Our society, like most societies, has a legacy of poor treatment of minorities and others who lack power. Many whites have behaved badly and stupidly in the past; some still do. Thus we should support voluntary efforts on the part of employers to seek out qualified minorities and women who for various reasons might not apply for a desirable position, despite being able to do the job. The same goes for privately funded minority scholarships for qualified black students who might not otherwise be motivated to go to college. The desirability of improving the situations of nonwhite Americans is not in question.
Rather, the debate concerns what assumptions--and what kind of public policy based on them--will take us from today's rapidly deteriorating situation to a situation in which the civil rights of all citizens are genuinely protected, and in which everyone who makes a sincere, sustained effort to provide a needed service has a real chance to succeed. This is what the American Dream is about.
The path we have taken for the past twenty years is one we must abandon. It is the path of trying to rectify past injustice with present, different injustice, and of assigning immense power to government in the name of civil rights. Preferential policies are simply not an appropriate response to discrimination. They benefit not those most in need of help, but rather the most skillful and well-situated opportunists.