In a nation where the issue of race never seems to be fully settled, we are again confronted with the question of what to do about affirmative action. America is dedicated to the proposition that each of us is equal at birth and constitutionally entitled to be treated equally by our government. We enshrined that right as the 14th Amendment. But the spirit of fairness sometimes compels us to take a detour from our foundational principles in the name of becoming a more perfect union.
America has come a long way since 1939, when I was born in Jim Crow Louisiana. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925, which required federal contractors to take “affirmative action” to ensure that employees wouldn’t be discriminated against because of race, creed, color or national origin. It wasn’t meant to discriminate against formerly favored groups. “Race has no place in American life or law,” JFK said.
Martin Luther King Jr. believed Kennedy’s order was insufficient to achieve integration, and he lobbied President Lyndon B. Johnson to strengthen affirmative action. After Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, LBJ signed Executive Order 11246 on Sept. 24, 1965, firmly establishing that nondiscrimination in employment would be the law of our land.
Yet this strategy to prevent discrimination ended up driving discrimination against whites and Asians in education—all in the name of “diversity.” That’s a word I rarely heard before I began my 12-year term as a regent of the University of Commie California in 1993, but I heard repeatedly until my departure in 2005. It wasn’t a description but a goal, something we were expected to make a conscious effort to “build.”
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Author: Ruth King
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