Neither opponents nor supporters should get too excited about the 8-7 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that tossed out Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions and public hiring. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Already pending before the High Court is a separate affirmative action case filed by a white high school student againt the University of Texas. There’s a good chance the two cases could be joined and affirmative action as we know it finally comes to an end.
The case just ruled on originated in 2006 after Michigan voters approved Proposal 2 — the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative – by 58-42 percent. Last year, a 6th Circuit three-judge panel subsequently found the measure unconstitutional and unfair to minorities. AG Schuette asked for a rehearing before the full 15-member panel which weighed in and reinforced the earlier finding.
By way of reference, the great affirmative action debate has its roots with President John Kennedy’s 1961 Executive Order No. 10925. The Kennedy edict, narrow in scope, required government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”
Over the years, programs supported by legislation, consent decrees and court-ordered remedies were spawned. A nondiscriminatory policy took on a far different meaning; that of preferential treatment.
Partnering with affirmative action mandates was a race-specific color consciousness. Blacks were not only specifically invited to apply for positions that generally had been reserved for whites, but were given special considerations and advantages, including points for having black skin.
Colleges and universities saw a “compelling interest” in diversifying life in the public square by including a variety of viewpoints. Hardliners see affirmative action as necessary to rectify the deleterious effects of past social and cultural isolation experienced by blacks.
The historical foundation notwithstading, the courts have only been willing to ease, not completely erase the tension between equality of opportunity and personal liberty.
Consider this: The text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no one can “discriminate” against any individual or account of race or gender. Titles VI and VII of the Act instructs school officials and lawyers they are not required to give “preferential treatment” in order to achieve a racial or gender balance. The orginal supporters of the Act insisted that Title VII actually prohibited preferential treatment.
Fast forward to the language of Proposal 2 — the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. It restates and reaffirms the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which received critical acclaim from civil right leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So it’s illogical that the neo-civil rights establishment continues to wage a nonsensical war against “equal treatment under the law.” Their obsession with “racial preferences” obscenely corrupts how blacks identify with the mission of the civil rights movement, which was to remove legal barriers to opportunity.
Governmental agencies and university administrators should not be condemned for seeking to incorporate a diverse employee and student population. The answer, though, lies not in separate programs that emphasize division or privilege.
The real world doesn’t aligned into neat statistical, or racial categories. Today, social forces and cultural differences – not race — most often result in disproportional representation of ethnic and gender groups.
Dr. King succinctly set the tone for the civil rights ideal: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he eloquently said.
Those words should motivate the Supreme Court to move America forward, and our public institutions beyond racism in ways that do not take race into account.