Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, is unfailingly polite, mild-mannered, and soft-spoken. Thus I was shocked when I received an email from him today that uncharacteristically SHOUTED his nearly incredulous response to comments in a “scandalous” interview of Attorney General Holder by Columbia University president (and former University of Michigan chief preference pusher) Lee Bollinger: “So,” Roger asked, “preferences FOREVER then? And racial preferences have not even STARTED yet?”
Eager to see what had set him off, I rushed to look at the offending interview, and this is what I found:
One of Bollinger’s questions concerned the United States Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to reconsider affirmative action. Bollinger was involved in defending affirmative action when the court declared it constitutional in a landmark 2003 case, and he said on Thursday that the court’s decision to revisit the issue is “ominous.”
Holder expressed support for affirmative action, saying that he “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.”
“Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices,” Holder said. “The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin … When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”
He added that as a Columbia student, he “saw diversity and interacted with people who had different views.”
“People come from so many different backgrounds and bring so many different perspectives that the study of contemporary civilization is enriched by those people,” he said.
Wow. First, let me say that Roger, despite his rather mild incredulous shout, was too polite. Holder’s comments are contemptible, and as such are nicely revealing of contemporary liberal and Democratic views on race preferences. Let’s take a close look at them.
- Holder “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.” This I can easily believe, since it’s evident Holder has little or no imagination and really does desire permanent racial preferences for those he recently referred to as “my people.”
- “Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices.” This is simply nonsense. Affirmative action emerged as a contentious issue only in the 1970s.
- “The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin … When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?” So, a black Ivy League college and law school graduate appointed Attorney General by another black Ivy League college (Columbia, like Holder) and law school graduate defines affirmative action as blacks getting “the benefits to which they are entitled,” but doesn’t believe that has even started yet? He obviously believes his grandchildren, if he has any, deserve preferential treatment because of their race. Perhaps in his next career Holder can be a stand-up comedian.
- … as a Columbia student, [Holder] “saw diversity and interacted with people who had different views.” I’ll have more to say about Holder’s use of his own experience in a moment, but here I’ll limit myself to acknowledging how fortunate his fellow Columbia students must have felt to have had the opportunity to be exposed to Holder and his own “different views.”
- “People come from so many different backgrounds and bring so many different perspectives that the study of contemporary civilization is enriched by those people.” Well, yes, people with different backgrounds do often bring different perspectives, but who are “those people”? Do only “diverse” people enrich study? Makes them sound like the spice added to an otherwise bland soup. Exotic. Hot. “Different.”
As a graduate of New York City’s highly selective Stuyvesant High School Holder would more than likely have been admitted to Columbia even in the absence of affirmative action, but neither he nor we can be sure of that. Some Stuyvesant grads, after all, are no doubt turned down by Columbia from time to time. In any event, because he believes “his people” deserve preferential treatment, he quite clearly would think it his due if he had been admitted to Columbia and Columbia Law School because of his race, thereby displacing another applicant — probably Asian but possibly white — who would have been accepted but for his or her race.
Thus I think it not only in order but relevant to reprise what I wrote here about another Columbia Law School graduate, Theodore Shaw, former general counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, who offered his own success as evidence of the goodness of racial preference. (And see here for a response by Shaw and my reply.)
Justification For Preferences? C’est Moi!
2 March 2003
Theodore Shaw, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, argues that because “Race Still Matters” it should be cemented into the Constitution so that it will matter forever. Along the way, he offers yet another C’est Moi! justification for racial prefereces: that without them, he would not have been accepted at Wesleyan or Columbia Law School. (I discussed another example of this justification here.) Indeed, he goes so far as to describe Bakke as a “devastating loss” for blacks, presumably because it barred both hard quotas and compensatory discrimination. (But Justice Powell’s “plus factors” to promote diversity “snatched victory fromt he jaws of defeat.”)
One can readily understand why Mr. Shaw regards his own success as compelling justification for the racial discrimination against someone else required to achieve it, but there may be some benefit in those of us without his interest examining the argument. Let us begin by assuming, with him, that he would not have been accepted at Wesleyan or Columbia without the racial preference he received, although in fact that may not be true. (In the absence of preferences, after all, some minorites are still admitted into even the most selective schools.) Still, there is no reason to assume that it was Wesleyan and Columbia or nowhere. Since Wesleyan found him “qualified,” he presumably would have been accepted elsewhere, and since it sounds as though he was poor he would have qualifed for financial aid. Indeed, he might have wound up exactly where he is, for even the NAACP LDF doesn’t require graduation from elite colleges and Ivy League law schools of its employees. Nor is there any reason to assume that the white’s, Asian’s, or other non-preferred minority’s place Mr.Shaw took would have led a life of sloth and indulgence, contributing nothing comparable to Mr. Shaw’s contribution to the national well-being. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Shaw when I say that, placing his success and contributions on one side of the scale and the principle of non-discrimination on the other, there seems to be no compelling national interest in sacrificing the latter for the former….
I believe Eric Holder would have succeeded without any preferences he may have received because of his race, but if affirmative action really is responsible for his being Attorney General that is all the more reason to scrap it and send it to the dustbin of history.