Last Friday night, I was involved in a debate with Shenna Bellows, executive director of the MCLU (Maine Civil Liberties Union), which is Maine’s chapter of the ACLU. The moderator chose three “set piece” questions for us including this one: “Are Affirmative Action programs constitutional?” What follows are my remarks.
Affirmative Action is a euphemism for government-required policies that discriminate on the basis of race, sex and national origin. The very same discrimination that government legislates against in some areas of public life, it mandates in other areas. It’s a kind of schizophrenia.
From the ACLU web site:
The [ACLU] Racial Justice Program supports affirmative action to secure racial diversity in education settings, workplaces and government contracts to remedy continuing systematic discrimination against people of color, and to help ensure equal opportunities for all people. As part of this commitment, we are working to defend affirmative action in states that are threatened for a civil rights rollback.
Hmm. Systematic discrimination against people of color? Where? It’s been illegal for two generations. The ACLU claims:
Affirmative action is one of the most effective tools for redressing the injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women, and for leveling what has long been an uneven playing field. A centuries-long legacy of racism and sexism has not been eradicated despite the gains made during the civil rights era. Avenues of opportunity for those previously excluded remain far too narrow. We need affirmative action now more than ever.
Hmm. Injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women. What injustices? Where? Students at our colleges and universities are 60% female. If there’s any evidence of discrimination, it’s against men, not women.
Professor Russell K. Neili summarized a study by two sociologists at Princeton of the admissions process at ten elite private colleges and universities:
To have the same chance of gaining admission as a black student with a SAT score of 1100, a Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have 1230, a white student a 1410 and an Asian student a 1550.
Is this what the ACLU means when it cites “the gains made by the civil rights era”?
When the ACLU says “we are working to defend affirmative action in states that are threatened for a civil rights rollback, they’re talking about initiatives like those proposed in several states like this one in California called the California Civil Rights Initiative:
The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
What the ACLU objects to are the five words “or grant preferential treatment to” of course, because those words shine the light on what affirmative action actually does. By lowering the bar for some groups like the aforementioned “people of color,” they must raise it for other groups with whom the preferred “people of color” are competing for employment, college admissions or contracts. To the ACLU, treating everyone equally regardless of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin is “a civil rights rollback.” That is what you call distorted thinking. Orwell called it “Doublethink.” What the ACLU wants to hide is that affirmative action does not preserve civil rights - it discriminates against whites, males and Asians by its very nature.
If one of my loved ones needed brain surgery and I wanted the best possible surgeon to do it, I’d have to consider what affirmative action has done with our medical schools. I’d have to look around for an Asian neurosurgeon and avoid black ones who could get admitted with the lowest scores. Wouldn’t you? I don’t like it, but this is the legacy of Affirmative Action.
People tolerated it back in 1965 when the Civil Rights Bill passed, but it been almost forty years - two generations. The ACLU insists we need it now more than ever. I don’t think so. Affirmative Action is racist and sexist. It should be abolished immediately in all its forms.