The headline announced the latest disaster: “State Justices Deal New
Setback to Affirmative Action.”
In California, voters passed Proposition 209, a ballot initiative to
end race- and gender-based preferences in the areas of government
contracting, hiring and admissions into state colleges and universities.
Last week, the California Supreme Court applied 209 and unanimously
struck down the so-called “outreach” program of San Jose. The city
required contractors to demonstrate an attempt to recruit and use
female- and minority-owned subcontractors.
Justice Janice Rogers Brown, an appointee by a Republican governor,
wrote, “A participation goal differs from a quota or set-aside only in
degree. By whatever label, it remains ‘a line drawn on the basis of race
and ethnic status’ as well as sex.” For what it’s worth, Justice Brown
is black. Like Clarence Thomas, she, too, received no support from the
black bar. And a State Bar Association committee determined her
“unqualified,” despite possessing more experience than former California
Chief Justice Rose Byrd, appointed by Jerry Brown. For that matter, she
possesses more experience than did Chief Justice Earl Warren, the former
California governor. No State Bar committee found either Byrd or Warren
unqualified. But we digress.
Don’t affirmative action proponents get it? The fat lady is singing.
The moral, constitutional and tactical argument for affirmative action
remains bankrupt. Discrimination to fight discrimination remains
Slavery ended nearly 150 years ago. This wrong cannot be righted. For
all a state can be is just in its own time.
Affirmative action makes this statement: Because your ancestors
experienced slavery, you deserve compensation. But whose ancestors
didn’t experience discrimination or abusive treatment?
Doesn’t this historical unfairness justify programs like affirmative
action? No. As Booker T. Washington said, in 1901, a mere 35 years after
emancipation, “When a Negro girl learns to cook, to wash dishes, to sew,
to write a book, or a Negro boy learns to groom horses, or to grow sweet
potatoes, or to produce butter, or to build a house, or to be able to
practise medicine, as well or better than some one else, they will be
rewarded regardless of race or colour. In the long run, the world is
going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or
previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants.”
Just how bad is it for blacks in America? While parents complain
about under-performing inner-city schools, Asian kids attending these
same schools out-perform whites on standardized tests! Many Asian
families send their children to “cram” schools, where they get
additional education, after school and on weekends. Midtown Los Angeles
Korean newspapers publish not only the colleges Korean high school grads
plan to attend, but their SAT scores as well.
Johnnie Cochran tells us, “Race plays a part of everything in
America.” Yet, through his hard work and talent, he became one of the
nation’s most prominent defense attorneys. Former California Speaker
Willie Brown, a black man who held this powerful position for 15 years,
once defended affirmative action by telling white newspaper writers,
“You owe me.” Yet, this son of a sharecropper, through talent, hard
work, and ambition, wielded power for some 15 years as perhaps
California’s most powerful political leader.
How bad is it? A Time/CNN poll found that, among black teens, 89
percent found little or no racism in their own lives. If things are so
bad, why does the white suicide rate exceed that of blacks? Why,
according to a study by the American Association of University Women, do
black boys register higher on self-esteem tests than do white boys? Why,
according to an article in Psychology Today, do black girls show more
confidence in their bodies than do white girls, a group obsessed by the
impossible-to-emulate Barbie doll physique?
In 1963, the black monthly magazine Ebony asked prominent blacks to
offer advice to young people. Union leader A. Philip Randolph, who
founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, offered this: “Negro
youth must offer the future the same things that white youth offer, and
they must have the faith that there is no basic racial difference in
potential for achievement — moral, intellectual, or spiritual. The
future holds great opportunity for those who are prepared to meet and
face the challenge of this age of science, technology, and
industrialism, and social, economic, and political change.”
Funny, Randolph failed to mention affirmative action.
So, to the condescending, but well-intentioned,
affirmative-action-supporting whites, know this. Drop the guilt. For you
have about as much in common with a Southern, 1950s segregationist as
Colin Powell has with Al Sharpton. It is now the year 2000. Let’s move on.