(submitted in response to John Leofs March 29, 1999 U.S. News and World Report column gThe Mantra of Diversityh)



March 20, 1999


Dear Editor,


By making statements like g[S]erious people shouldnft use the word underrepresented.  Itfs a word with an argument embedded in it,h Mr. Leo proves that the most dangerous embedded arguments are his own.


Mr. Leo supports his argument, or rather attack, against those championing equity by using emotionally and racially charged hyperbole such as gCan it be that all nine [U. S. Supreme Court] justices are biased against blacks?h and gMaybe [Asian-Americans] should try for lower marks in order to achieve a lower group representation [in elite public high schools].h


In response to his Supreme Court question, the answer unfortunately may be yes.  Mr. Leo upholds the gmeritsh of his stance by agreeing with Chief Justice William Rehnquist who gbasically said that he looks forward to the arrival of blacks into the top one tenth of 1 percent of young clerks able to compete successfully for these [law clerk] jobs.h One must logically assume that, since they are awaiting some garrival,h Mr. Leo and Justice Rehnquist believe that there are no blacks in the aforementioned category.  Many gserious peopleh would object with this assumption.  Does Mr. Leo believe that blacks are naturally inferior or just chronically gbehindh other select groups?


The New England Journal of Medicinefs February 28 special article gThe Effects of Race and Sex on Physiciansf Recommendations on Cardiac Catherizationh disturbingly proved that racial bias persists even among highly educated and otherwise seemingly intelligent people. After controlling for age, probability of coronary disease, stress tests results, type of chest pain, and even the type and level of insurance coverage, the study left little room for doubt that subconscious bias affected the physiciansf recommendations.


Arguing for equity is not synonymous with arguing against merit.  The problem is, all things being equal, that all things are not equal.  Whites males are much more likely to be selected, hired, or promoted than women or minorities with the same qualifications.  The New England Journal of Medicinefs report underlines how important it is to call underrepresentation into question and to seriously examine its true causes.


What I find most disturbing of all are the insidious ways in which such bias is either ignored or legitimized.  Recently, Pat Buchanan launched his presidential campaign attacking affirmative action, bilingual education, and immigration policy couching these same racial biases in the accepted rhetoric of Republican conservatism while the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN label his message as gpopulist.h  Instead of calling for ga national campaign of assimilation,h political leaders should be calling for a national campaign of introspection and acceptance.


The truly gunderrepresentedh in Mr. Leofs column and conclusions are logic, intelligent analysis, and honesty.


Milton Alan Turner