******************** THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO WWW.LEGALINSURRECTION.COM ********************

This blog is moving to www.legalinsurrection.com. If you have not been automatically redirected please click on the link.

NEW COMMENTS will NOT be put through and will NOT be transferred to the new website.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Affirmative Action In Logical Trouble

Cythia Tucker once accused Michael Steele, then Chair of the Republican National Committee, of being an "affirmative action hire gone bad," and almost no one from civil rights organizations, liberal social justice groups, or the "left" objected.  Because Cynthia Tucker was a prominent liberal columnist who is black, and she was attacking a Republican who is black, the column passed without much controversy.

The key thing was that Tucker used the term "affirmative action" as a derogatory epithet, not a positive.  That's what it's come to even from liberal black columists.

Victor Davis Hanson writes today (h/t Instapundit) that affirmative action is an idea whose time has passed:
First, what exactly is race today in America in which intermarriage and immigration have increasingly made it — and its ugly twin racial purity — often irrelevant? We are no longer a country largely 85-90% “white” and 10-12% “black,” but something almost hard to categorize in racial terms. Do university admission officers adopt the 1/16, one-drop racial rule of the old Confederacy? Does being one fourth African-American qualify one for consideration; three-fourths Japanese; half Mexican-American? Does a simple surname add — and often by intent — authenticity and credulity? The son of Linda Hernandez and Jason Smith — a Bobby Smith — is not considered, without genealogical investigation, Hispanic, but the son of Linda Smith and Jason Hernandez — a Roberto Hernandez of equal 50/50 ancestry — is almost instantly? If so, is race a state of mind and personal choice more than circumstances of birth? What exactly is white and what a minority — a dark-skinned Armenian-American is the former, a light-skinned Colombian American is the latter? A dark Sicilian-American is white, Barack Obama is black?

We are reaching the point in a multiracial and intermarried America where admissions officers and employers simply would have to hire British genealogists to trace our bloodlines — and instead, in millions of cases, therefore resort ad hoc to what Americans profess or think they are.
Although not addressing affirmative action, Ta-Nehisi Coates comes to the following conclusion, after studying the history of black confederates:
I've spent much of my adult life studying various theories of race and racism, and the last few years in a rather intensive mode of study. In all of that time one inescapable conclusion has dogged me: Race is such bullshit.
In my prior post, Why Don't We Just Stop Counting?, I noted the difficulty that governmental entities had in classifying people by race given intermarriage, and I suggested
Our system of racial and ethnic categorization is outdated and now serves a negative purpose. Get rid of it.
Some ideas outlive their utility as blunt social instruments. Affirmative action as a generic tool to address the history of racial discrimination is one of those blunt instruments.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube
Visit the Legal Insurrection Shop on CafePress!
Bookmark and Share


  1. I think economic affirmative action would be a better tool today, in our "new" economy. It is clear that children from low-income homes do not have the opportunities that children from wealthy homes do, so regardless of race, it would make sense to give impoverished kids a chance to break free from the cycle of poverty at various points of the educational process.

  2. Affirmative action has always been in logical trouble because the phrase "affirmative action/equal opportunity employer" is self-contradictory. You can either be an equal-opportunity employer or an affirmative-action employer, but you cannot be both. If you are an affirmative-action employer, you are going to give preference to certain people at the expense of others, which implies that not everyone has an equal opportunity. That this is not obvious to many people indicates the extent to which the environment of political correctness corrodes thought processes.

  3. Race is only "bullshit" (1) if you believe that people are best understood as members of groups rather than as individuals, and (2)if you insist on treating a person's racial background as an absolute yes/no black/white either/or proposition.

    It is the Left -the collectivist Left- that insists on "groupism" - seriously maintaining that the most important aspects of a person's life are those attributed to that person's group identities, including race. The Left does not want individuals to think for themselves as individuals, and therefore the category of "race" is very important to the Left.

    Moreover, it is the Left that favors one racial identity over another, and which supports various programs and policies which advance the interests of one race -- so it is important for the Leftist to be able to identify a person's race unambiguously.

    In reality, there are many "races," "breeds," or "strains" of people, and these are often mixed in interesting ways. We can speak of a "white race," but also a "French race," or a "Provencal race," or even the "race" of a particular family, such as the Bourbons. It is not altogether foolish to do this. It isn't always unreasonable to take notice of a person's background. For example, the propoensity to develop certain diseases and other aspects of medical history may be passed on either genetically or culturally within members of a group, and it may help an individual to know something of hsi or her genetic and cultural heritage.

    But forcing people into either/or categories that do not reflect the realities of their heritage is not necessary.

  4. I feel very passionately about this subject as I've related before. One of the worst offenders is higher education. I think I've posted on this site about applying to universities and how our daughter was reduced to claiming herself as white (my side) when dealing with engineering departments (where administrators feel that Asians are overrepresented), and Asian (my wife's side) when writing her application essays (to add the "color" of minority status).

    When I was an undergrad, for a time I was a biology major. I had a class in genetics where I became good friends with two hispanic students. They both came from wealthy families.

    One day just before the start of class, the professor told the class about a great internship opportunity that coming summer that we should apply for ... if we were of minority status ... it was only open to minorities.

    I had the top grade in the class, but I couldn't apply. My two friends had average grades and they could (and I had the darkest skin of the three of us)! That was the first time I really pondered the crazy logic of affirmative action.

  5. Now that South Africa is gone, it appears that the USA is the nation most obsessed with race.

    In every area where you interface with the government you are asked your race. It's time to go with a color-blind society, IMO.

  6. It is not the USA that is obsessed with race. It is the left in the USA that is obsessed with race. The "victims group" classification by the far left is the epicenter of their power base. When affirmative action, regardless of its utility in today's America, ends, then the far left's demise is only a matter of time. Thus you will see this protected with such fevor and violence that it will make the battle over union rights in Wisconsin seem like a Sunday picnic.

  7. Imagine the load lifted off of our economy if we could do away with Affirmative Action! It's costs are stupendous.

    We have a higher education bubble as a way around Affirmative Action. If the employer requires a college degree or more, the percentage of African-Americans in the pool diminish. Otherwise they are forced into hiring less qualified African-Americans to diversify their work force. Very expensive. Governor Lamb of Colorado has a pretty good quote about the evils of diversity. With enough diversity we don't need to worry about our enemies without.

  8. I was in an EEO work shop at work and got asked the loaded question “what is Affirmtive Action/”

    I responed with question, the AA that Lyndon Johnson meant describing the text of the 1964 Civil Rigths act, what got written in the Executive order, what is in the HHS regulations, what businesses think it means, what businesses must do to avoid law suits. Even the most activist of the presenters realized there is a definition problem and let the asnswer pass. But I was not so foolish as to point out the last violates the intent if not the letter of the 1964 Civil rights act.

    Once upon a time "affirmative action" was a throw away bureaucratic phrase meaning "do what I told you". Which is all I think Lyndon Johnson meant. "FOLLOW the LAW"

  9. I always found it a treat to read this particular Associate Justice in the SC Grutter V Bollinger, but it's ancient history these days.


  10. This sort of begs the question of how Gerry Rivers' career would have gone had he not changed his name.