Affirmative Action

No.  Affirmative action is not about diversity.  Affirmative action is how we repair the damage caused by racial slavery.  This was not like ancient Rome, where a slave was an enemy defeated in battle.  We justified our slavery by insisting that black skinned people were inferior.  We wrote this prejudice into national and state laws.  We taught this prejudice to our children.  We hammered it into the black men and women we enslaved.

We continued this indoctrination, well past the end of slavery, through segregated facilities and discrimination in all aspects of life.  It has only been within my lifetime that black children were allowed to attend school with white children.

The damage is real and can be measured objectively by the disproportionate number of black men in our prisons and the relatively small percentage of black men and women in professional careers.

Enabling qualified black men and women to enter college and pursue professional careers, opportunities that we refused them in the past, is an important remediation.  They must not be denied simply because someone else scored a few points higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.  The prejudice that black people are inherently inferior cannot be sustained against the reality of black doctors, lawyers, generals, and elected leaders.

When a child sees these examples he realizes that his potential is not limited to menial labor.  When teachers see this reality, their expectations for black children are elevated.  Aspirations and expectations motivate achievement, and achievement is the key to all real opportunity in our society.

It is unprincipled to attack affirmative action on the grounds of unequal treatment.  you cannot break your competitor’s leg the day before the race and then insist it is unfair for him to use crutches.  If we value the principle of equal treatment we must take responsibility for the damage we caused when we violated it.  Invoking the principle to escape our responsibility is self-serving and hypocritical.

The only honorable argument for ending affirmative action is that the damage has been effectively repaired.  That must be measured objectively.  When the percentage of blacks who become doctors is close to the percentage of non-blacks who become doctors, and when the percentage of blacks who are unemployed or in prison is no greater than the percentage of whites in a similar predicament, then and only then can we responsibly end affirmative action.

Marvin Edwards

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