The Blog


11:00 PM, Oct 27, 1996 • By HEATHER MAC DONALD
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Universities are the other great branch of the affirmative action triumvirate, after government and corporations, and they are furiously networking with their business and government counterparts to fight CCRI. Stanford University's Byzantine affirmative action bureaucracy is typical. In addition to an Offce for Multicultural Development, complete with staff, a multicultural educator for student affairs, and a vice provost responsible for faculty diversity, each graduate department and school, as well as the undergraduate admissions office, boasts its own affirmative action offcers. Stanford is a perfect host, therefore, for an adult education course called " 'With Justice For All:' A Leadership Forum on Diversity." Its purpose, according to Sally Dickson, director of multicultural development, is to find "creative ways of talking about race in light of CCRI." In fact, the course, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is a barely disguised antiCCRI organizing tool: According to the course catalogue, it will give participants the opportunity "to form a network with their peers." Corporate diversity officers constitute nearly a quarter of the lecturers, second only to Stanford staff. Lockheed-Martin, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, and Pacific Bell are all packing off sundry "diversity initiatives managers" and " diversity directors" to warn forum participants about the dangers of dismantling affirmative action.

Barry Shapiro's credo -- "We know more than you do" -- could well be the official slogan of this elite mobilization. Affirmative action is too " complex" an issue to be entrusted to voters, according to CCRI opponents. " Should 23 lines [CCRI's length] be the law that addresses these issues?" asks Lloyd Loomis, a diversity officer at ARCO. The similar brevity of the 14th Amendment and the anti-discrimination clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is apparently of no import. A ballot initiative is "too simplistic," announced the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, taking its stand against CCRI. Opponents say they prefer the legislative process -- not surprising, given the California Assembly's flawless record of keeping every proposal to end affirmative action bottled up in committee.

The claim of "complexity" goes beyond the form of the initiative to its content. What was once the great ideal of the civil rights movement -- equal treatment under the law -- is now derided as foolishly "simplistic." Speaking of Ward Connerly, California regent who spearheaded the abolition of admissions quotas at the University of California, ARCO's Loomis complains: " He has a simplistic outlook: Go color-blind."

Instead of voting on affirmative action, ordinary citizens need to be " educated" about its complexities, say CCRI's opponents. "There is a vacuum of information out there," asserts Julene Perez-Gonzalez of the Carnegie Corporation. Perez-Gonzalez is right: There is a dearth of information about affirmative action, but that is solely the result of stonewalling by affirmative action proponents, who have fought tooth and nail to keep admissions data and actual hiring criteria secret.

Ironically, among the clods who are allegedly ignorant about affirmative action are minorities themselves. "In the Latino community, there are constituencies who misunderstand affirmative action," laments Rafael Gonzalez, head of MALDEF's CCRI "education" campaign. "The everyday Joe and Julie, living in the suburbs, think it involves quotas." Naturally, Gonzalez and his colleagues are working desperately to correct that misimpression.

They might not get far, given the caliber of their arguments. Forced finally to justify affirmative action to a wide public, CCRI opponents are pulling out one howler after another. Preferential university admissions policies are not quotas, maintains MALDEF's Gonzalez, because blacks and Hispanics are still in the minority in the student body. Piling nonsense onto a non sequitur, Gonzalez adds: "It's not that more qualified whites are being denied a spot in the university, they can't get in because the university is already full."

Amazingly, Gonzalez's ludicrous "It's-not-a-quota-unless-the-beneficiaries- end-up-in-the-majority" reasoning is quite popular. "Prime contractors complain that they are losing business to minorities and women," says Diane LaCome, a diversity consultant and lobbyist for minority and women contractors, "but they are still getting 90 percent of all procurement money." Diane Martinez, a state assemblywoman from Los Angeles, put the matter more succinctly. Given that the state has not met its onerous contracting goals, she snapped at a (white) legislative opponent, "That leaves you and your ilk 93 percent of the pot." Such racial essentialism would make a South African separatist proud.

Dismantling contracting set-asides will "eliminate competition" for state contracts, argues LaCome, an astounding proposition that would surprise the numerous low-bidders who have lost jobs because they did not meet the state's race and sex contracting "goals." CCRI opponents are also perpetrating outright lies: "If we are not allowed to bid, we'd be back in the 1950s," warns LaCome, as if CCRI would actually forbid minorities or women from bidding on a contract or applying for a job. The Feminist Majority and the American Civil Liberties Union have declared that CCRI will plunge women into a state of virtual peonage.

The contempt for the public behind the anti-CCRI campaign is finally so unbounded that it spills over onto the campaigners themselves. The "equity community," Barry Shapiro tells me, also suffers from prejudice. "Check the sisters out," he commands. "Are women free of prejudice just because they are victims of sexism?" Apparently not: "Women need to work real hard on their stuff," he announces. Summing up his opinion of his fellow diversity trainers, Shapiro sighs: "There but for the grace of God go I; I thank God I'm not an oaf, a thug, a fool, or a charlatan."

Shapiro is a fitting symbol of the anti-CCRI effort: He is a hypocrite as well as a snob. I ask him if he would hire a black contractor who bid $ 750 for a job on his house over a white contractor who bid $ 500. "No," he answered, but added: "Affirmative action is very complex." It is just that inscrutable complexity that, with any luck, might doom affirmative action at the polls.

Heather Mac Donald is a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.