Is The Affirmative Action Frankenstein On Its Last Legs?
August 23, 2009
[Recently by Robert Weissberg:
Some Other Memories of Madison and The New Left]
On a fateful September
28th in 1965, pursuant to the
Civil Rights Act, President
Lyndon Johnson signed
Executive Order 11246 requiring the Department of
Labor to "take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed" in
firms doing business with the federal government
regardless of race, creed, color or national origins.
Less than a decade
Frankenstein`s monster or a
mutant virus in some
science fiction/horror flick,
Action" had grown grotesquely, far beyond its
original modest intent, to infiltrate almost
corner of American life.
Now, what began as a temporary allegedly-compensatory
push in 1965 is hardening into a
government administered caste system. In a few
years, we may have families where three generations have
thrived thanks to
racial preferences and
continued survival, even in the face of mounting
opposition, is easily explained: mainstream white
office-seekers, regardless of party or even ideology,
are simply terrified of being labeled
Recoiling from what could be a winning
base" campaign strategy, they all either avoid the
subject altogether or weasel out with vacuous rhetoric.
It is just assumed that
to be anti-Affirmative Action is to be certified as
"anti-Hispanic"—and this is the kiss of death in
today`s world of enlightened racial sensitivity. Ending
preferences is further hindered since
minorities" (even if the help is actually harmful)
has become the
respectable Motherhood and Apple Pie stance in
Still, for the record,
note that, for example, a 2009 Quinnipiac University
found that 73% of registered-to-vote Republicans
endorsed ending racial preferences versus 18% in favor.
Among registered independents, 63% wanted to abolish it.
And white support for
Affirmative Action is paper thin, far less than what the
Quinnipiac poll suggests. If public sentiments were
behavior, nearly all whites would avoid the
consequences of Affirmative Action. Even white liberals
(and for that matter well-off blacks) will
pull their kids out of black-administered schools.
Just imagine if, as per
the current Obamacare bill,
federal grant-hungry medical schools flooded America
doctors recruited from
under-represented" groups—and whites using the
were required to use them? At most, Affirmative Action
doctors, teachers, lawyers and the like are tolerable
only if exclusively serving
under-represented" populations—i.e., poor blacks and
Hispanics who cannot escape.
My view: Ending the
racial spoils system is not as hopeless as it might
initially appear. The successful ballot initiatives in
Michigan, all massively opposed by the
political and business establishments, are only the
visible outcroppings of underlying shift. Outside of
those who material benefit from the
spoils system, Affirmative Action is a slowly
rotting policy awaiting collapse.
office-seekers, notably Republicans, contemplating the
plunge into seemingly shark-infested waters have more
going for them than they recognize. Once a few brave
souls test the waters, there may be a
stampede akin to the sudden and totally unexpected
collapse of the
Begin by recognizing
that few Americans born after 1965 (let alone recent
immigrants) had any
personal experience with the
evils that Affirmative Action was designed to
combat. The persistence of racial discrimination or
lingering racism is not the issue; rather, unlike seeing
drinking fountains, legally segregated
schools and similar vestiges of
Crow, race-related evils are extraordinary rare as
knowledge to nearly all Americans.
Nearly all racial
segregation is now
voluntary or purely
economic. Whites (and Asians) have to be
taught—browbeaten might be a better word—about these
past horrors and, moreover, that these evils remain as
debilitating as ever, despite the billions in
remediation and endless civil rights laws.
Indoctrination is so
labored that its propagandistic purpose is almost
comically self-evident, e.g.,
Black History Month with its litany of
needs to be done" grievances and countless other
lopsided media spectacles recounting, for the umpteenth
time, the horrors of
Public consensus is
misleading, since doubters who speak up may be shipped
sensitivity training or have their public careers
brave soul would go on CNN to talk openly about
race and IQ? This results in what Frederick R. Lynch
called, in his Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action,
called a "spiral
whereby the majority assumes its doubts are not shared and
suppresses them, thus collectively intimidating itself.
Perhaps because of this,
liberal academics are especially energetic in sustaining
the never-ending victimization narrative. One favorite
is the study where job applicants with identical resumes
"LaTishya", and Richard wins the job. Case
closed—even if these
exotic black names are closely associated with
lower-class black work habits. In an odd sense,
today`s champions of enduring race-related debilitation
are the mirror opposites of
propagandists pushing the vision of the Workers`
In fact, when it comes
to personal knowledge, Americans 50 or younger have from
early adolescence onward witnessed
the very opposite—being
taught by struggling teachers hired because of skin
color, not competence; reading textbooks hailing
Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman while slighting
slave-owning George Washington.
pandering has become almost embarrassing—the US Post
Office has issued
32 "Black Heritage" stamps commemorating notable blacks such as
Carter G. Woodson, Anna Julia Cooper and convicted
Malcolm X. Nearly every city with a
population has its
Luther King, Jr. street.
Bright white high school
seniors sweating out admission to prestige colleges know
full well that their less-accomplished but
against" black and Hispanic classmates have the
inside track. Ditto for the ubiquity of corporate
"minority only" job fairs and the
minorities are strongly encouraged to apply"
boilerplate in all employment ads.
Sports fans must witness
their NFL teams compelled to interview blacks for top
position (including Head Coach) thanks to a self-imposed
league agreement designed to deter litigation—the
"Rooney Rule". And what
figure enjoys the diplomatic immunity bestowed on
the likes of
Jesse Jackson or the
Rev. Al Sharpton?
This is truly an upside
down world, in which millions of American are routinely
hammered about some out-of-sight black victimization
while personally witnessing the unequal benefits
bestowed on blacks.
In short, as far as
being privileged, black is the new white.
Running parallel are the
mounting failures of Affirmative Action. Reality,
despite endless messenger shooting, has steadfastly
refused to cooperate with the social engineers.
And this reality is far
more evident than some invisible racism or debilitating
low expectations held by teachers infected with
Decades after Executive Order 11246 millions of whites
encounter freshly-arrived black co-workers often needing
extra help, or see
promotions and pay raises parceled out to avoid
Even the politically
correct Main Stream Media cannot avoid reporting rampant
inner-city mayhem of drug-related
gang violence, dysfunctional
families and all the rest that was
supposed to vanish eons ago thanks to government
Similarly, thousands of
college students encounter University departments whose
only practical justification is to insure that more
black students are admitted and more black professors
hired. That struggling blacks are given far more
academic help, even
academic free-rides by sympathetic teachers,
compared to their white classmates is hardly hidden.
overwhelmingly black cities like Newark, NJ,
Camden, NJ, Baltimore, MD, East St. Louis, Ill.,
Gary, IN, and
Detroit, MI, among countless others have sunk into
near Third-World depravity despite billions in aid and
black political domination (so much for the argument
that blacks bring a special expertise to the table). The
federal government itself has regularly proclaimed this
No Progress verdict loudly with woeful reports on
education, income, welfare dependency, crime,
illegitimacy, drug addiction,
AIDS and whatever else was supposed to disappear
thanks to these preferences.
Only the most steadfast
supporters of Affirmative Action outwardly proclaim
progress. Nearly everyone else knows it to be a lie.
What is seldom appreciated in this racial spoils system
is its "efficiency" in generating resentment
among those not on the gravy train.
Consider the anger-generating arithmetic of racial
preferences in employment though the same logic holds
for college admissions. Suppose 50 candidates apply for
five jobs at IBM and the firm objectively ranks them top
to bottom. Assume the most qualified black candidate is
ranked 25, and to fend off lawsuits, he is hired instead
of number 5, a white candidate. How many whites have
actually lost their jobs due to Affirmative Action? The
correct answer is one, candidate #5. But since numbers 5
through 24 scored higher than the hired black,
"honestly" (but incorrectly) see themselves as
victims of reverse discrimination.
Given the ubiquity of this moving-blacks-up-the-line
pattern annually, across untold areas, it is an
incredible machine for
generating racial animosity—hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of angry white males for every black hired at
IBM or admitted to Yale.
Legitimacy is further undermined by accidents of
geography, married names, and savvy politicking (and
this excludes outright frauds like black "front"
companies or misrepresenting one racial/ethnic
identity). Vagueness is often the tip off to the
corruption. Not even a team of Talmudic scholars working
24/6 might delineate differences between "minority",
"disadvantaged", "discriminated against",
"the historically under-represented", "the poor",
"people of color", "under-privileged", and
similar brain-clouding euphemism that may or may not
reflect race and ethnicity, but seek to avoid laws
banning racial preferences.
Nuremberg Laws on racial purity were at least
unambiguous. We now live in a world where women are a
"minority", dark-skinned Asian Indians "white",
while a youngster whose father has a Spanish-sounding
last name may go to Harvard as an AA admit but would be
rejected if named Smith though his mother was a
population has exploded thanks to the
benefits of Affirmative Action (recall how
Churchill declared himself a "Native American"
though he was a man without a tribe). Are
Brazilians "Hispanics"? (Apparently not, I`m
told.) But Mayans from Mexico without a trace of Spanish
speak Spanish are!
with parents who emigrated from the Caribbean have
hit the Affirmative Action jackpot when applying to
Ivy League schools, much to the outrage of American
blacks who might insist that being a descendent of a
slave in Jamaica doesn`t count. Meanwhile, thousands of
"disadvantaged" students from
wealthy African families gain undeserved entry to
top schools by today`s equivalent of divine right.
Bizarre, resentment-provoking examples aside, easily
overlooked is how administering the racial spoils system
awards immense power to obscure, unelected bureaucrats
or judges. They decide, for example, that Iranians are
"white" but Hasidic Jews are protected
"minorities" in awarding
government contracts. And who decides whether
someone is "really" black though he or she may
pass as "white"? Such capriciousness makes a
mockery of rule of law.
Similar inexactitudes surround establishing "bias"
in tests, Some Affirmative Action defenders insist that
written tests inherently, though mysteriously,
discriminate against blacks, who are allegedly more
comfortable with a difficult-to-define style of verbal
As the original "a little help in the footrace"
rationale for racial preferences becomes antiquated,
updated justifications are required. These increasingly
become surrealistic jokes. Not even fact-twisting
who extolled the latest Five Year Plan could out-brag
the University president who informs the freshman class
that recruiting unqualified, semi-literate blacks to
campus improves education for everyone by increasing
diversity. (Perhaps he means that the basketball and
football teams will improve). And to compound this
blatant mendacity, he stresses that these diversity
recruits actually meet the university`s highest
intellectual standards—though, as everyone will see,
they are immediately enrolled in remedial courses.
Kafkaesque lying for racial justice hardly embarrasses
anyone. In the battle over Michigan`s Anti-Affirmative
General Colin Powell insisted that
America`s national defense in an increasingly
multi-cultural world required admitting hordes of
sub-par students who would probably not graduate—or, if
they did, only with diplomas in ideologically-infused
fields like Ethnic Studies.
What all of this adds up to is a failed, increasingly
convoluted social engineering scheme tottering on the
Of course, nearly all "respectable" politicians
refuse to admit this inconvenient truth in public. At
most they might privately dismiss it by saying that
America can afford the cost—and most critically, that
the spoils system sustains decades of racial peace, no
small accomplishment for those who
"burn baby, burn"
The apt parallel may be the welfare reform of the 1990s.
ended decades of debilitating, family-destroying
"compassion" which was nevertheless long thought to
be politically sacrosanct.
Similarly, nearly all Americans would welcome ending all
the lies necessary to keep Affirmative Action going.
It`s time to pull the plug.
Robert Weissberg [email
him] is Professor of Political Science, Emeritus,
University of Illinois, Urbana and currently Adjunct
Professor of Politics (Graduate), New York University.