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Affirmative Action Reconsidered


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American Spectator:

When President John F. Kennedy included a call for "affirmative action" as part of an executive order he issued in 1961, the phrase was widely viewed as a proactive extension of the civil rights movement. The idea was to adopt corrective measures that would reverse discriminatory practices and for employers to open up new opportunities to minorities who had been denied equal treatment. However, for Americans living in the 21st century, the concept of affirmative action in employment, college admissions, and government contracting has conflicting connotations.

For some, the term is synonymous with the use of racial quotas, set-asides, and other preferential policies at odds with constitutional rights. For others, affirmative action continues to register as a benign, anti-discriminatory policy measure aimed at compensating minority groups for past injustices and safeguarding hard fought gains.

But the existing legal regime that sorts out individual Americans on the basis of race is no longer tenable in a society that has become more multi-ethnic at the turn of the century, Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), told listeners during a recent Federalist Society luncheon in New Orleans. In fact, in some parts of the country, it is no longer clear which group is actually in the minority, Clegg noted in his talk. Moreover, many individual Americans check off more than one box when asked about their ethnicity in census samples, he points out.

But there is another option gaining momentum at the state level that appeals to long-standing constitutional ideals. In defiance of academic elites, far-left pressure groups and establishment figures in both major political parties, average Americans are voting down race and gender preferences as a matter of government policy; and they are doing so by sizable majorities. The demographic shift that has become evident in recent years is at least partly responsible for the public's heightened opposition toward preferential policies, Clegg suggested.snip
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