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Susan Estrich
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The Next Step on Affirmative Action

Comment

In the mid-90s, when affirmative action was a hot topic in California, I got a call from a television network asking me whether I would be available to do a segment on affirmative action. As is always true on television, the first and critical question was: "Are you free at 3?" I was. Great, the young woman said.

"So are you for or against affirmative action?"

I explained: I'm against affirmative action, if you mean do I think that someone should automatically get a contract, even if they're not the low bidder, just because of race. On the other hand, where there's a past history of discrimination (for example, the Los Angeles Police Department, at the time) or a compelling need for diversity (for example, in law schools, where I can't imagine teaching a constitutional law class to a room full of only white students), then yes, I support affirmative action.

"That makes so much sense," the young woman said (which was good, because it also happened to be the law of the land). "So would you say you're for or against affirmative action?"

I tried again with more examples: why it's important to have black students even if they are from privileged backgrounds, because they likely will have experienced discrimination in ways other students haven't (which is true to this day when I ask about police stops); why in places where there are few blacks in leadership positions you have to count (not quotas, just counting) to make sure unconscious patterns of discrimination (most of us think the most qualified person is someone who looks like a younger version of ourselves) don't persist.

The young woman was impressed. She told me I made more sense than anyone she'd talked to. I told her that the way I read the polls, most Americans actually agreed with the position I was trying to stake out.

There was just one problem: I needed to be either for or against affirmative action, and since I was neither, or both, and they were having only two guests...__

In 2003, the United States Supreme Court upheld the admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School, which took race, among other factors, into account in admissions.

Three years later, the voters passed a referendum — similar to the one enacted in California in 1996 — that barred public colleges and universities from affording "preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin." On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the law by a vote of 6 to 2, concluding that the state's voters have a right to decide whether or not affirmative action should be allowed.

"This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "It is about who may resolve it."

The "who" is us. What the court has made clear is that it is up to the democratic process, up to us.

So here we go again. Turn on the television, and you'll no doubt find someone yelling about how affirmative action should always be allowed and someone else yelling back about how it should never be allowed. It makes for good television and bad policy.

I wish we lived in a world where colleges and universities could have diverse classes without regard to affirmative action. But we don't. The experience in California has been painful: At the elite public universities, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her dissent, which she read from the bench, the number of racial minorities plummeted after the passage of Proposition 209 and continues to lag.

"Mend it; don't end it." That was the approach of the Clinton administration. Sadly, when you impose "equality" on an unequal world, you don't get equality. The debate continues because the problem of inequality persists, and it's not a question that is solved by an easy "yes" or "no." When the yelling stops, we need to find a middle ground and keep fighting the stubborn persistence of racial inequality.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM



Comments

9 Comments | Post Comment
The liberals answer to discrimination is MORE discrimination.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Oldtimer
Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:32 AM
Now if only the Media would take heed and stop giving the affirmative action POTUS and bozo the VP Biden who is a clear recipient of an affirmative action program for morons, race and fools pardons respectively then we might get somewhere. The evil that the soft bigotry and racism of affirmative action brings with it is on full and open display in this wholly corrupt and incompetent Administration.
Comment: #2
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:20 AM
The number of racial minorities admitted to the California public colleges has not plunged as Ms. Estrich knows. California has a very high acceptance rate of students of Asian descent. At one time Asian students were counted as minorities for Affirmative Action purposes in California colleges. But because of their talent this led to acceptance rates which were so high for Asians that others worked to remove the Asian category from Affirmative Action.

Remember that people of the Asian race have been subjected to terrible invidious discrimination. Many students who applied to California schools were refugees who escaped from persecution in Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia by crowding on to dangerous boats and taking dangerous voyages. Students of Japanese descent had parents and grandparents who were held prisoner in internment camps. Of course few of these students had a language background which was in any way helpful to passing the courses they would take in California.

Yet, because these individuals came from a culture which put a high value on education many of them were able to overcome their handicap and become successful members of the academic community. This was done without Affirmative Action. Even Ms. Estrich does not recognize their suffering because of their race. It is an odd kind of system which does not respect the achievements of people who have overcome racism just because they were so successful.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Cowboy Jay
Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:39 AM
Jill Lawrence have good column about this. I copy some for you to read.

Why Should Colleges Be Blind to Color and Nothing Else?

If you don't like affirmative action, the Supreme Court has a clear signal for you: Go for it.

When Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative to ban race as a consideration in admission to state schools, the high court said that they were simply exercising their privilege to bypass unresponsive public officials and make laws themselves.

So what's next? Will spindly, graceless people, still smarting over being picked last for every team underwrite ballot initiatives that ban consideration of the genetic gift of athletic talent? What about the genetic windfall of alumni parents? Will courts someday be asked to decide if voters have the right to ban legacy preferences?

Hardly. I have never understood why there isn't a huge outcry every year about legacy admissions or any of the tools colleges use to get what they need be it athletes, musicians, tech nerds, classics fanatics, budding capitalists, future donors, students from all over the country and the world, rural and urban students, gay and straight students, and students of many colors.

Comment: #4
Posted by: steveM
Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:34 PM

Not much to see here from the 9 lawyers in black robes but such opinion is a bit encouraging.

This opinion does not hold that government sanctioned discrimination, called "Affirmative Action" is immoral and unconstitutional. The 9 lawyers simply held that state governments can decide from themselves if they wish to be racists and engage in discrimination based on race.

One big problem with "Affirmative Action" is that Person-X gets to make himself/herself feel better by taking the educational and employment opportunities from Person-Y and give them to Person-Z. How gracious of liberals to take from the innocent and give to the liberals pet of choice.

If Liberals really feel bad about some perceived injustice suffered by a group of people, Liberals should establish a list of people willing to give up THEIR employment and educational opportunities to help such group of people.

But affirmative action in admission is not the most gross part of the problem. Giving people a FREE education based on the color of their skin is a much bigger problem. There should be no free money that one one race can be eligible to receive.







Comment: #5
Posted by: SusansMirror
Thu Apr 24, 2014 6:37 AM
SusansMirror, I read your opinion and I read American history and it no allow schooling or own money for black race for hundreds of years. They give NO education based on color of skin. They give No FREEdom based on color of skin. No equal pay based on color of skin. Injustice not perceived. It real.
Comment: #6
Posted by: steveM
Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:03 AM

When one is given special treatment long enough equal treatment feels like discrimination.

This is only a half win. The evil of government sanctioned discrimination was not struck down. The 9 lawyers in black robes simply stated that States can pick and chose which race of people will be the victims of government sanctioned discrimination.


Comment: #7
Posted by: SusansMirror
Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:27 AM
Re: steveM

Ugly people are discriminate against more than Blacks (or any race) today - in all areas of life. Should a random beautiful person be forced to give their educational and employment opportunities to an ugly person they have never meet or harmed just to make some Liberal feel better?

The point is I have never harmed anyone. I do not discriminate and this nonsense about "White Privilege" is complete BS. I have been looking all my life for these white people who wish to give me stuff just because I am white and I have yet to find ONE.

I started out with nothing and had to pay for my college education. I attended the same substandard Government run schools and received the same pathetic education as did by black friends. I had no advantage.

Yet liberals, to make themselves feel better, wish to take MY educational and employment opportunities and give them to some random person based on race? Really? And Liberals do not care if my educational and employment opportunities are given to privileged kids from rich parents. All that matters is skin color and race. Very sad what "fairness" means to a Liberal.

Liberals should volunteer to give away THEIR educational and employment opportunities to help their pet race of the moment. IF they did, I would respect their actions.



Comment: #8
Posted by: SusansMirror
Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:42 AM
Yeah Susan, and it would also be nice if dollar bills grew on trees and that all we had to do to support ourselves was to walk out back and pick a few. But they don't.
Affirmative Action is unconstitutional on its face. The fact that any judge would make allowances for any situation whatsoever simply underscores how corrupt the judicial system has become.
Diversity for the sake of diversity has not benefit whatsoever, other than to encourage "minorities" to balkanize rather than to assimilate.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Winston Galt
Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:01 PM
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