- - Thursday, May 1, 2014


Affirmative action, a policy brimming with contradictions for a society that views itself as a meritocracy, has vexed the American people for decades (“The overdue end of affirmative action,” Commentary, Web, April 30).

Most of us see the provision of equal opportunity, not mandated equal outcomes, as the proper function of government. Yet affirmative action provides racial preferences in a variety of circumstances. This is in contradistinction to the 14th Amendment to our Constitution, which provides for equal protection of our laws.

In so doing, the policy disadvantages Caucasians and others (mostly Asian-Americans) with the force of law, an approach that even a growing number of minorities recognize is inappropriate, if for no other reason than it taints the achievements of minorities favored by the policy.

Yet we have accepted the policy in recognition of our sordid history of racism and in an attempt to aid those still stigmatized. As a longtime supporter of affirmative action, I welcomed the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the policy. Then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saw an end to racial preferences, perhaps in 25 years. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas, who is black, wanted to end the policy immediately.

The recent case occasioning so much enraged comment was not about affirmative action per se, but rather about the right of the people of Michigan to decide whether the policy should apply at public universities within that state. Nevertheless, the tumult indicates that ending the policy will be as vexatious as its initiation.





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