The unfairness of racial preferences…

06Mar12

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John Fund 
Indeed, polls show most Americans are rightly uncomfortable with racial preferences. But affirmative action — the kindler, gentler term — has been around so long now that many have forgotten the origins of that peculiar institution. Some don’t realize that the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is cited as the authority for mandating preferential treatment for racial minorities actually forbids all racial discrimination. It all happened before many Americans were even born.

Blame the courts for the perversion of the well-intentioned Civil Rights Act. In employment law, the Supreme Court started out sounding the right note with regard to so-called “reverse discrimination.” It ruled inMcDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (1976) that Title VII means just what it says and applies to whites as well as African Americans. But to its everlasting discredit, the Supreme Court endorsed preferential treatment for minorities in United Steelworkers v. Weber (1979). In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, managed to hold that Congress would have wanted to permit Kaiser Aluminum and its union to establish quotas for black candidates for highly sought-after training programs. Justice William Rehnquist dissented, refuting the majority’s reading of the statute with clear evidence from the legislative history and repeatedly comparing the majority’s opinion to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

 Meanwhile, colleges and universities, partly motivated by ideology and partly by concern over the violent race upheavals of the late 1960s, were engaging in similar race-preferential policies. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and in Grutter, the Supreme Court reluctantly acquiesced in those policies as well.

 

Shortly before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Urban League executive director Whitney Young called for “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” Congress clearly and unequivocally rejected that advice, opting instead for a complete ban on race discrimination in employment and at colleges, universities, and other institutions that accept federal funds. Nevertheless, Young got his way — and more. And more. Before the ink was dry on Title VII of the 1964 Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was making plans to pressure employers to hire more African-American employees. Within just a few years, colleges and universities were violating Title VI’s prohibition on race discrimination by substantially lowering their academic standards for African-American applicants. Young’s decade of discrimination in favor of African Americans had begun. That “decade” has now stretched into its sixth decade.

Here’s hoping that later this year the Supreme Court repairs its previous mistakes and, following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s advice, draws the curtain shut on racial preferences, even if it is a little earlier than her own timetable — which has 16 more years to run.

— John Fund is a columnist and writer based in New York. He is the author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.

 

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