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Comment of the Day: the Myths of Affirmative Action

2017-08-05

Steel Magnolia

Atlanta, GA 8 hours ago

I am a labor and employment lawyer, now retired after almost 40 years of practice. For the last 25 years of my career, I was chief labor/employment counsel for a Fortune 50 company.

The author of this piece claims “affirmative action” requires “preference” in the workplace for blacks, hispanics and other minorities and uses that claim as ballast for his argument. But it has absolutely no basis in law.

“Affirmative action”–a creature of executive orders starting with Lyndon Johnson and re-upped by every administration since–applies only to employers who have contracts with the federal government and requires only that such contractors seek out qualified female and minority applicants if those groups are “underrepresented” in the contractor’s workplace as compared to their workforce availability in the local area.

There is nothing in these executive orders that requires federal contractors to give preference in hiring to lesser qualified women or minorities, and in fact that would be unlawful. The prohibition in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin is a two-way street. In other words, it is just as unlawful to give hiring preference to lesser qualified minorities as it would be to do the reverse.

“Affirmative action” may be an appealing spot for Trump supporters to lay blame, but it’s just a red herring. And such blame sounds a lot like just another dogwhistle.

this comment appeared in response to an op-ed in the New York Times that claimed Trump supporters are justified in feeling victimized by affirmative action and immigrants.  Here is another reaction:

Shaun Narine

Fredericton 4 hours ago

This article misses an absolutely fundamental factor: the enormous growth in income inequality in the US (and elsewhere) that has fueled much of the resentment. It also overlooks the fact that the GOP has been feeding racial fears and animosity in the US since the 1960s- long before issues like immigration were, in any plausible way, relevant. Returning to the first point: the US is a fantastically wealthy country which has followed tax and social welfare policies that have given an increasing share of the pie to the top of the economic ladder, forcing those at the bottom to fight over the crumbs that are left. Obviously, that is a recipe for resentment and anger. Education has become unaffordable to many people, limiting their chances of rising up the socioeconomic ladder. The discussion in this article is interesting, but maybe it should start with an examination of why the US has failed to build a society that can distribute wealth in a way that benefits all its citizens and provides opportunities for advancement to all. Rather than discussing whether or not those fighting over a declining share of the pie have valid concerns, we should consider why the pie is shrinking. BTW, I wonder how long white Americans would tolerate an entirely “merit-based system” once Asians take all the top spots in universities? Often, though not always, support for “merit” follows the belief that your group benefits from it.

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