Monday, June 26, 2006

Plan bans discrimination, not all affirmative action

Roger Clegg, President of the Center for Equal Opportunity penned a well-timed op-ed in today's edition describing the precise affects of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). Well-timed because opponents of the state constitutional amendment have started an aggressive media campaign. Aggressive not only because of the frequency of the ads but the ads are as easily misleading as the sponsors accuse the MCRI of being. Roger Clegg's piece does something MCRI opponents would rather he not have done, and that's remind us what Affirmative Action is supposed to be, and not what it's morphed into.
When the term was first used in the civil rights context -- in an executive order signed by President John Kennedy in 1961 -- it meant taking positive steps, proactive measures -- affirmative action, get it? -- to make sure that racial discrimination was not occurring. The idea was that the employers had to do more than just give lip service to nondiscrimination; they had to make sure that no one in their companies was discriminated against, and they had to communicate that policy, and enforce it, and root out the discrimination and discriminators that were already there.
After listing examples of Affirmative Action the MCRI would not ban, Clegg introduces what the MCRI would prohibit with:
The fact of the matter is, then, that there is only one kind of affirmative action that will be outlawed by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative: treating people differently -- some better and some worse -- because of their skin color, or what country their ancestors came from, or what kind of reproductive organs they have. This is the kind of affirmative action that Harvard professor Nathan Glazer called "affirmative discrimination."
Michigan's Board of Canvassers were misguided in requiring the initiative to change its language to specifically state it will eliminate affirmative action programs. Apparently the board's hearings weren't as thorough as they should have been, making up with rhetoric, vitriol, and political slight-of-hand what it lacked in reason, debate and inquisitiveness.

1 comment:

  1. Affirmative Action had it's time and place, and it has passed. Kind of like unions.