The victory that affirmative action’s proponents scored in the University of Michigan Law School decision is a loss for our nation and it may well prove to be the death knell for amicable race relations in the future.
Most Americans view the U.S. Supreme Court as being the place of last resort for fairness and equity. Poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans of all races oppose the use of racial preferences in public policies. By upholding the use of race in law school admissions, the Court has taken the easy way out and it has succumbed to outside pressures bent on maintaining the status quo.
Although our nation has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, what we have cemented in place today is a set of policies, programs, and attitudes about race that were adopted in the 1960s and 1970s when our nation was less diverse and our economy much stronger in terms of job growth and potential for achieving a high standard of living. Our federal, state, and local leaders, including conservatives like Bush and Ashcroft, have repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion and adjust public policies to reflect where we as a nation stand today.
It could not be clearer that affirmative action implemented as racial preference works against the interests of the middle class, the working class, and the poorest of the poor. In fact, the racial preference policies defended so eloquently by college and university presidents, CEO’s of corporations, and trade associations that filed briefs in support of the University of Michigan’s program serve their institutions more than they serve the needs of the groups they defend. Many minorities continue to experience discrimination at some of the same institutions that have taken on leadership roles defending the status quo.
For these elites looking to avoid controversy, racial preferences are a low cost means for them to avoid identifying and adopting new and fairer practices that could change America for the better by reducing sources of racial friction and by changing the incentive structure for all Americans.
By the year 2050, some reports indicate that non-Hispanic whites could become a minority in a nation founded by European Americans. Although much speculation focuses on the year 2050, minority status for European Americans could occur much sooner. It could occur earlier because of the well-known minority undercount of the Census and because of the practice of some racial and ethnic minorities--for example-- Puerto Ricans to identify themselves as white Americans even when their physical characteristics would suggest African American. Not only are racial and ethnic minorities seriously undercounted, but also the percentage of whites in the country is over inflated.
As the country grows more and more diverse, the elites in America continue to support the status quo and affirmative action as racial preference shows little signs of abating. Somewhere we have taken a wrong turn on race. Something is seriously wrong. By vigorously defending racial preferences in the name of diversity and refusing to challenge racial double standards, our national and state leaders have fostered hostilities among and between different racial and ethnic groups. I am staunchly convinced that feelings of anger and resentment among the shrinking white population will only increase as our nation becomes more and more diverse. It is only human nature for people to worry about the future of their children and grandchildren.
Let’s wake up and smell the coffee! America’s leadership institutions and its leaders are deeply flawed. Few exercise common sense when it comes to race. What America needs is a set of leaders willing to take us in new and innovative directions. America needs to become one country united by the ethical, moral, and Biblical principles that have helped make us great. What can save America are common principles and common values that include the betterment of all of society, including the poor white male from Appalachian who shares some dreams with those who benefit from racial and ethnic preference.
How long can a nation as diverse as America sustain racial and ethnic preferences without fueling increased racial and ethnic conflict? How long can the American people be satisfied with public policies that give advantages to the offspring of new immigrants over the needs of Americans with deep roots in this nation? Where do we go from here? Neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered real leadership on these issues. The Supreme Court has failed America. By not exercising courage, our elected and appointed officials have placed us on a dangerous collision course made even worse by the growth of identity politics.
Carol M. Swain is professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University. Professor Swain’s media appearances include ABC News, Fox News Live, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, PBS's Lehrer News Hour, PBS's Ben Wattenburg’s Think Tank, NPR’s Here & Now, NPR’s The Connection, NPR’s Morning Edition, WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, Daybreak USA Today, WCPO TV, Hot Seat, KFI-AM, Bill Handel Show, and KDKA 1020 am, Chris Moore Show.
Her recent books are The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2003). The latter book is co-authored with Russell Nieli. For more information visit her website at www.carolmswain.com PH: 615-322-1001 F: 615-322-6631 C: 615-400-8493, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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