|Man Without Qualities|
Monday, December 30, 2002
As the Supreme Court gears up to reconsider its Bakke decision and address the University of Michigan's racial preferences, Stuart Taylor reports on one new poll:
As to public opinion, consider the responses to a question on the Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University racial attitudes survey in spring 2001: "In order to give minorities more opportunity, do you believe race or ethnicity should be a factor when deciding who is hired, promoted, or admitted to college, or that hiring, promotions, and college admissions should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race or ethnicity?"
Of the 1,709 adults surveyed, 5 percent said "race or ethnicity should be a factor," 3 percent said "don't know," and 92 percent said "should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race/ethnicity."
More surprising, of the 323 African-American respondents, 12 percent said "race or ethnicity should be a factor," 2 percent said "don't know," and 86 percent said "should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race/ethnicity."
That's right: By a ratio of 7-to-1, black respondents in this poll rejected racial preferences.
There's lots more.
In the experience of the Man Without Qualities, the response one receives from an "affirmative action" question depends very much on rather minute details of how the question is formulated, the context in which it is asked and often hard to determine personal factors. And this is, after all, just one poll.
But also in my personal experience, a lot more African-Americans professionals seem comfortable in themselves and their personal capabilities today than even a few years ago, and the pace of adjustment seems to be accelerating. They also seem perfectly aware of continuing - often hidden - racial bias. But they also usually know how to deal with it constructively when it arises, and do. In sum: From my personal experience, there seems to be a declining interest in and attachment to the more aggressive forms of affirmative action among African-American professionals, who increasingly seem to regard the whole subject as a distraction.
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