Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview

whom they favor? Admittedly in some cases the job goes to the nephew of the boss. This, in the boss's mind, is his nephew's "merit"--to be related to him. Such nepotism, although reprehensible in the public sector where the government has an obligation to treat citizens equally, need not be restricted in the competitive private sector where the economic cost of selecting the less competent falls on the individual or company making the selection.

At this point I can already hear the gasps of civil rights activists. Absent legal penalties, they will warn, many companies would simply refuse to hire blacks even when they have demonstrated that they are the best-qualified candidates for jobs. Since such behavior makes no economic sense, we can expect that it would be relatively infrequent in a competitive market. Some employers undoubtedly would discriminate against blacks. Precisely how many is unknown, although after a generation of hiring preferences in favor of minorities, sometimes without external coercion, there is no reason to believe that comprehensive discrimination will make a comeback. Indeed I would go further: based on existing evidence, today's corporate culture exhibits more discrimination in favor of blacks than against blacks. Consequently, faced with the alternative of an enforced race-blind approach that would outlaw discrimination in either direction, many African Americans who recognize the pervasiveness of contemporary minority preferences might well prefer to see those private benefits continue, and would be willing to pay the price of tolerating a few relatively isolated employers who would refuse to hire backs. Thus we arrive at the greatest paradox of all: the best way for African Americans to save private-sector affirmative action is to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The issue of private discrimination is important, but whichever way it is setfled, the central choice facing American society is whether its agencies of government are going to embrace the one-drop rule and practice racial discrimination, or reject it and treat citizens equally under the law. The one-drop rule reveals the way in which our current antidiscrimination policy is premised upon the ideological foundation established by the old racists. It endorses and perpetuates racial discrimination, even while purporting to fight it. Although current policy professes to promote "benign" discrimination, all discrimination is benign for its beneficiary and invidious for its victim. America will never liberate itself from the shackles of the past until the government gets out of the race business....


NOTES
14.
Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, p. 45.
15.
Christopher Jencks, Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty, and the Underclass, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1992, p. 41.
16.
Gary S. Becker, The Economics of Discrimination, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1971.
17.
Michael Kinsley, "The Spoils of Victimhood," New Yorker, March 27, 1995, p. 66.
18.
James Fallows, More Like Us, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1989, p. 49.

-434-

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