Affirmative Action Meant to Give Our Best and Brightest Minorities a Leg Up

Victor Landa, San Antonio Express-News, June 18, 2009

Why is it that when a person of an ethnic, gender, cultural or racial minority rises in the ranks of their profession they’re suspected of benefiting from affirmative-action programs?

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The first thing is that affirmative action is considered by some to be a cause for suspicion. As if it’s something that should be hidden. And second, that being a minority trumps competence.

On the first thing, we seem to forget the reason that affirmative-action programs were set up to begin with. The reasoning is that through these programs the brightest, most competent, overlooked minorities would have an opportunity to rise to positions once reserved for less competent majority peers. {snip}

Affirmative-action programs were meant to provide our country with the benefit of its brightest minds and greatest potential. But over the years it has been derided as an unfair substitute for competence. The narrative is despicable. It claims that if not for the program minorities would be undeserving of the opportunities and positions afforded to them.

The complaint is that affirmative action displaces deserving students and applicants. A case in point is Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who unapologetically says that she’s the product of affirmative action. The rap against her, among the many that have surfaced, is that affirmative action somehow proves her incompetence.

But isn’t the whole affirmative-action idea about judging people by their actions and output? Shouldn’t we be concerned about Sotomayor’s opinions from the bench and not whether she benefited from affirmative action?

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There was news this week of President Obama’s record for appointing minorities, Latinos specifically, to positions within his administration. The reports put his Latino appointment percentage at just above 11, the most for any president in the history of the United States; more than his immediate predecessor, more than Bill Clinton.

Apparently every effort has been made to reach out and find Latino talent, and the criticism will be soon and swift. Latinos are taking their place among the best and brightest and the country will be the better for it. And if affirmative action had a role in opening the doors of opportunity for smart, hardworking and exceptional men and women, then so be it.

landa

Victor Landa.

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