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Louis Untermeyer


The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

April 22, 2003

A Familiar Smear   

O. Ricardo Pimental, a columnist for the The Arizona Republic, penned a particularly notable column last Thursday about affirmative action (AA) in higher education. As they say on sports talk radio, I'd like to break it down.

The first two sentences are questionable: "We should take affirmative action opponents at their word when they insist that race-neutrality means precisely that. So, even if the Supreme Court rules their way, they will continue to rail against any meaningful level of the playing field in admissions."

He's right that race neutrality is exactly what it says, but he's wrong when he claims that AA opponents will "rail" against a level playing field. It is a level playing field that AA opponents are trying to achieve! If anything, AA in college admissions is stacked against certain races and groups and gives a huge advantage to other races and groups. This field hasn't been level for about thirty years now.

Next, Pimental describes how colleges will try other means of achieving diversity, such as recruiting in poor, urban schools and giving credit to multilingual students. Not even these efforts will escape the vengeful wrath of AA opponents: "They will insist on what they've had in mind all along: pure "meritocracy." And, of course, meritocracy will be viewed substantially in terms of grades and standardized test scores."

To people like Pimental, a world in which success or merit is measured with objective, verifiable criteria is a bad thing, especially when that criteria is test scores or grades. Better to create an alternative world in which those values are rejected and replaced with subjective, malleable criteria that can be twisted out of all recognition to achieve the desired, pre-ordained goal. Those who do not fit into this system are doomed. No compassion for them.

It is the Left that holds the monopoly on compassion, as Pimental helpfully reminds us. AA critics are concerned only in a system that will "benefit affluent kids, advantage Whites. This in the interests of, believe it or not, fairness. In addition to hijacking the language of civil rights, these folks are also adopting the language of caring."

You see, AA critics are just mean SOBs. They don't care, but they sure try to sound like they do, so they can fool everyone. Only Pimental and his Leftist pals care, though their compassion extends only to their own favored minorities. Asians rarely qualify, though their test scores are actually higher than White test scores, on average. Asians are the biggest victims of affirmative action, but the Left does not care about them. Their skin is yellow rather than brown or black. 

AA critics, on the other hand, believe that all people of all races of all colors of all creeds deserve a fair shot. AA critics don't care about skin tone - as long as you measure up, you'll be treated like everyone else. Pimental would have you believe that AA critics care only about "affluent Whites." That is a lie, and he surely knows it. It's hard to believe that minority critics of AA like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Ward Connerly, and Linda Chavez give a rat's you-know-what about "affluent Whites." They want what just about all AA critics want - equal treatment and equal justice for everyone. 

But there we go again, "hijacking the language of the civil rights movement." Pimental does not understand that AA critics did not steal anything - the supposed "civil rights leaders" gave it away. Pimental himself believes in discrimination, so long as the correct races benefit. He's all for seating some races at the front of the college admissions bus and others at the back. If AA critics hijacked the "language of the civil rights movement," Pimental hijacked the language of Bull Connor and the KKK.

In fact, Pimental makes this painfully clear. While grudgingly admitting that AA critics will support extending "opportunity to all low-income students regardless of race," this will not "achieve equal access for minorities." Why is that? Because there's too much poor white trash! "While minorities suffer disproportionately from poverty and low income, poor and low-income Whites are still more plentiful numerically."

Better that poor white kids are kept out of college so the wealthy progeny of Jesse Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Bill Cosby are given preferential treatment. That's right and fair and good and just in Pimental's world. Those who disagree are supporters of, as Pimental so graciously closes out his column, "a kinder and gentler Jim Crow." I think we've established who are the true worthy heirs of Jim Crow.

I said at the beginning that Pimental's column was notable. It's not because of the snarky name-calling or baseless accusations - that's a familiar smear tactic of the Left. Notice that Pimental, not even once, attempts a principled defense of affirmative action. Perhaps he can't think of a good reason for kids who were born in 1985 to be favored over other kids born in 1985 because of discrimination that occurred in 1965. Far easier to impugn the motives of his opponents without even offering evidence of their motives. He doesn't quote one AA critic who thinks whites should be favored over blacks and Hispanics, primarily because few, if any, have done so.

His argument, at its core, is a dishonest one. Maybe that's because he's trying to defend a dishonest - and indefensible - system.

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