- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

Once again we have been treated with an egregious example of reverse discrimination, really rampant racism. In her report in The Washington Times ("William and Mary, UVa. favor black law school applicants," April 29), Ellen Sorokin reported that these Virginia institutions in 1999 gave "overwhelming preference to black applicants over white, Hispanic and Asian students."
The study by the Center for Equal Opportunity, headed by Linda Chavez, found that black students with above-average scores on the Law School Admissions Test were 730 times more likely to be admitted to Virginia's law school than an equally qualified white student.
Even if this blatant injustice has been somewhat mitigated since 1999, the fact is that racial and ethnic preferences are still widely practiced in the academy, the government, and other institutions that are more attentive to political correctness than to simple justice.
Such preferences are the antithesis of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream of a colorblind society and they fly in the face of the civil rights laws of the 1960s that call for equal justice under the law and equal access to public institutions. When these acts were passed, Hubert H. Humphrey said that if they were ever used to justify racial preferences, he would eat them. He would be choking now.
I am particularly saddened by this subversion of civil rights because I was involved in the movement for equal justice more than 50 years ago.
During World War II, along with rights pioneers Bayard Rustin and James Farmer, I participated in a peaceful demonstration to desegregate a Chicago restaurant, 12 years before Dr. King joined the movement. On my own, I sat in the back of the bus in the South 12 years before Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus and for the same reason to protest Jim Crow.
In recent decades, I have often pondered why civil rights have been twisted into civil wrongs by some so-called rights leaders. We are told that racial preferences and quotas are just compensation for the past evils of white racism and slavery. But new evils do not expatiate old ones.
Finally, I concluded that well-meaning whites capitulate to, or even justify, the new racism out of a false sense of guilt for the old racism. A false sense of guilt combined with cowardice and abetted by politically correct thought police has forced many Americans into justifying what they know in their hearts to be wrong.
Of course, I support genuine affirmative action efforts to help American children of all ethnic groups who have special needs because of physical disability, poverty, or broken homes, whether they live in the intercity or the coal towns of West Virginia.
But I am wary of those who would divide us along racial or ethnic lines, such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, etc. In a speech before the Knights of Columbus, in New York on Oct. 12, 1915, Teddy Roosevelt warned us of this danger. "There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The only absolute way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."

Ernest W. Lefever, senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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