Home > Uncategorized > A Discussion on Affirmative Action

A Discussion on Affirmative Action


Below are some comments I recently made in a forum regarding the necessity of Affirmative Action.  I received some insightful replies to my original post. Read the following thread and see what you think.  And, by the way, affirmative action is still very much a business issue as I am sure many of you know.  So, please post a comment about affirmative action if you feel so inclined.

You know,as a black man and retired military officer I must say our country has indeed come a long way regarding racial equality. I think Obama is a testament to this view. However, it isnot overt racisim that is the major problem, but instead it is subtle or unconscious prejudice that is the current affliction.Everyone is prejudiced and we are all primarily guided by our unconscious. Furthermore, our unconscious is largely shaped by our dna and environmental cues. For instance, a recent research study was conducted by ABC news where they sent out identical resumes to several companies. The resumes were identical in experience, educational background, and other critical areas. However, there was one subtle difference, some resumes had black sounding names and others had white sounding names. The resumes with white sounding names received twice as many callbacks as the other resumes. Again, the only difference was the names. 

In another study, all white juries were shown to convict black defendants at a much higher rate than if the jury were diverse. The reason, when there was diversity the members of the jury thought more deeply and objectively about the case.

We need affirmative action, not because most people are racist, but because most people are human. And we all harbor these unconscious biases that have much more influence on our decisions than we would like to admit.

By the way, people get into schools for all sorts of reasons, not just skin color. But also due to legacy, athletics, and other reasons that taken in sum are highly susceptible to accusations of triviality. Is it really fair for a kid who scores high on the SAT from a great Blue Springs school to be comapared to a kid from Central soley on the basis of a test score? I don’t think so, and I would believe you don’t either.


  • Posted by: bjerome
  • 3/28/2008 9:31 AM
bjerome:One of the most well thought out, articulate responses I’ve ever read on here. It makes me rethink my position. 

Maybe AA just needs revamped because it doesn’t seem to do what it was intended to.

Thanks for your insightful comments.

  • Posted by: What A Country!
  • 3/28/2008 9:53 AM
Thank you bjeromeYou have made one of the best comments posted on these boards yet during a racial discussion. 

Thank you what a country and will44 for good counter-questions.

I think some forms of AA are needed but it needs to be revamped, it shouldn’t only be about race and gender and No quotas should even be looked at.

Have AA-proponents considered these things instead:
1. The program in Texas where all graduating seniors in the top 10 percent of their class are accepted to state schools (I think it is regardless of standardized test scores or its weighted so they get points for being in the top 10
2. Remedial classes or programs to prepare people who are slightly below par for a colelge or professional school to compete. I know there used to be one for minority law-school applicants. They were provisionally accepted and had to complete so many classes over the summer and make a certain score. There was some money involved too because it also had an economic need component.
3. Expanding AA in colleges to include children from families below a certain income regardless of race.
4. Company-based intern programs that expand entry-level opportunities and increased recruiting efforts to add more minorities, with the same qualifications as white applicants, to the mix when considering job applicants
5. Maybe even some sort of small business and minority-owned and women-owned business program that allows those start-ups to bid competatively against each other for small pieces of a project. There could be some sort of restraints on how long you could partake of this. After that go compete with the big boys and girls.
6. A real examination of what works and what doesn’t in inner city school systems and a redirection of money and resources to those efforts and away from those that don’t work regardless of whose toes it steps on.
7. An emphasis on basic life-skills in inner city schools since some of these kids don’t get this at home. It shouldn’t cost any more money. You just teach by adding things like how to fill out job applications or essays on proper work-place behavior to the mix. Or teach math by showing someone how saving verses spending and racking up bad credit works.

I would like to thank each of you who has posted a thoughtful comment regarding this subject. My previous experience discussing hot button issues such as race has often left me reluctant to engage in such an important dialogue. But, most of you have proven that we can discuss this issue with the goal of clarification instead of villification.As I stated in an earlier post I am a retired Air Force officer who happens to be an American of African Descent. I agree with most of you about the importance of emphasizing our commonalities rather than our differences. And while this is indeed important as a basis for establishing a relationship, this will not enable our country to face the complexities of a 21st Century world. So, we can survive focusing on our similarities,but we cannot thrive unless we tap the special qualities that makeeach of us unique. 

For example, those of you with kids I suppose do not treat your kids in an identical manner. We have a 10 year old and a 21 year old. While I love them equally (similarly)I do not treat them the same. My 10 year old does not get the keys to the car or watches whatever she likes on tv. So, in essence I believe we all practice some form of diversity in our everyday lives. But, you see,it is the understanding of the uniqueness of each indvidual that enables us to help each other achieve our potential.

Affirmative Action I would agree is not a perfect answer to creating a fair playing field, but it is the best thing we have right now. You know,it has really been only about 35yrs that Americans of African Descent have fully enjoyed the fruits of the American Experiment. Most of the American of African Descent has been engulfed with slavery,Jim Crow, Seperate But Equal, and overt racism.

A recent research study was conducted that revealed something interesting about our unconscious biases. It seems that race is not the only attribute that we hold against people. Another culprit is height. Fortune 500 company CEOs have an average height of almost 6′ 3″. While the average height of the American male is about 5′ 10″. Why the difference? Because we unconsciously favor taller people because we associate their height with superior performance. We don’t set out to discriminate against short people, but something down deep makes us favor tall people. Race is no different.

So, knowing that we as human beings discriminate against others over arbitrary attributes we can do one of two things. We can pretend like it doen’t exist, or we can set up the rules of the game as best we can to give everyone a fairer shot. Really, we need AA to protect us from ourselves…

How long should we have AA? Well, I don’t think it should go away because every group will need protection from the dominant group in the future. For instance, in Miami the government structure and power base is primarily Cuban. So, every other group is effectively excluded. Is this because Cuban’s are racist? No. It’s because Cubans like every other group hire their friends and families. Just like in Detroit where Americans of African Descent dominate city government. So, since it is natural to hire friends and family of the dominant culture should we allow it? I say because something natural does not make it right. AA in the future will be needed for Americans of European Descent because they are not the dominate culture in every region or at every level of government.

In sum, I have an adopted son who happens to be blond haired and blue eyed. I love him dearly. He has severe dyslexia and at 15 it is a struggle for him to read at a 2nd grade level. I constantly remind him that he has got to work harder in life to be successful, but that is no excuse to not achieve his potential. My son had no role in slavery and he doesn’t discriminate against anyone. He is a good kid. And when he grows up I want him to be treated fairly. Not any worse or any better than anyone else. But, whether he succeeds or fails will not be due to AA. It won’t be because someone with darker skin got a position that he deserved. His lot in life will be due to choice, chance,and circumstance. J

AA is not a zero sum game,but instead we all can win by ensuring that the rules ensure that the gameisplayed fairly…


Urban girl, Will44, what a country,Thanks for the excellent posts. I don’t have time to respond to your specific comments but I do think they are all very valid. 

Urban girl I especially think your views are very insightful and practical…

Everyone,please if you get a chance please go to the PBS site called Race: The Power of an Illusion (web address below). For some of you I think it will clarify why some of us still think AA is needed.

The real reason froma practical sense that AA is still needed is because of the housing discrimination that took place after WWII. Government backed housing loans as well as educational assistance was offered to Americans of European Descent, but not to Americans of African Descent or other minorities. When most american family wealth is generated by home ownership it creates a government backed imbalance that is only magnafied in later generations. It is the difference between renting and owning.

See, the real problem is not individual prejudice. As discussed earlier we all suffer this afflication. The fundamental problem is government sponsored discrimination which institutionalizes and reinforces the collective individual prejudices that metestasize into larger
sterotypes, homgenous neighborhoods, and financial trends.



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