CARSON: Beyond affirmative action to colorblindness

‘Compassionate action’ could usher in a genuinely fair society

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For example, let’s take a child who is a member of a racial minority with parents who are successful professionals and have given their child every imaginable advantage.

The child applies to a prestigious university, has a 3.95 grade-point average, excellent SAT scores and great community service. This child would obviously be an excellent candidate for admission.

Let’s take another child who is white, but whose father is incarcerated and his mother is an alcoholic. Despite these disadvantages, the child still has a 3.7 grade-point average with very good SAT scores and has a resume that includes several low-paying jobs.

Without taking any other factors into consideration, the choice is clear: The first student would be admitted over the second. However, I think that extra consideration should go the second child, who has clearly demonstrated the tenacity and determination to succeed in the face of daunting odds.

If that second child happens to be a member of a racial minority, obviously, he would receive the extra consideration as well.

I call this “compassionate action.” Such a strategy demonstrates sensitivity and compassion, as well as recognition of substantial achievement in the face of difficult obstacles.

The groups who benefit from compassionate action will probably change over time, depending on which ones have the greatest number of obstacles to overcome. The point is, it’s time to be more concerned about the content of character than the color of skin when extending extra consideration.

Some people are still willfully ignorant and wish to look at external physical characteristics in determinating what a person can think or do. These people are unlikely to change even when equipped with information, because they already think they are equipped with superior knowledge and wisdom.

All we can do is pray that someday, they will have a change of heart.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.

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