Friday, January 17, 2003

I have a quick thought on affirmative action. I'm not a big follower of this topic, so bear with me in my amateurish attempts to solve this long-standing problem. I agree, in principle, with the stated Republican argument against affirmative action. To wit: if it is true that we want people to be judged only on their merit and not on the color of their skin (or other non-merit based characteristics), then isn't it contradictory for the government to impose a system that forces institutions, such as the colleges in Michigan, to take skin color into account in their admission policies? Ideally, we don't want a world in which anyone, government or private institution, uses factors like race, creed, religion, etc. against individuals (well, unless your one of the sheethead crowd that is). But this, as most Republicans will admit, is not an ideal world. A fundamental disagreement at the core of liberal vs. conservative views of government is what role government has to play in correcting for injustices in our society. Everyone falls on a wide spectrum of opinion on this matter. But all but the most cold-hearted would admit that racism and the evils it has bred were and are a particularly egregious injustice. If we believe that government has a role in correcting injustice then it is logical that it has a role in correcting this particular injustice. Given the assumption that government should be involved in solving this problem, the question comes down to this: can you correct for the injustices caused by a philosophy that has race-based assessment at its heart without yourself resorting to any form of race-based assessment? How do you even measure the success of any program of this nature without making some kind of race-based assessments? And, if an institution does not meet up to the standards defined in that measurement, how do you correct them without requiring them to make race-based assessments?

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