Sunday, July 6, 2008

On Racial Justice

Stephen Carter graduated with me from Ithaca High School, where he was something of a cypher--a serious, studious fellow; the "new boy," having recently moved to Ithaca; neither fish nor fowl when it came to the mixed-up racial divide at that school in the 70s. Since then, of course, he's gone on to be our class's biggest success--a lawyer, professor, and respected conservative writer. He has written at length on the negative impact of affirmative action, a topic where I disagree with him (as I do on most topics), but one where I admit he has more specific knowledge than I. His memory of being rejected by Harvard when they thought he was white, only to be courted and wooed when they found out he was black, is certainly a cautionary tale. Today he writes about the disappearance of racial justice from our pantheon of moral causes and the need to bring it back. My only quibble with his premise is that I believe the critical issue of the great divide between rich and poor becomes clouded when you add race to the mix. Yes, income stratification is increasing in the African-American community, but so is it everywhere. Still, he's smart and always thoughtful, and I wish I'd paid more attention to him in high school.
For both parties, affirmative action represents a way to pretend to be doing something — what I have long called racial justice on the cheap.

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