INTRODUCTION: SOCIAL POLICY BY STEAMROLLER
Some Baby Boomers born in the late 1940s and 1950s may recall Margaret Wise Brown's whimsical children's story of a little girl who received an adult-sized steamroller as a Christmas gift ( Brown, 1948: 54-58). The excited child climbed aboard the colossal machine, started it up, blew the whistle, and put the machine into gear. But, once in motion, the little girl did not know how to stop her giant toy. She smashed through the wall of her parents' home, flattened a fence, and, despite her cries of warning to all concerned, "squished" assorted animals and persons in her neighborhood. Finally, of course, the machine was brought to a halt and -- this being a wholesome, happy story -- all the flattened people and animals were scooped up and popped back to life. All was forgiven, and there were no hard feelings or lawsuits.
The evolving systems of race-and-gender quotas known as "affirmative action" can be likened to the steamroller story. As in the 1940 tale, the mating of machine and operator began with the best intentions. Then, however, things got out of control and much damage was done.
But there are some important differences between the happy, magical ending of a 1940s children's story and the real-world effects of a contemporary social policy. I shall try to demonstrate in this book that the injuries wrought by the affirmative action steamroller have been both deep and possibly extensive. While some of those squashed in the steamroller story did pop back up and go on their way, real-life people who lost jobs or promotions because of affirmative action may have been permanently crippled in careers and livelihoods. Occupational markets during the 1970s and the 1980s were highly competitive, and many fields were stagnant; policies of race and sex preference meant that, when one person was quotaed in, another was ipso facto quotaed out.