Obama on Affirmative Action

10 07 2009

In a recent Associated Press interview, President Obama gave a disappointingly weak answer to a question on affirmative action that I fear the opposition will have no problem exploiting in the future.

Instead of seeing Affirmative Action as part of the solution in expanding equal opportunity he went out of his way to deemphasize its importance by suggesting it should be treated as a mere footnote in the larger debate about how to combat discrimination. I am not surprise at his response, just a little disappointed.

Money quote:

I’ll be honest with you, though, I’ve always believed that affirmative action was less of an issue, or should be less than an issue, than it’s been made out to be in news reports. It’s not it hasn’t been as potent a force for racial progress as advocates would claim, and it hasn’t been as bad on white students seeking admissions or seeking a job as its critics has been.

I think the way to move forward on race is to make sure that every kid from the time they’re born is getting good nutrition and good education, is succeeding in K through 12, and we’re opening opportunities for all young people. Because when everybody’s got a level playing field, everybody’s competing, and we’ve dealt with some of the legacies of discrimination that have resulted in substandard schools or extreme poverty in some communities, then affirmative action ends up being an afterthought and we can really just make sure that everybody’s treated fairly in an environment that, in which race is rarely taken into account.

I can see opponents of affirmative action citing this response to arguefighting discrimination (regardless of the victim’s color) is fine, social programs that help the disadvantaged (again, regardless of color) are fine, but you don’t need racial preferences to do any of this.”

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