Monday, October 15, 2012

0 Ta-Nehisi Coates on Why the SCOTUS Can't Kill Affirmative Action

In his piece for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates echoes the argument that various scholars have been making since Abigail Fisher brought her case against Affirmative Action to the Supreme Court.

Coates points out that since there is no metric to measure the value of an individual's experience with prejudice, discrimination, etc., (for malevolent or beneficent ends), it will be incredibly difficult to disentangle racial experience and/or identity from other "soft factors" in a candidate's portfolio.  That is to say, that if the university is allowed to examine a student's character, their life experience, and their "leadership" as  a means to find strong candidates for a freshman class, how can law force them to ignore race?

He highlights the fact that an employer who promotes men over women will make an appeal to the male's immeasurable qualifications (leadership, attitude, character, know-how, etc.) over the measurable  components of the female's application (education level, starting salary, training, etc.) in order to justify his decision.  That is very, very, difficult to prove as being discrimination in all instances because, after all, we do believe in intangibles (Seriously, Tim Tebow's numbers are shit but he is still in the conversation for a starting job in the NFL.)

By the same token, how does one identify race as the single factor that pushes a candidate into the accepted pool when looking at college admissions?  The university could readily identify any of a multitude of "soft factors" that make the candidate a good fit for the school.  University's, like corporations and society as a whole, have placed value in the idea of diversity and are reluctant to simply throw their hands up and move along with the great society made exclusively of educated whites.

The point here is not that there will be zero damage, but that Affirmative Action, at this point in American history, is not so much a single policy, but a broad American value. This is, again, one of the great triumphs of the black freedom struggle. From the perspective of the struggle, Hermain Cain is a problem--but he is a decidedly better problem than the previous ones. He is also the problem we fought for, and thus evidence of progress.
Affirmative Action enjoys defenders in the corporate world and the military because of the relative success of the long war. The war continues, regardless of the court.

Read the full piece here


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