SULLIVAN ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: And here is Andrew's take on affirmative action, which couldn't be more dead on:
Here's a telling email taking me to task for describing affirmative action as the "new racism":
You wrote, "The equation of opposition to affirmative action or hate-crime laws or any other number of leftist policies with racism strikes me as a massively cheap shot." As a moderate liberal who supports affirmative action but sympathizes with the argument against it, I completely agree with you. But in another post, you claim that affirmative action is the "new racism." Now, let's assume that liberals and conservatives both want a society in which blacks and whites are judged equally. "Color-blindness," after all, is the rationale that affirmative action opponents use to defend their stance. But if that is true, the real difference is that supporters believe equal opportunity is impossible given the nation's racial history and level of current prejudice, while opponents believe that color-blindness is a realistic ideal. Thus the question is more empirical than ideological. We may be wrong about our approach, but we're not bigots.
I take that point. But it seems to me that the writer is essentially saying that because his heart is in the right place, his support for public racial discrimination is not racist. My position is that we should assume that everyone's heart is in the right place but still see racial discrimination for what it is. Jim Crow was a disgusting attempt to segregate and define people by race. It was unquestionably worse than affirmative action. But affirmative action is also an attempt by government to define people by race. In practice it often means denying someone a job or a place at a college solely because of their race. I think that's an almost text-book definition of racism. Just because the racism is directed at a majority doesn't make it any less discriminatory on an individual basis. And just because it's aimed at eventually creating a color-blind society doesn't make it color-blind. My view is that we should try and get beyond these racial categories altogether, and I don't think enforcing them even more rigorously is a good way of doing that. Yes, my words were provocative, and deliberately so. But racial discrimination is racial discrimination is racial discrimination. And the person who is subjected to it couldn't care less if the perpetrator is an old bigot or an well-meaning liberal.
Affirmative action is racist in two ways. First is the more obvious implication that affirmative action bases admittance into certain schools or institutions based entirely on race. That is, by its very definition, a "racist" policy. However, the more subtle racism of affirmative action is its assumption that African Americans or other minorities are somehow less capable of success than are Caucasians. Its coddling of African Americans is similar to the coddling of a child, a "you need help because you can't do it yourself" attitude. This is precisely why there are an increasing number of African Americans who are against affirmative action because frankly, it is insulting to them. And rightly so.
Let it be known that it is not people against affirmative action who are racists. It is people who are for affirmative action, who are, whether inadvertantly or not, the racist ones.