Letter to the Editor: The U.S. is affirmatively misguided

Dear Editor,

President Biden has done a great disservice to a nation that prides itself on a commitment to equal opportunity by announcing and reaffirming his intention to nominate a black female to the nation’s highest court.
Whites, black males, Hispanics, Asians and other very highly qualified candidates will be totally excluded from consideration. Biden’s stated intent is hardly representative of equal opportunity and fairness—some may say it is discriminatory.
Some politicians and pundits rationalize or excuse by emphasizing that Biden’s action is consistent with precedent in as much as presidents Reagan and Trump had promised to appoint women to the Supreme Court. However, the circumstances of those announcements are dissimilar from those created by Biden. The Reagan and Trump pronouncements dealt solely with gender, referencing a group (women), which comprised 50% of the U.S. population which, unlike today’s national race divide, did not involve women of a distinct racial group representing approximately only 8% of the nation’s population. Biden’s action has more likely widened the national racial divide and frustrated the quest for equal opportunity in America. It is a particularly awkward and unhelpful attempt at addressing racial discrimination. It represents a huge judgment error and leadership failure.
In any event, it represents another unfortunate misstep by America’s chief executive, witnessed nationally and internationally.
There is no denying that equal opportunity is not fully available to all American citizens and residents, but the inequities transverse more than race, and also have adverse impact on rural residents and those from varying socioeconomic and social groups. Yes, all races, even whites, are impacted. Biden likely views his proclamation as evidencing a commitment to “affirmative action” to achieve equal opportunity. But he is wrong; he has actually harmed the cause of equal opportunity. A more pragmatic, strategic president committed to greater minority participation would have simply announced his/her purported commitment to criteria such as diversity, qualifications and merit principles, and then selected his pre-selected candidate to meet his quotas, more palatably labeled as “goals.” Dishonest and disingenuous? Perhaps, but it happens.
The nation’s current approach to achieving racial equality is ineffective, largely because it is highly offensive to even decent Americans who loathe discrimination. They do not see discrimination as a remedy to discrimination. The current approach to what is labeled “affirmative action” is unfair to many, including minority university and job applicants and candidates forever painted with a brush that paints them as underqualified winners in a fixed, unfair, race-based system which inherently excludes more highly candidates from other races. Many Americans fail to embrace affirmative action, and even actively oppose it, because they view the term as a whitewash—a eponymous, fraudulent label for discriminatory practices some politicians and others expect them to accept without resistance, without regard to how it adversely affects them and their own children in keen competition for limited, increasingly competitive educational and career opportunities.
Sure, we all know of situations where wealthy elites and the well-connected of all races buy or otherwise maneuver themselves or their friends or relatives into positions for which they are not best-qualified. While objectionable, it is rarely race based but contributes to racial and social inequality. Traditional affirmative action is not an effective remedy.
Affirmative action advocates promote affirmative action, with its quotas often disguised as “goals”, as a way to help economically disadvantaged minorities. But many Americans witness large numbers of minorities, from even upper middle class or wealthy families, being admitted and funded by prestigious schools, or hired or promoted into desirable jobs and other opportunities, based largely or solely on skin color or race. While some qualification standards—sometimes adjusted, usually lowered to suit the intended outcome—are applied, there too often is little to no regard for which candidate is best qualified, or to how the process can be made more objective and transparent. The resentment builds, racial divisiveness and hostility ensue, and unhelpful conflict results. No significant progress toward equality is made.
There must be a more fair and equitable national approach to facilitating equal opportunity for everyone. While there has been some progress over the years, it is not commensurate with the resources and efforts expended. Time has shown that billions of tax dollars and huge amounts of charitable giving directed to perhaps well-intentioned but misdirected efforts are not working. I don’t have the answers or solutions, but like millions of other Americans I can see that current approaches are not working and that racial tensions are rising. Surely a nation full of exceptional scholars and social scientists should be able to come up with a better approach, one that even an inept and overly partisan Congress and White House can implement.

Mike Fetzer

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