We Need Affirmative Action to Counter Imbedded Biases

Article excerpt

Many commentators have attacked recent decisions of the federal courts that would eliminate preferential treatment in employment, education and grants for African-Americans, other racial and ethnic minorities and women on the ground that affirmative-action programs are necessary to eliminate the vestiges of past discrimination.

I would suggest yet another reason why such federal rulings are duplicitous, inaccurate and racially biased. Nowhere in the pages of learned analysis or judicial rhetoric do you read anything about preferential treatment of white people. Indeed, white affirmative action and preferential treatment procedures are so much a part of the white culture that they are not recognized for what they are.

When white students are applying to independent schools and colleges, admissions officers speak openly about "legacies" or "sibling preference" - code words for preferential treatment for the children or siblings of white graduates.

The recent Supreme Court opinion concerning admission to the University of Texas Law School even acknowledges that "an admission process may also consider an applicant's home state or relationship to school alumni." The majority of black families do not have the benefit of the legacy factor. For many, the admission of a child to college marks the first time a member of the family will attend such an institution.

Admissions agreements among schools are also well-understood vehicles for channeling white students into the "right school." While little is said about this practice, and most educational institutions would deny that it exists, it is nonetheless supported by the profile of entering classes. In the same vein, recommendations from influential graduates or powerful parents of graduates will lead to the acceptance of some white young people with marginal credentials.

When young people emerge from college, they find again a manifestation of white preference in the workplace. With an education from certain schools, a white person can connect with fellow graduates and immediately create an aura of credibility and "comfort" in a job interview. This "compatibility" is often unavailable to black candidates - including graduates from the same school as the interviewer. …