Magazine article The Christian Century

Affirmative Actions: For Most Minorities, Lack of Affordable Opportunities Is the Biggest Obstacle to Higher Education. (Comment & Reports)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Affirmative Actions: For Most Minorities, Lack of Affordable Opportunities Is the Biggest Obstacle to Higher Education. (Comment & Reports)

Article excerpt

AS THE SUPREME COURT issued its ruling upholding, in a limited way, affirmative action, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed the hope that in 25 years higher education will not require "race-conscious' admissions programs. Her remark underscored the provisional nature of affirmative action: the idea is to eliminate racial preferences in the future by employing them now.

The seemingly contradictory aspect of this effort strikes many Americans--and some Supreme Court justices--as illogical, like turning left in order to go right. We would argue that it is not illogical but paradoxical, and that sometimes reality itself is paradoxical. In fact, affirmative-action programs have already shown success in the real world, as the court acknowledged in its 5-4 decision supporting the diversity program at the University of Michigan Law School. The benefits of racial diversity in educating and recruiting leaders "are not theoretical but real," O'Connor wrote, and she cited business and military leaders to buttress her case.

Corporations and the military have concluded that if they are to operate successfully in a global marketplace and in a racially diverse society, they need a diverse set of leaders. The notion that elite institutions need to "look like America," and that they can do so while retaining high standards, has become widely recognized as practical wisdom. The court has now legitimated the practice.

Yet the paradox remains: the goal of affirmative action is to speed the day of its demise. …

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