persons of different racial and ethnic groups that is, in a multicultural, multiracial society, an integral part of the very act of education (and socialization) of children and young adults. This can, perhaps, be achieved only if student assignment and selection takes race and ethnicity into account (if only in some small way).

I would like, if possible, to hear some civil comments addressed to the four points raised above.


Posted by: HerbS | June 6, 2006 10:38 PM

I pray to God that this volatile issue will be decided wisely by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States because their decision will have profound ramifications through the whole of US society and will signify either the end of racial discrimination or its perepetuation in American life.

Posted by: Timothy | June 7, 2006 01:34 AM

I'd like to ask a basic question to all, which is based on HerbS's 4 questions.

Is their racism in America today, and if so, please give an example of what form you believe it takes? Is it poor service at the mall or is it a glass ceiling in employment, for example?

HerbS, I do believe in affirmative action for education, but I really am not sure about it for government contracts, etc. With education there is clear, systematic bias. I'm sure that racism takes place in awarding government contracts, but as you stated it seems that there are other ways of solving that problem and the problem itself is much less clear cut than the educational aspect of it.

Now, if anyone doesn't believe that racism is systematic, please I beg you, rebut my argument. The Univ. of Alabama just started letting minorities in in the 60's. Minorities will always be at a disadvantage because none of their ancestors were allowed to attend. At the very least, shouldn't the ancestry piece of college applications be banned? I have never heard a rebuttal to this argument, yet the anti-affirmative action side continues to be strong. What's wrong with America?

Posted by: Amazed. | June 7, 2006 11:12 AM

Amazed --

Yes, "legacy" admissions are intrinsically racially and ethnically based because, as you note, they are placing students who are offspring of those who attended generally all white institutions. Eventually, however, that effect dims. For instance, while Jews, Italian-Americans, and Irish-Americans (among others) might reasonably argue that those groups were systematically discriminated against in admissions in the early 20th Century, the "legacy" effect on those groups has largely disappeared after a generation or two. Not that prejudice and stereotyping has been eliminated, but it is not readily apparent in college admissions for those groups today.

That there may continue to be wide-spread racial and ethnic bias (which I believe there is) is not the real issue in the "affirmative action" debate, however. Racial and ethnic stereotyping, scapegoating, and hatred (including antisemitism) have been around for many, many centuries and will be with us for quite a few more, I fear. It will only be done away with on an individual-by-individual basis as education and experience overcome the irrational teachings of bigots.

The issue is whether a program whose benefits are conferred on a group-membership basis (e.g., all Blacks, all Hispanics, all Jews) has any purpose which outweighs the legitimacy that the use of such group-based judgments grants to those who use them for less high-minded purposes. That is, should remedies for past discrimination be limited to "making whole" the victims of clearly identified discrimination which harmed those individuals in a direct manner or should society grant a benefit to anyone who is a member of a group which, as a whole, suffered discrimination at some point in time?

One of the difficulties with the entire discussion is that there is, as a practical and -- I believe -- as a philosophical matter, a limit to what governments (and large private institutions) can or should do about individual discrimination. We can outlaw (or make socially unacceptable) certain behavior but the same can't be said about thinking certain thoughts or even voicing certain sentiments.


Posted by: HerbS | June 7, 2006 08:46 PM

To Julia: You said, "Someone said:

"I personally oppose the concept of Affirmative Action because it is simply another form of discrimination.""

However, you left out the next sentence, a favorite trick of those who wish to distort the intended meaning and paint anyone who opposes his or her view(s) with the "racist" brush.

The sentence was, "Discrimination in any form is wrong, no matter who is the beneficiary!"

This is a clear statement of my reasons for opposing Affirmative Action. I then asked the question, "When do we start treating all people equally regardless of race, creed, color, country of national origin, veteran's status, sexual orientation, etc.?" I also came out against a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. But in your mind, I am a racist because I do not agree with your views. Funny, most of my colleagues at my college (yes, I am a college teacher) consider me a flaming liberal!

I also agree with whoever said that by the time we are looking at affirmative action for college admission and employment that it it too late. We have already abrogared our responsibilities to this person and giving them special treatment to try to make up for this lack of help when they needed it earlier is (mostly) an exercise in futility.

Please read my posting again to try to understand that I simply oppose any form of discrimination. And, YES, that includes equal pay for women! No glass ceiling!

Posted by: Stephen | June 8, 2006 07:25 PM

To Amazed:

I know of another white woman who didn't have a racist bone in her body. She was my mother.

In 1969, my senior year in high school, one of my classmates lived with us for the spring semester. His name was Irvine, and his parents had moved to another state, but he wanted to finish high school where he had started and graduate with his friends. He slept on a mattress on the floor of my bedroom, whch we shared as it was a small house. My mother ignored the comments of the neighbors and allowed Irvine to live with us and share our lives with us until he graduated. You have probably guessed by now that Irvine was an African-American. However, my mom didn't care. To her, he was just another kid who wanted to do the right thing. This is a real example of Affirmative Action!

I do agree with Amazed regarding points given for relatives who had previously attended a particular university. This should not be a factor. Let's just apply the same criteria to everyone applying for college or a job while we start making a greater effort to reach all children in kindergarten and elementary school.

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