(submitted in response to John Leofs March 29, 1999 U.S. News and World Report column gThe Mantra of Diversityh)
March 20, 1999
By making statements like g[S]erious people shouldnft use the word underrepresented. Itfs 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 gmeritsh 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 peopleh would object with this assumption. Does Mr. Leo believe that blacks are naturally inferior or just chronically gbehindh other select groups?
The New England Journal of Medicinefs February 28 special article gThe Effects of Race and Sex on Physiciansf Recommendations on Cardiac Catherizationh 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 physiciansf 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 Medicinefs 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 gunderrepresentedh in Mr. Leofs column and conclusions are logic, intelligent analysis, and honesty.
Milton Alan Turner