“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair my friends. Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream … I have a dream that my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

This past week, the entire nation celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr., by far the most instrumental man in bringing about legal equality for people of all races (a.k.a. — if your elementary school was anything like mine — the most important man in the world). In his speech on the National Mall he spoke of God, the American Dream and a promised land … where everyone would be colorblind.

Yes, dear reader, you read that correctly. Contrary to what many liberals like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have to say, MLK Jr. envisioned a world where you and I would judge each other on whether we are paragons of virtue or treacherous renegades, hard workers or lazy wastrels, not whether you are white or black, yellow or brown. This makes it even stranger that liberals — particularly most of the Congressional Black Caucus — insist that his mission was to force the government to pit people of different ethnicities against one another through affirmative action.

As if it isn’t already clear, affirmative action — whether applied to college admissions, as debated by our state government last November, or to job applications — is completely antithetical to American values. Despite the good intentions of its proponents, affirmative action reduces people down to their race, completely disregarding the relative merit of one individual as compared to another. The pursuit of this goal, often hidden under the guise of “diversity,” is not only antithetical to a society that values merit, it is also morally questionable and unfair in zero-sum games such as college admissions or job applications.

Finally, perhaps the strongest point against affirmative action policies and the quota systems — formal or informal — that have always accompanied them is that they have been ruled unconstitutional and quite simply do not work. Multiple cases (University of California Regents v. Bakke, Hopwood v. Texas and Ricci v. DeStefano) have all determined that the acceptance of less qualified minorities over more qualified candidates (or, in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, giving the shaft to more qualified candidates for a job) for the sake of race is unconstitutional. And probably since it is inconvenient for them to do so, proponents of affirmative action in the UC system refuse to acknowledge the fact that the percentage of non-white students has gone up since the end of California’s most recent past experiment with affirmative action and the quota system.

MLK Jr. dreamt of a world where we would all judge each other based on character, not pigmentation. It is a simple truth that laws cannot change the hearts of men — especially those laws like affirmative action that regard one man as more desirable than another.

While possibly well intentioned, affirmative action is far from the “equality” our founders and MLK Jr. envisioned, and it ought to be rejected as a bizarre, failed experiment that is patently unjust.

Daily Nexus conservative columnist Jeffrey Robin thinks it’s time lawmakers forever shed their rose-colored glasses in regard to affirmative action.



In Response, Left Said:

It’s pretty bold to assert that affirmative action creates a system that “reduces people down to their race, completely disregarding the relative merit of one individual as compared to another.” This implies that affirmative action places race as the top factor affecting someone’s admission, which would be a very extreme use of the practice. “Narrowly tailored special consideration” is far from that; in fact, I would argue that race is among the lowest priorities even when judging a candidate under an affirmative action system.

While I’m pretty surprised by the assertion that the UC system has become more diverse since the end of affirmative action in the 1990s — especially because all of its campuses still suffer from a troubling lack of diversity — I don’t think this is as damning a statement for affirmative action as my counterpart seems to imply. First of all, 15 years have passed, and time is a powerful variable, especially in an age of progress. Secondly, I’d challenge anyone to explain a casual mechanism by which the end of its use directly resulted in greater diversity. It seems more likely that the end of its use kept diversity at its current slow rate of growth.

I don’t doubt that MLK Jr. dreamt of a colorblind America, but we don’t live in one. He certainly wouldn’t be in the streets and newspapers lambasting the (nonexistent) oppression of white people if he were here today, and he’d be offended at the notion that fighting for greater diversity and equal opportunity is tantamount to “pitting people of different ethnicities against one another.”