To many on the left, achieving a proportionate representation of all races and genders in every occupation and workplace is a moral imperative – regardless of how much manipulation is required to produce it. So to them, the recent reports exposing a lack of diversity in Democrats' congressional staff rosters were a considerable embarrassment. Ironically, according to one such report, of only four black senior-level staffers in the entire U.S. Senate, three of them work for Republicans. Even more ironically, it was then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, recently demonized by some on the left as a bigot, who hired the Senate Judiciary Committee's first African-American chief counsel.
Under pressure from those of the "diversity or bust" mindset, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is urging his colleagues to adopt a version of the NFL's "Rooney Rule," which would require members of Congress to consider at least one minority applicant for any open staff position. Some members who have chosen to implement the policy have gone so far as to urge every "corporate, academic, and social entity" to follow suit.
Anyone who sees this as a good thing should stop to consider a couple of questions. First, is it reasonable to conclude that there is some ill to be cured whenever racial or gender representation in a field doesn't exactly correlate to that of the general population? Second, how will efforts to manipulate the composition of a workplace by conveying an unsolicited "head start" to applicants of certain races or gender ultimately affect overall race and gender relations?
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In the context of our current legal and political situation, the Rooney Rule does more harm than good to minority groups. In the words of Alexander Bickel, "[A] racial quota derogates the human dignity and individuality of all to whom it is applied. …" It also repudiates the core values of the Civil Rights Movement.
The compelling dream of Martin Luther King Jr. was that his children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. His success in leading the Civil Rights Movement is attributable to the undeniable righteousness of that desire. He and his indomitable activists did not seek some exalted status. They did not seek favoritism from the government or from anyone else. They sought merely the removal of artificial, government-enforced barriers that precluded them from opportunities available to others.
As King reminded us, in doing this he was merely "cashing in a check" – the promissory note of the Declaration of Independence, which guaranteed a government that would protect every citizen's unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Of course, it is beyond the province of this or any other government to purport to guarantee ultimate success to anyone. The suggestion that every person is born with an equal potential to become a NASA scientist or Olympic swimmer is a cheap platitude. But what is real and true is even more beautiful than that kind of flowery nonsense: that every American who has the grit and determination to work hard and make sacrifices can live to his or her fullest potential and earn the just rewards of those efforts.
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In other words, the promise made to every American who would ever live was that our government would secure our right to pursue happiness through virtue. This promise is the sparkle in the eye of America.
A few months ago, a TV commercial for the University of Phoenix grabbed my attention. Every time it aired, I was riveted. It follows a few men and women (of various races and genders, incidentally) who obviously weren't born with silver spoons in their mouths. They're working two jobs to pay the mortgage, studying on the train and caring for aging parents. They're working late into the night while others rest or pursue pleasure. They are earning their places in society. They are cashing in their American promissory notes, with the assurance that the character they demonstrate in doing so accrues to their credit, while innate characteristics such as race and gender will neither add to nor detract from their accounts.
Martin Luther King Jr., was right to conclude that the "bank of justice" in America is not bankrupt. It is fully capable of paying upon demand "the riches of freedom and the security of justice." It is this check – and not some forged instrument promising special treatment for certain classes – that is the birthright of every American.