“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words in 1963, helping to inspire and mobilize supporters of desegregation (Mount). The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed, guaranteeing equal rights to people of all color, race or creed. Soon thereafter, affirmative action was introduced to create equality in the workplace and institutions of higher education. Yet, while the dream of Dr. King was partially realized through the inception of affirmative action, the reality is that it in fact perpetuated a mindset that continues to judge people not by the content of their character but the color of their skin.
Originally conceived as a means to redress discrimination, minority set aside programs have created racial preferences that have instead promoted discrimination. And rather than fostering harmony and integration, these preferences have divided many businesses and college campuses across the country. In no other area of public life is there a greater disparity between the rhetoric of preferences and the reality than with affirmative action. Take, for instance, the claim that racial preferences help the “disadvantaged.” In reality, as the Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell has observed, preferences primarily benefit minority applicants from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. In colleges with quotas for affirmative action, preferences actually hurt poor whites and even many Asians, who meet admissions standards in disproportionate numbers (Sacks and Thiel). If preferences were truly meant to remedy disadvantage, they would be given on the basis of disadvantage, not on the basis of race, so that a poor, qualified white student would stand a better chance of being admitted than the under-qualified son of a black doctor.
Instead of a remedy for disadvantage, many supporters now claim that preferences promote “diversity.” This same push for “diversity” also has led colleges like Stanford University to create racially segregated dormitories, racially segregated freshman orientation programs, racially segregated graduation ceremonies and curricular requirements in race theory and gender studies. But if “diversity” were really the goal, then preferences would be given on the basis of unusual characteristics, not on the basis of race. The underlying assumption — that only minorities can add certain ideas or perspectives — is offensive not merely because it is untrue but also because it implies that all minorities think a certain way.
The only way to create a society of equality is to stop giving preference based on arbitrary criteria. Americans must adhere to the values of its founding fathers, the voices of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, and create a society based on character and ability, not mandated preferences. A good example why this is preferable is author Ward Connerly, who is Black, White, and Native American. He is “Black” only by the terms of the ancient and racist “one drop rule” and by family tradition; in reality his race defies categorization. He did not meet his father until very late in life and, his mother having died, was raised first by an aunt and uncle, then by his grandmother. His grandmother and uncle were the real formative influences on his character, both of them strict and demanding that he make something of himself. His Uncle James in particular was a role model, asking only one thing of life: that people treat him like a man; in exchange always carrying himself like one. Together they instilled in Connerly a burning desire to be judged on his own merit.
It thus seems natural that when, as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Connerly was approached by a couple who had statistical evidence of the use of quotas by the UC colleges, he turned their cause into his cause. He then became a proponent for Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, which passed in 1996, amending the state Constitution to end affirmative action and prohibit public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity (“California Prop 209”). Connerly’s reason were simple: “I felt in my heart that race preferences–by whatever name–were not a continuation of [historical] progress, but an obstacle in the road to freedom and equality,” he said. “At best a diversion, and at worst a giant step backward, affirmative action preferences caused us to lose sight of the task we inherited from the [founding] Founders–creating equal as the only category that counts in America” (Connerly).
Minority set aside programs, while well-meaning, are now morally corrupt and socially irresponsible. More legislation needs to be passed at the federal level to abolish minority set aside programs from businesses and campuses across the nation. Unable to repair problems of the past, it is foolish to relive them without evolving. Without the recognition of color, Americans will finally be able to advance a society that realizes the ideals of the Founding Fathers and the dream of Dr. King.
“California Proposition 209 (1996).” Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. 11 Nov 2006. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 1 Dec 2006 ;http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=California_Proposition_209_%281996%29;oldid=87083667;.
Connerly, Ward. Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preference.
San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000.
David Sacks ; Peter Thiel. “The Case Against Affirmative Action.”
Stanford Magazine. 1 December 2006. ;http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/1996/sepoct/articles/against.html;.
Mount, Steve. “The I Have a Dream Speech.” USConstitution.net.
2006. December 1, 2006. ;http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_mlaw.html;.