Many countries, including the United States, are currently struggling with two apparently conflicting objectives, that is how to make newcomers and native minorities feel they have equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream, while at the same time convincing the native majority that policies crafted to help others are not discriminating against their own rights and opportunities. The two main policy thrusts used by governments, schools and other institutions designed to promote racial diversity and integration are race conscious and color blind.
Race conscious and color blind are not mutually exclusive, but two ends of a continuum. At the one end an example of a race conscious policy would be if race was the sole distinguishing factor deciding whether one candidate is selected over another and there is a quota for members of a specified race. For example assume two candidates of different races for military promotion both meet the required minimum standard. An extreme race conscious policy would dictate that the person from the race considered disadvantaged would be promoted even if less meritorious.
On the other hand under a completely color blind policy, race would play absolutely no part, and the best candidate would be promoted . In between is a situation where race is only one factor to be considered and the candidate of the disadvantaged race would be promoted only if the sum total of his merits was considered at least equal to that of the other candidate. Race was the deciding factor to break the tie so to speak Also in the middle scenario there is no set quota for those considered disadvantaged, only a vague goal that they would be in sufficient numbers that they wouldn’t feel isolated.
For the disadvantaged color blind policies tend to promote the status quo in that because their color is often associated with other negative factors such as poverty, limited educational opportunities and cultural limitations, they find it difficult to compete and get ahead. Racial inequalities are thus perpetuated and racial identities more starkly contrasted. In other words the discontented tend to feel its’ “them versus us”. On the other hand, race conscious policies can make the dominant group feel that in efforts to improve opportunities for the disadvantaged, their rights are infringed.
In effect they can feel they are victims of reverse discrimination. They believe their rights are threatened, and are now suffering racial inequalities because of efforts to help the previously disadvantaged. They also fear losing their status as the dominant race. The Asian American Legal Foundation brief advocated color blind policies on the grounds that race conscious policies favoring only designated races were prejudicial to the interests of groups they represent such as the Chinese in San Francisco.
While accepting the goal of racial diversity, they argued as the dominant race in this area, the school placements there should reflect this reality. That is, they should not be capped at 40% in order to accommodate specifically designated and therefore preferred disadvantaged races nationwide. They argued that this was discriminating against them as the dominant race in the area, and that there was no compelling reason to assist minorities, at least not to the extent where their placements exceeded their proportion of the local population.
They also argued that having separate Chinese schools was not the answer, as this was counter to the goal of racial diversity, and tended to encourage inferior facilities. Conversely, the military brief advocated race conscious policies in order to develop a racially divers officer corps. They argued that while blacks were recruited into the military in large numbers immediately after World War II, they tended to stagnate in the lower ranks because of poor education, prejudice and other reasons.
Thus in the 1960s and 1970s, a mainly white officer corps was in charge of a substantially black lower ranks, resulting in low morale and racial tension. In fact this situation was considered to have a detrimental affect on the ability to fight in Vietnam. While there is now a larger percentage of black officers, the brief argues that race conscious policies need to be continued to have the percentage of black officers comparable to that of enlisted men to have a cohesive, effective fighting force.
Therefore the brief argues that there is a compelling government necessity justifying the need for a race conscious policy. If the Supreme Court decides the Grutter case on the basis of the military brief, that is, that race conscious policies are justified, she would of course continue to be denied a place at the University of Michigan, and most likely this would also apply to the other perspective white students. Naturally this would fuel the notion that they were subject to unequal access and therefore suffering from racial reverse discrimination.
On the other hand if the case is decided on the basis of the American Legal Foundation brief, she and many other whites would probably be accepted at the university. However, designated disadvantaged races would likely feel that their quest for equality and racial status was still not being adequately addressed. Although Gruther felt she was being discriminated against, the Court’s decision upholding Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy for admissions, shows that it agrees with the school’s stated intention to redress historical and current discrimination, which I believe in fact was the school’s honest purpose.
By considering race as only one of the factors in deciding whether to enroll prospective students, I believe this is an appropriate middle ground between a pure race conscious and color blind policy. I also believe that this policy will help realize social equality, and once people from different races achieve success roughly proportional to their numbers, the policy will no longer be necessary, hopefully within 25 years. Works Cited Nos. 02-241 and 02-516 In The Supreme Court of The United States. Grutter, Barbara (Petitioner) v. Lee Bollinger et al (Respondents)
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