I am opposed to affirmative action.
I do not believe that a society can achieve justice by changing the identity, racial or otherwise, of those whom it treats unjustly.
I do not believe that a society should reward people for the color of their skin; I believe, rather, that it should remove the barriers that punish people for the color of their skin.
I believe that a society should make the removal of those barriers one of its highest priorities, and that it should do so by acting affirmatively to provide training and education and equality of opportunity for minorities. But it should not give jobs to those who have been insufficiently trained; it should not give college educations to those who have been insufficiently educated; it should not provide equality of outcome.
With regard to colleges, I believe that all forms of affirmative action should be abolished, including favorable admissions policies for legacies and children of faculty members. Perhaps, in some cases, because of the values of the marketplace, athletic scholarships should remain, but it should be noted that in football and basketball, the top two revenue-producing sports on campus, minorities are a disproportionately high percentage of the recipients.
I believe, with Dinesh D’Souza, as expressed in his book The End of Racisim, that if there needs to be a kind of affirmative action in college admissions, its beneficiaries should be those who have made significant accomplishments despite hardships, like poverty. They should be admitted because of their fortitude and perseverance, not their ethnic heritage.
I believe, with the black historian Shelby Steele, that racial preferences lead to “a kind of demoralization” because “the quality that earns us preferential treatment is implied inferiority.
I know, I know. This is a column about the media, not about politics. But I reveal both my attitude toward affirmative action, and the fervor with which I hold it, by way of pointing out that I am far from neutral on the subject, and thus am likely to look at the media with an especially critical eye in their reporting of the recent Supreme Court decision concerning the University of Michigan’s admissions policies.
That eye saw little in the way of bias. Yes, it found some in individual cases, but on balance, the media are to be commended for so even-handed a presentation of so emotionally-charged an issue.
To give but one example: At 8 pm last Monday night, Paula Zahn began her CNN broadcast by interviewing Lawrence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law from Harvard. Tribe is an avid supporter of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision.
But he was paired with John McGinnis, a professor of constitutional law from Northwestern. McGinnis, no less avid, decried the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision.
And note that CNN achieved balance here not just in opinion but in occupations of opinion-givers (both men have the same title) and in prestige of universities (yes, Harvard is more prestigious, but both Northwestern and McGinnis are eminent).
And so it went: On The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, in fact, on one news program after another, both sides of the issue were presented in relatively equal amounts of time.
The same may be said of newspapers.
It was possible, of course, to see the direction in which certain media outlets were leaning. The makeup, and wording of the headlines, of The New York Times’s front page on Tuesday indicated to me that the paper applauded the decision. There was similar evidence to the contrary in The Washington Times. But both papers---all papers, in fact, with which I am familiar---gave a hearing to both supporters and foes of the Supreme Court’s decision, and that is all that a reader can ask. If bias cannot be eliminated from journalism (and it cannot, since journalists are human beings and human beings have minds and minds form opinions), then it can at least be balanced.
For the most part, in a very controversial story earlier this week, it was.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.