Six Myths About Class-Based Preferences
OPPONENTS OF class-based preferences raise a number of objections to the program. Some of the criticisms are legitimate and thoughtful, but all are answerable. Some can be answered by referring to competing principles or values. Others can be addressed by structuring the class preference program in a certain way. In this chapter, we address six myths about class-based affirmative action: that shifting from race to class preferences will (1) eliminate a powerful antidiscriminatory tool; (2) lead to all-white universities; (3) spark Marxist class warfare; (4) undercut capitalist and pro-family incentives; (5) unfairly treat people as members of groups; and (6) fail because they address symptoms rather than root causes.
An increasing number of people argue that affirmative action is necessary, not to address the legacy of past discrimination, but as a prophylactic against more subtle forms of ongoing and future discrimination. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, for example, argues that affirmative action "continues to be needed not to redress grievances of the past, but the current discrimination that continues to exist."1 Northwestern's Christopher Jencks concurs that "the most plausible argument for reverse discrimination today is . . . that we need formal discrimination in favor of blacks to offset the effects of persistent informal discrimination against them."2PresidentClinton himself defended affirmative