Monday, July 20, 2009

What's the Goal of Affirmative Action?

Ross Douthat has an interesting op-ed in today's New York Times on the future of affirmative action:

As this generation rises, race-based discrimination needs to go. The explicit scale-tipping in college admissions should give way to class-based affirmative action; the de facto racial preferences required of employers by anti-discrimination law should disappear.

. . .

Affirmative action has always been understandable, but never ideal. It congratulates its practitioners on their virtue, condescends to its beneficiaries, and corrodes the racial attitudes of its victims.

All of this could be defended as a temporary experiment. But if affirmative action persists far into the American future, that experiment will have failed -- and we will all have been corrupted by it.

Ross's point reminds me very much of Jamie Kirchick's take on the gay rights movement:

There is still important work to be done nationwide, and none of this is to downplay the daily efforts put forth by gay organizations in socially conservative parts of the country. But if the ultimate goal of the movement is to achieve equality for homosexuals, then those leading it should appropriately acknowledge progress along the way. That means accepting victory when it's achieved, rather than trumping up opposition at every opportunity.

Andrew Sullivan put it best: "The goal of the gay rights movement should be to cease to exist." In my view, this should also be the goal of affirmative action programs . . . .


MediaMaven said...

Class-based affirmative action isn't a new idea--it was tossed around a lot in 2003 as an alternative in the Grutter v. Bollinger/University of Michigan Law School case.

I agree with you.

Incidentally, I JUST FINISHED reading Ross Douthat's piece before coming here. I was bored with the Times and wondered what you were up to. :)

mikhailbakunin said...

I know. I read both Grutter and Gratz after our previous discussion on affirmative action. :)