Over the past several years, race-based opportunity policies have been on the defensive. In 2006, 58% of Michigan voters approved a statewide referendum ending affirmative action in public education.
A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court forced public school administrators to use socioeconomic status, not race, to integrate segregated public schools.
President Barack Obama injected energy into the race-versus-class debate when he suggested that poor whites should at times be given preference over more privileged blacks.
Lee C. Bollinger
Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University's nineteenth President in 2002. A prominent Affirmative Action advocate, he played a leading role in the twin 2003 Supreme Court cases that upheld and clarified Affirmative Action in higher education. A leading First Amendment scholar, he serves on the faculty of Columbia Law School.
His awards include the National Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, and the National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He is a former President of the University of Michigan, where he was also Dean of the Law School and a law professor.
Julian Bond has been an activist in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace since he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960. He has served four terms on the NAACP's National Board, and has been Chairman since 1998. He was President of the Atlanta NAACP (1978-89).
Bond serves on the board of the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he is President Emeritus, and was President and founder of the Southern Elections Fund, helping elect rural Southern black candidates. He served four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives (1965-75) and six terms in the Georgia Senate (1975-86).
Dalton Conley is a university professor of the social sciences and chair of sociology at New York University and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. He offers an essential understanding of how these changes have reshaped our world and our lives.
Dalton Conley's essays have appeared in numerous publications; his previous books include Being Black, Living in the Red, Honky, and The Pecking Order.
Senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and weekly columnist for the New York Sun, John McWhorter earned his Ph.D. in linguistics from Stanford University in 1993 and went on to teach at Cornell University and UC Berkeley. His academic specialty is language change and language contact.
He is the author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, on how the world's languages arise, change, and mix, and Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music in America and Why We Should, Like, Care.
Ray Suarez joined The NewsHour in October 1999 as a Washington-based Senior Correspondent. Suarez came to The NewsHour from NPR where he had been host of the nationwide, call-in news program "Talk of the Nation" since 1993. Prior to that, he spent seven years covering local and national stories for the NBC-owned station, WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
In the U.S., the effort to improve the employment and educational opportunities of women and members of minority groups through preferential treatment in job hiring, college admissions, the awarding of government contracts, and the allocation of other social benefits. First undertaken at the federal level following passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action was designed to counteract the lingering effects of generations of past discrimination. The main criteria for inclusion in affirmative action programs are race, sex, ethnic origin, religion, disability, and age. The Supreme Court of the United States placed important limitations on affirmative action programs in its 1978 ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke; several subsequent Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Adarand Constructors v. Pena in 1995 and Texas v. Hopwood in 1996) imposed further restrictions. In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 209, which prohibited government agencies and institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, colour, ethnicity, or national origin. Similar measures were subsequently passed in other states. In 2003, in two landmark rulings involving admission to the University of Michigan and its law school, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of affirmative action but ruled that race could not be the preeminent factor in such decisions.
Affirmative Action should not be regarded as race-based because it discriminates race. There is an enormous difference between discrimination based on race and discrimination of race. Discrimination based on race is racism; being able to tell a white man from a black man is not racist, however.
So-called race-based Affirmative Action is, in fact, based on observed trends of disproportion that happen to afflict certain races in a given situation. The so-called preference given to historically disadvantaged groups is not based on their race, but rather, it's based on the apparent inequality they are faced with. Asian Americans are a good example; decades ago, Affirmative Action helped Asians, but now, not so much. They did not stop being Asian, they simply stopped being disadvantaged. Race is not what drives Affirmative Action, it's just a coincidental descriptor.
You wouldn't say you prefer chips over ice-cream because you prefer chips; that doesn't explain your inclination at all. You would say you prefer chips because they're salty, or because you like the crunch, etc. This is perfectly analogous, yet, because race has been so sensationalized, people mistakenly conclude that the discrimination is based on the fact that the person is of a certain color, rather than the fact that evidence suggests people of that color are discriminated against. Racism in admissions can be stopped by monitoring those trends and redressing them; that's what Affirmative Action does. That is not race-based, because as soon as the trends shift, so too does the application of these policies--they're not beholden to the races but the trends of disadvantage.
And it isn't important whether standards are lowered, but whether minimum requirements are lowered. You could arbitrarily split a group of white, female students into two groups, and qualifications for these groups would not be equally matched. Varying levels of qualification are inescapable in academia because the admissions standards are so broad. Affirmative Action beneficiaries are supposed to be qualified as a prerequisite; if you want better qualified students, then raise the minimum requirements.
Berkeley does have "legacy admission" so Dolton is mistaken. In addition, the SAT/ACT test are bias too. Overall, the debate was interesting. Julian Bond informs that Obama never designated a racial classification, so what! There is much disparity in education and it will continue.
This was a very good debate. I think the side opposed to Affirmative Action based on race and/or ethnicity was able to poke holes in the other side's argument.
One reason I think the Affirmative Action supporters (against the resolution) were weaker was due to the conflicting reasons for the policy (past or present). Is it a remedy for discrimination and wrongs from the past, or is it to have more diversity in the institutions of higher learning -- for the good of all in the classroom? Do donors prefer one reason over another? Yet, I do like the examples Bond made about "nobody beat Rodney King because he was poor" and that "no one says that discrimination that women face is about class not gender notions".
Julian Bond, the chairperson of the NAACP mentioned at two different points in the debate that the intent of Affirmative Action policy involves integrating Blacks and Whites from various cultures and life experiences to share the right of learning 'together'; although, it was Lee Bolinger who spent more time arguing that point. They seemed to be promoting the 'contact theory' ideology, hence, does this mean that the NAACP does not support Afrocentric Schools and/or Charter Schools? (my questions are not rhetorical - I would like to know)
I think that the 'Black' or 'African American' identity has been essentialized in a time that is no longer only 'African American'. This was mentioned somewhat in the conversation new black immigrants coming from the affluent and not-so-affluent backgrounds of the African continent and of the Caribbean. Their histories and experiences are vastly different than the historic African American, bearing in mind the various histories of oppression. Issues are different. Discrimination is still there for everyone, but I think the African Americans (and Indiginous populations) cycle of oppression has left cycles of hopelessness, where just being in America will not alleviate.
This was a very good debate and I am impressed with The anthropological linguistic side of McWhorter. Unfortunately, Julian Bond appears to be stuck in the 1960s. I believe that this debate would have been outstanding with the assistance of Stephen Pinker.
As far as getting accepted goes, President Bollinger was vague, and the reason is because the formula is not complex at all, it is simply who they want. Celebrity status, political or otherwise, takes priority over SAT or ACT scores.
In addition, the financial aid (FAFSA) is making it nearly impossible to afford a school like Columbia. But if you make less than $60k, you can go for free (or so they say on the tour...).
It doesn't matter how well founded Dalton Conley's arguments are because the structural discrimination against blacks is also the source of class discrimination. As Henry Louis Gates states, affirmative action only had the effect of splitting the black middle class - the lower class remains where it has been (regardless of race). How is a child effected by not knowing where (s)he will live this month, or eat today? Remove hope and gone is any ability to endure the struggle to succeed.
I agree with Mr. Conley Dr. McWhorter that Affirmative Action in Higher Education does not help the race issue, and possibly hurts it. We do need to focus on K-12 problems much more than higher education at this point.