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"Symposium: Affirmative Action Roundtable"

The focus of this May/June issue of P&R is affirmative action. The news is far from good, as we all know. Rather than our usual practice of commissioning commentaries, we opted for excerpting already published pieces, since so much good writing has recently appeared on our side of the issue.May/June 1995 issue of Poverty & Race

The focus of this May/June issue of P&R is affirmative action. The news is far from good, as we all know: a reactionary initiative headed for the California ballot (with nearly universal predictions that it will pass -- and, like Proposition 187, it may become the harbinger of similar measures in other states); President Clinton's "top to bottom" review; defection of liberal Democratic Senators like Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; upcoming reviews by the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies; a Justice Department "show" suit accusing Illinois State University of discriminating against white males; loaded Congressional hearings; dismaying poll results (often a function of biased wordings); irresponsible media coverage (such as the "No White Men Need Apply" US News cover). The list goes on and on.

Rather than our usual practice of commissioning commentaries, we opted for excerpting already published pieces, since so much good writing has recently appeared on our side of the issue. (We have also listed a selection of other studies and articles for further reference. Additional suggestions are welcome, as we plan to publish a supplementary list in the July/August issue.)

Affirmative action is of course linked to other issues that have been the subject of recent newsletters: reparations (what distinctions, if any, should be made between remedying past injustices vs. focussing on the current injustices?); racial/ethnic categories (how to reconcile the multiracialism question with enforcement of affirmative action guidelines?); the "permanent racism" thesis (what is the most we can expect from even an effective affirmative action program?); Bell Curve thinking (how does the new "scientific racism" intersect with the move on affirmative action?)

What is most important is to bring to bear facts to this emotional and highly politicized debate. Most of the studies lend support to affirmative action, but we need more research, focussed on the questions that arise most frequently in the political arena. And we should be demanding that the other side produce facts and statistics to back their assertions. It's an argument we can win. But it will take both solid information and good strategy.


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