Academics and analysts discussed whether affirmative action policies should continue to be based on race and ethnicity or changed to reflect a person's class and wealth. Ray Suarez moderated the debate at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.
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Many of the issues raised in today's case were discussed at a recent debate at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The topic was whether affirmative action policies in education and employment should continue to be based on race and ethnicity or changed to reflect a person's class and wealth.
I was the moderator. The participants were John McWhorter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP; Dalton Conley, chair of sociology and acting dean of the social sciences at New York University; and Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University.
Here's an excerpt.
JOHN MCWHORTER, Manhattan Institute:
What this comes down to is a question that I think we're not asking about affirmative action of any kind, and it's something I've always been quite unclear on.
Exactly who decides, who has told us what the proportion of, for example, black people is supposed to be in a given institution and why? Where's the number?
And so, obviously, if discrimination is demonstrable, go get them. We have to, you know, persecute racism. That's fine. But what about when it barely is?
And then it seems to me that we're doing a kind of social engineering, which actually does harm to students. If you actually talk to black and Latino students, they tend not to be terribly fond of being treated as pawns in a diversity tableau. They're in school to get an education.
JULIAN BOND, NAACP:
I was going to say Dr. McWhorter is wrong to think that people don't talk about the number. Sandra Day O'Connor famously said in her decision in these most recent cases that affirmative action ought to have a 25-year life.
But in her autobiography, she asked the rhetorical question, how will we know when women have reached equality in America? And she said, We'll know when women have reached a percentage in the professions equal to their percentage in the population.
So people do talk about that. And I just found it interesting that Justice O'Connor set a time standard for race-based affirmative action, but a numerical standard and a quota for women.