Mcwhorter is a professor at Columbia University. He writes at the New York Times:
It’s Time to End Race-Based Affirmative Action
Back in 2009, I and the sociologist Dalton Conley debated affirmative action with N.A.A.C.P. chairman Julian Bond and Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. In my closing statement I suggested a scenario in which I had a daughter who got into nearly every college she applied to while her similarly credentialed white friends got into schools only here or there. If that happened, I said, the reason, “given the fact that she will not have grown up under anything you could call disadvantage,” would be that:
There are administrators beaming at the fact that by admitting my daughter they are sticking a thumb in the eye at white people who don’t feel guilty enough about their supremacy. If the idea is that the administrators are beaming because my daughter is going to make the campus more diverse; if they are beaming because by admitting my daughter, they are showing that racism is not dead … I will feel that my daughter is being condescended to. I will feel it as a mark of disrespect to me and my ability to get past the ills of the past and to pass on those abilities to my daughter.
The debate was civil in a way that debates, sadly, frequently no longer are, and it was part of a long line of such debates over affirmative action that has since continued, and soon promises to return the issue to the fore.
Affirmative action — broadly speaking, policies that seek, affirmatively, to achieve racial and gender balance in areas such as hiring, contracting and university admissions — has been controversial since it was instituted in the 1960s. It’s frequently thought to have originated, in a formal sense, with President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 and has proliferated throughout American institutions over time. It was controversial at the time of that 2009 debate and it still is, such that in its upcoming term, the Supreme Court will be considering challenges to affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
I now have that daughter. (I don’t remember what made me so sure I would have a girl, since she wasn’t born until a few years later, but here we are, and she’ll be applying to college in eight years, I assume, with my younger daughter doing so three years later.) And not only do I stand by what I said more than a decade ago, I feel it more deeply now.
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