SUPPOSE A NEW OWNER takes control of the company you work for and begins to institute a disturbing new trend in hiring. His nephew gets a plum job in accounting; his mistress is given a position in the advertising department; his golf buddy is put in charge of the engineering team, and so on. In short, he is larding the company's payroll with his relatives and cronies. Yet at the same time, the new owner loudly declares that his goal is to put an end to "favoritism."
Of course, he would never get away with it. Everyone would realize that he is a hypocrite and that his anti-merit hiring threatens to destroy the company.
So why is the NAACP getting away with doing the same thing to the television industry?
Launching an alleged effort to correct "systemic racism," CBS and Fox have now joined NBC and ABC in caving in to the threat of an NAACP boycott. All have agreed to hire many more black employees, not merely as actors on-screen, but also as writers and producers. And in an explicit embrace of racial quotas, NBC vowed to hire at least one black writer for every second-year series.
These agreements have nothing to do with fighting racism—instead, their purpose is to promote it. Racism is the elevation of membership in a racial group over individual merit. The injustice of racism, and the reason it must be opposed, is that it demands that individuals of ability be ignored or attacked for no other reason than their skin color.
But this is precisely the system demanded by the NAACP. Blacks are specifically targeted for hiring—before any individual actor or writer has even been interviewed for the job, before anyone has assessed the quality of his work, and before anyone has determined whether any particular black person is the best candidate for the position. The message is crystal clear: All these considerations—that is, considerations having to do with individual merit—are irrelevant. The only thing that is supposed to matter is that these writers and producers have dark skin—and will therefore be hired, not because they can do the work, but because they "represent" their racial group.
An organization that was actually concerned with fighting racism would take the opposite approach. Rather than advocate the indiscriminate hiring of token blacks, such an organization would highlight cases of individuals with demonstrable talent who are being unjustly ignored by some business. It would legitimately generate public criticism of such practices by showing that individuals are being excluded because of their race.
But in this case, no such injustice has been proven and no such individuals have been identified. In fact, it is precisely these talented individuals who will be the first victims of the NAACP's scheme. Every black writer, director, or actor who goes to work for the networks will now be automatically branded as a quota-filler. He will have to work twice as hard as everyone else—not because he has to overcome racial bias, but because he now has to prove that he objectively deserves his job.
Similar quota systems have been demanded in other industries. But this assault on the networks is even worse, because, by attempting to control what we see on our TV screens, the NAACP is seeking to make intellectual content a matter of race.
Expressing the most extreme form of the doctrine that the race takes precedence over the individual, the NAACP believes that there is inherently a "black" perspective on ideas, which ought to be promulgated. Its complaint against the networks is that "black images" and "black voices" are being "excluded" from television. This campaign is about more than just providing a racial patronage system; it is an attempt to gain an unearned stranglehold over the media—and then, presumably, to foist upon the public whatever the NAACP regards as "black ideas."
The only thing that prevents this scheme from being exposed is the NAACP's reputation as an opponent of racism, which it earned by fighting actual racial segregation some thirty-odd years ago. That's why the networks caved in—who wants to face the stigma of being branded a bigot?
But the NAACP has betrayed its legacy—and it is high time that the organization's good reputation should be revoked. Rather than submitting to the NAACP's racial intimidation, the network, and the public, should—with full moral rectitude—reject the organization's demands for racial favoritism.
© 2000 Ayn Rand Institute