Yesterday, on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan attacked Sonia Sotomayor specifically, and affirmative action in general. Included in his attack were such claims as “this has been a country built basically by white folks,” that Sonia Sotomayor was purely an affirmative action candidate who lacks real credentials and his suggestion that we need more white-male Supreme Court nominees—-like Robert Bork—-despite the fact that 108 of the 110 United Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history have been white.
What opponents of affirmative action like Pat Buchanan fail to grapple with is that this country was built on affirmative action—-for white males—-and you don’t have to go back to the Founding Fathers to see this in action. If you go back to the 1950s, which Buchanan apparently wants to do, and look at the major private universities, you would find that 20-30% of the admissions were “legacies,” people who got there not on merit but because they were the sons of alumni and donors. George Bush, of course, is the poster-child for this generation of affirmative action babies. I’d like to see Buchanan, or any conservative, defend his admission to Yale on the basis of merit. And I’d like to stack his credentials up next to Sonia Sotomayor ‘s and ask which one was more deserving of admission to a major university, or the bench, or the Presidency, or anything.
The white-male affirmative action which bozos like George Bush benefited from and want to protect was a monopoly of opportunities; monopolies work to undermine healthy competition and produce bad results. The affirmative action which emerged from the 1960s civil rights movement was an effort not only to promote diversity of people and opportunities, but to democratize opportunities so that white-male hierarchies did not automatically get all the perks. This has been healthy for America, not only because society has become more diverse, but also because it now is less likely that the truly unqualified, the frat boys like GWB with no academic credentials and problems with excessive alcohol consumption [but a connected family] are not automatically passed on to graduate schools, and then on to unsuccessful business careers, not to mention catastrophic political careers.
I prosecuted employment discrimination class actions for 25 years, in the process forcing many major corporations to hire and promote women, minorities, older people and the disabled. In every single case I had, when the case was over and the workforce was integrated, no matter how bitter the litigation had been, the companies would confide in me that their workforces after “affirmative action” were stronger, more competitive, more productive. Affirmative action has been good for American business and good for America. Indeed, corporate America, which has seen the benefits of fair employment practices first-hand, long ago abandoned opposition to it. Too bad racists like Buchanan have failed to pay attention to what really has happened in the American workforce over the past 40 years.