On Nashville Truth, Glen criticizes affirmative action. His post begins with a quote by John Roberts:
"..... it is constitutionally impermissible to grant preferential treatment solely on the basis of race to those who have not been proven to be victims of illegal discrimination." - John Roberts (1984 memo)
The first letter to the editor that I ever wrote, at the age of 12, was on the subject of affirmative action. I believe now as I believed then, that giving preferential treatment to one group of people over another group of people, solely on the basis of skin color, is discrimination. It is not reverse discrimination, it is discrimination. I just don't understand how the very people who fought so hard to end discrimination would seek to create a system that discriminates.
The argument for affirmative reaction is that it's required in order to right a historical wrong. A number of people, and indeed the nation as a whole, benefitted significantly from virtually free labor during the slave era. Since the slaves didn't receive any of their money, their descendants were also cheated out of the money that rightfully should have been paid for that labor. I assume that Glen and others would approve of the general principle I'm alluding to, namely, that if I live in the house that my grandfather stole from your grandfather, I need to return the house to its rightful heirs. Of course, some may disapprove of the general application of this principle in an imprecise way (hence, the Roberts quote).
This is all fine. But let's then consider this: The current war in Iraq is targeting people in a very general way. Even in the best case scenario in which the current war is targeting the right areas for the right reasons (highly dubious, but anyway), by the time this is over, thousands of innocents will have been killed due to general actions aimed (purportedly) at restoring justice. While such actions may (if you swallow Bush's line) restore justice, they won't restore much justice for the innocent child killed by a bomb who had (to borrow a few words from Roberts) "not been proven" to be a terrorist.
The only conclusion I can reach from the anti-affirmative action stance is that general solutions to the restoration of justice are idiotic if they result in a loss of our money but brilliant if they increase our access to money or oil (even though they result in the loss of other's lives.) None of this strikes me as very principled.
In a sense, the demand for reparations is more principled than affirmative action. American blacks aren't asking for a hand-out: they're asking for money that is rightfully theirs. This isn't a radical notion. Reparations have been paid to victims all over the globe. On the other hand, affirmative action made good practical sense in that it provided incentives that led to long-term change. There's much to debate here regarding the particular merits of any program, but the fundamental principle of entitlement to stolen wages is rock solid.