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Eliminating the Negatives of Affirmative Action April 23, 2009


I have never been quiet about voicing my deep dissatisfaction with anti discrimination efforts such as affirmative action. I am proud to say that I have never accepted a scholarship or accolade that was based upon my being a woman of color. Affirmative action is a racist practice that in a curious historical twist has become a badge of tolerance and diversity.

After the tragic race baiting campaigns of the 2008 presidential election, the news that the United States Supreme Court is hearing a case, Ricci v. DeStefano on reverse discrimination should not come as a shock. Throughout history affirmative action’s appeal lies in its claim to be anti-racist. Please do not misunderstand, it is an admirable concept. I only believe that it ironically achieves it’s racist goal under the cover of diversity.

I am not totally against affirmative action and I will grudgingly admit that many of the arguments for affirmative action are plausible and in some cases sound such as those that demand upon the elimination of segregation. However as a long time skeptic of affirmative action, this blogger raises a glass to the case that is before the Supreme Court; a case that is said to have again waved red flags concerning the constitutionality of affirmative action practices.

From the Wall Street Journal:

APRIL 23, 2009
High Court Weighs Bias in Firefighters’ Test.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared divided as it heard arguments over whether a Connecticut city engaged in racial discrimination or was fighting it when officials rejected a fire-department employment test because no blacks passed
Only whites and one Hispanic qualified for promotion to lieutenant and captain in the New Haven Fire Department. After the civil service board refused to certify the promotions and directed that all applicants take a different test, firefighters who had passed sued, alleging racial discrimination.
The city defended its action, arguing in part that certifying a test failed by nearly all minorities could expose it to a discrimination lawsuit by black and Hispanic applicants.
Gregory Coleman, the lawyer representing the white firefighters, said the city’s decision diminished his clients'”individual dignity” and promoted “regrettable and socially destructive racial politics.”

Justice David Souter said New Haven faced “a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.”

Lower courts sided with the city. The case offered the Supreme Court the opportunity to expand its review of antidiscrimination efforts, an issue that Chief Justice John Roberts addressed in a 2007 opinion striking down school-desegregation plans that local school boards adopted voluntarily. The 5-4 decision said systems that base student assignments partially on race are unconstitutional.

I think we should pay particular attention to the city’s decision to reject the results of the original employment test noting from the article: “when officials rejected a fire-department employment test because no blacks passed.”

This case while interesting in and of itself takes on an added significance when considered that it is a warm up for subsequent “reverse racial discrimination cases. Despite the election of our first African American president and the media imposed climate of CHANGE created by the illusion that racism is now somehow dead because we have a black dude in the White House.

The framework of affirmative action remains racist. In my opinion the practice is opaque and ridden with inconsistencies. It does not deliver an outcome that would be acceptable by Martin Luther King.

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.

The court will not deliver a decision until July. Meanwhile those managers that make hiring and admissions decisions who are unsure of the legality of affirmative action programs in their organizations should definitely revisit such practices and look to the court’s decision for guidance.

I would like to concluded this post by adding a personal anecdote.

My criticism of affirmative action rises from someone who has experience the negative consequences much more so than the positive. There is nothing flattering about the assumption of your colleagues believing that you received advances in your profession solely because of your skin color. I am living proof that here is little doubt that affirmative action reinforces the belief that minorities are not capable or qualified. When I stand and condemn affirmative action as an African American, many of my racial peers are shocked. However, the basis for my rejection of the practice rests upon my faith in us as not only African Americans but rather Americans who are intelligent and capable human beings.


Autographed Letter Signed,



43 Responses to “Eliminating the Negatives of Affirmative Action”

  1. boldandbald Says:

    Thank you for this post. I live in CT so I have been aware of this issue for some time. No one has yet to explain to my satisfaction exactly how a test for firefighters could be racist. Either you are a good firefighter or you aren’t. How does race even enter the picture? Are they now suppose to lower the standards so that minorities or other special interests can ‘pass’ the test?

    Why is the immediate assumption here that these applicant’s failure to pass had anything to do with their race? Maybe these particular applicants simply were not strong enough, fast enough or, dare I say it, smart enough. And did all of the white applicants pass? Why is it assumed that their failure was their own and not as a result of their having the wrong color eyes or too big a waistline? After all we can’t discriminate against fat people (oops, sorry, I mean weight challenged people) either, can we?

    I don’t know about you, but if I am trapped in a burning building I am not going to give a rat’s *ss about what color the fireman, or woman for that matter, is, as long as they can get me out alive.

    • afrocity Says:

      BNB the city of New Haven is claiming that some elements of the test were racially biased in favor of whites. It is fair to note that one of the firemen suing is Hispanic. If they did not pass the test, then they are nor qualified for promotion. To change the test so they can pass is discrimination. Why would the black firemen want to work under such accusation and scrutiny is beyond my comprehension.

  2. yttik Says:

    I sure enjoy your voice and reading your articles. Thank you.

    What bothers me about the New Haven fire dept is that nobody is talking about the woman who sued not long ago and eventually won 1.5 million dollar lawsuit. She was a black woman who had risen in the ranks on her own merit and instead of celebrating the fact that a woman of color had reached such a position, she was harassed, threatened, and terrorized right out of her job. By men, not just white men, men of all races who always find a way to unite if a woman is viewed as usurping their power.

    • afrocity Says:

      Hmm, I did not hear about this an you are correct the case should also be used as a point of historical context.

  3. hsoi Says:

    Good post. I especially like the image with the caption “only racists consider race.” Indeed. It’s not always cut and dry like that (e.g., it’d be tough casting an asian female in the lead role of a biopic on Martin Luther King, Jr.), but the point it makes is solid.

    I think if we want people to stop caring about race then we have to stop caring about race. Period. And if *you* want people to stop caring about race, then *you* need to be the first one to stop caring about race. Things like “affirmative action” force us to consider race and make determinations based upon race. It does amaze me how that irony is missed.

    We’ll see what SCOTUS says….

    • afrocity Says:

      TOTUS and his administration are siding with the city I believe. Someone can correct me if I am wrong.

  4. manbearpig68 Says:

    It’s just like the I.Q. test episode of Good Times. Michael is the smartest kid in school but the IQ test supposedly asks environmental questions that a black kid in the ghetto wouldn’t know. So Michael’s score’s are very low..

    Is it fair to give him a different test?

    • afrocity Says:

      Good point Manbear,

      Supposedly the primitive IQ tests were racially biased and asked minorities questions containing situations that would not occur in their everyday life. What is an “environmental question”?
      Name the top five Day schools in Mercer County, NJ?

      • Sandra S. Says:

        If you’re actually interested in the (not inconsiderable) racial biases of early IQ testing (which was actually tied into the eugenics movement), you should read “Even the Rat was White”.

        There are still some pretty considerable racial differences in IQ test performance. I’m not sure if those differences disappear when SES is controlled for. Perhaps its a cultural difference rather than a strictly racial difference? I don’t know.

      • afrocity Says:

        Right, Sandra

        I was thinking it was more cultural. Thank you for pointing that out. I am not sure what the fireman’s test consisted of.

  5. manbearpig68 Says:

    Could be. A kid growing up in a project in Trenton may not ever know what a day school is and it’s in the same county..

  6. the commenter Says:

    I’ve got mixed feelings about affirmative action. On the one hand the law itself is very simple: governments and entities doing business with the federal government or receiving federal funds must take affirmative action to recruit qualified applicants from protected categories (women & certain minorities). However it seems to be a good idea whose time has passed, and we know the devil is in the details in terms of implementation.

    The case you cite is an example of the unintended consequences that often occur under liberal ideological thought regimes. The city was in a no win situation because of fear that it would be charged with discrimination based on race because it pointedly wasn’t discriminating based on race!

    These liberal ideological thought regimes are devastating for minority communities because it encourages a ‘victim entitlement’ mentality. No one is encouraged to take responsibility for his own actions, and yet they are encouraged to feel entitled to others resources based on some illusory discrimination that many have never themselves been the victim of! It is a horrible cycle that keeps Blacks from climbing the ladder of American success or even when they do so, creates anxiety and guilt because they “made it” when others did not.

    • Sandra S. Says:

      I can’t speak to the “victim entitlement” mentality in terms of POC, but it sure as hell happens in women (especially victims of trauma) and in the queer community. Perhaps not in the majority of cases, but in a considerable portion.

  7. afrocity Says:

    Commenter you said” However it seems to be a good idea whose time has passed, and we know the devil is in the details in terms of implementation. ”

    Yes I believe the original objectives of affirmative action should be revisited with a goal towards realignment.

    Obama is being very vague on this issue.

  8. WMCB Says:

    I think that immediately after the civil rights movement, a good bit of affirmative action was necessary, because there was such a brick wall erected against blacks getting in, advancing, etc that it was the only solution at the time (though still an awkward one.) It had to be done, or it may have been many many decades before anything even close to equality was reached in practice.

    I think its time has past, and that now it causes as many problems as it solves (including what you mentioned, afrocity – actually being bad for the self-esteem and pride of blacks, because of doubts about “how they got there”.)

    That’s not to say that I don’t think some racism still exists in the workplace. Of course it does. One would be stupid not to see that. But the time has come for better solutions, and I think affirmative action may actually be fueling that remaining racism because of resentment on the part of non-blacks and self-doubt on the part of blacks.

    The govt still needs to make sure anti-discrimination LAWS are being followed. There still needs to be oversight and followup to make sure that any hiring discrepancies are not racist at their root – and punishment if they are. We still need to look at tests, etc, and make sure they are not simply blindly white-centric. But this business of practically assuming guilt on the part of employers, of assuming that any and every inequitable outcome is automatically inequitable opportunity needs to go. Because I don’t think that is sweepingly true in the USA anymore. It likely was at one time, but not now.

    A dependent people are never going to be truly free and genuinely respected, no matter how many laws you pass demanding that they by-God shall be. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I’m not talking about what I desire to be true here, I’m talking about the cold realities of human nature.

  9. boldandbald Says:

    I still don’t see how a test can be racist. Biased perhaps, but not racist, unless it specifically asks for ethnicity, which, ironically, is what affirmative action actually requires in many cases. A test may be biased towards people that were raised in a more affluent neighborhood, or by more educated family etc., but that doesn’t make it racist. The white kid that lives in that same poor, inner city neighborhood is just as likely to do poorly on a test that is so slanted. It has nothing to do with race, but, rather, with circumstances of upbringing and education.

    • WMCB Says:

      I agree, BNB. Some of the bias is class-excluding, not race-excluding. It simply affects blacks in greater percentages, because they are more likely to be poor, with crappier schools.

      Which brings me back to educational choice, and the needed ability of parents to send their kids to schools outside that poverty cycle, via vouchers or whatever.

  10. WMCB Says:

    This may sound weird, and someone please jump down my throat and enlighten me if you think I’m dead wrong – I’m just a middle-aged white woman who makes no claim to perfectly understanding all this, or to having any true empathy with “the black condition” because I by definition can’t. And I get really sick of white liberals who think they do, and can.

    But I was musing on this, and wondering about things like basketball, music, the rap culture, etc that seem to be so prevalent as a dreamed-of path to success for many AA’s. And I wonder if the reason those things are appealing is because there is no affirmative action involved in those career choices. I wonder if subconsciously some of the appeal is that if one succeeds in those areas, no one can ever diminish your achievement. No one, not the public or even yourself, will ever wonder if you made it on merits, no one can say you didn’t achieve that your own damn self.

    I know, sounds crazy, but think about it. Have young black men gravitated emotionally to things where they KNOW they can “prove themselves” with no help from anyone? Is it a form of seeking the real gut-level respect that comes from achievement all by one’s self? Have some favored that over more academic careers not because they CAN’T do the latter (of course they can!), but because their pride in the latter would always have some creeping irrational doubt attached, even if they know for a fact they met the standards?

    I may be completely out there on this, and anyone feel free to shoot me down if I am.

    • boldandbald Says:

      I think you may be over thinking the situation. Besides, you don’t want affirmative action in the rap world. Remember Vanilla Ice? ‘Nuff said. 🙂

      Totally of topic, how do you get some of your words in italic or bold? It is probably one of those hit myself in the forehead things, but I can’t seem to figure that out.

      • afrocity Says:

        Use tags like </b or </I

      • WMCB Says:

        LOL! Yeah, I tend to over-examine stuff sometimes, so maybe so. And geez, no affirmative action in music or sports, please, that would just be soooooo depressing! Vanilla Ice, indeed.

        To bold, you use a “tag” before the part you want to bold, then close the tag after, but I can’t type it out or it will work, and you won’t see it! I’ll try to explain.

        Before the bold part, type: a less than sign, then b, then a greater than sign. (It ends up looking like a b encased in pointy brackets.) That turns all the text to follow bold.

        After the bold part, type: a less than sign, then a forward slash, then b, then a greater than sign. (It looks like a slash-b encased in pointy brackets.) This is called “closing the tag”, and makes the text to follow revert back to normal.

        Anything contained between the two “tags” (opener and closer) turns bold.

        To do italics, do the same thing, but with an i rather than a b.

    • afrocity Says:

      What about Tiger Woods?
      Leontyne Price?

    • afrocity Says:


      I have noticed that black men actually view themselves more negatively since Obama has taken office. Especially middle aged black males.

      • boldandbald Says:

        Interesting. How so?

      • afrocity Says:

        Take my father, ask him to do something and he says

        “Who do you think I am Obama”

        “It is not like I am President Obama”

        “Maybe if I stayed in school I would be like Obama”

        Doesn’t exactly sound like HOPE.

      • boldandbald Says:

        OK, rant time. I know, I know, “what’s new?”.

        In my opinion this all starts with welfare, which is supported by those ‘minority loving’ leftists. If anyone comes out against the ever increasing welfare state they are labeled as a racist. Yet is in the very nature of a conservative to look for the best in a person and expect that person to strive to reach their full potential. While it is the liberal who looks at the black man and says “You are right to think that the system is stacked against you, and that you can’t possibly compete in the intellectual arena, so here is a pittance for an allowance and a crummy, run down building that you can live in for the rest of your life with all of the rest of losers.” Then, when someone proves them wrong and actually succeeds, they are accused either of being an Uncle Tom or are assumed to have done it because of affirmative action and so the liberal pats themselves on the back instead of congratulating the person that actually did all the work to make themselves a success. It frustrates me to no end the AA community doesn’t see through this crap and keeps on voting for the real racists.

        OK rant off. I need a drink. :~

      • afrocity Says:

        Rant is justified. How ironic that the people who said to me “Afrocity it is easy for you to get jobs because you are of color”
        are people who voted for Obama.

  11. boldandbald Says:
  12. boldandbald Says:

    Ha! That didn’t work.

  13. afrocity Says:

    Like John McCain right wingers are behind in technology/

    • boldandbald Says:

      Hey, we can’t all be as brilliant as Al Gore and invent the intranet.

      • afrocity Says:

        Yes and we dont cater to your needs like other blogs 😉

        No nifty tabs for quoting and italics. Sorry BNB I am not in that income bracket yet.

  14. Daveman Says:

    You make too much sense… Its refreshing. Thank you!

  15. donnadarko Says:

    Interesting viewpoint. Did you see this youtube w/Pastor Manning?

  16. kansas Says:

    You cannot believe how emotionally healing it is for an old white man to hear a young black woman say what is obviously true about affirmative action and race based practices. I don’t even have a problem with some of them because of our poor treatment of minorities, but at least one has to be intellectually honest about them. Thank you so much.

    • afrocity Says:

      My pleasure and I am sincere in my opinion on affirmative action. I have felt that way about it since I was a girl.

  17. Lhea Says:

    I too have been following the story. My concern is not with the content of the test but more so with the fact that they are 1. why are they just now implementing a test in order to give a promotion 2. there is a legitimate problem that must be addressed between those who took it and passed and those that took it and failed.

    Ok, so my concerns: First on affirmative action. I too have experienced one of the biggest problems with Af Ac. Just last week a White friend of mine told me that I would get something I applied for because I was a Black female. While he was joking, it angered me because I have worked hard for everything I have done and even carried him through a lot of his crap while doing it! So there is a built in misconception. My biggest problem with Af Ac, however, is that it starts too late. You want to help people when they are adults and college students benefit from the discrimination that is inherent, but the problem is the people at the bottom stay at the bottom. If you didn’t improve education for inner city Blacks for example, while they were in grade school, you offering additional assistance when they want to go to college is too late. They won’t have picked up the skills necessary to succeed.

    Anyways, with exams in general. You cannot implement a wide-scale test without questioning its legitimacy. When looking at test scores, there is a real problem that on whole Blacks (I don’t know about Latinos but I would assume it could be similar for certain Latino populations) score lower than Whites. Figuring out why is crucial for understanding tests in this country and how to solve the issue before they take the test, not changing the content after.

    If I were given a test, I probably would not score very highly on it. Test taking is just not my thing. [This is coming from an honors student at a prestigious univ. who is graduating in 3 weeks.] *BUT* if you give me almost anything to do, I will do it effectively and efficiently and probably more quality than people who score particularly high on the test. I work harder than most people I know (sorry for not being humble but trying to make a point). In that situation, I would not pass the test, but as far as a promotion goes, I’d probably be the best for the job. I want to answer my first two questions before I’ll judge how racist the procedures were.

    With that said, I am not a big proponent of Affirmative Action, but I believe we have to address the problems that it attempts to deal with in a more effective way. We can’t just say, ok, no Affirmative Action and walk away. There are deep seated issues that must be addressed.

    – From a moderately conservative Black female student! 🙂

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