Civil Rights: Affirmative Action in the Obama Era
Thursday, Nov. 12
3:45 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.
East Room and State Room
– Ms. Shirley J. Wilcher, Executive Director, American Association for Affirmative Action
– Prof. Theodore M. Shaw, Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University School of Law
– Ms. Linda L. Chavez, Chairman, Center for Equal Opportunity
– Hon. Peter N. Kirsanow, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
– Moderator: Hon. Carlos T. Bea, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Ms. Linda L. Chavez, Center for Equal Opportunity
When I saw “This Week” on abc, I was very concerned along with many Americans about the motives
of the alleged crimes of the Fort Hood attacks
-Did the army drop the ball in failing to investigate activities of Officer Hasan
General George Casey: What happened is a tragedy. I think it would be a greater tragedy if
“diversity became a tragedy” there too.
It is an attack, not a tragedy, for a military officer to kill fellow soldiers
General Casey should be fired for his statements, but he won’t be, because the “diversity at any cost”
rationale epitomizes a double standard in judging individuals
What we are really saying is that protecting diversity is more important than protecting lives, and if
that’s the case the world has gone mad.
It’s this idea of diversity that permeates every institution in American life.
We’ve become inured to the idea that this perspective is offensive
The Obama admin has also clearly signaled a change from Bush in “disparate impact”
-The admin has filed a case challenging the physical ability test of Mass prison guards on basis of
-The test is based on activities, which simulate on-the-job duties
Some of us hoped that in voting in a new president we would get back to the original idea behind Civil
This administration is promoted to diversity no matter what the cost.
More after the jump
Hon. Peter N. Kirsanow, US Commission on Civil Rights
There are certain premises that attend affirmative action
-Cast a wide net and take those who but/for minority status would be left out
-Now seems to be about results
Studies show that affirmative action actually does not allow people to compete
A student cannot compete just because they’re allowed into Harvard, it depends where they came
from—gaps in education are widening because of primary and high school education
Obama’s Policy will probably continue to support affirmative action
1 Personnel equals policy (including J. Sotomayor)
2 Significant increases in funding at Civil Rights Division of DOJ
We can expect that pervasive preferences, such that we don’t often recognize anymore, will continue
in this administration.
Prof. Theodore M. Shaw, Columbia University School of Law
The Obama admin in a position that will require it to be more cautious than the Clinton admin
The election of Pres Obama signals a profound change in this country, and it’s one I did not think I
would see it in my lifetime
We are only 40 some years past a time when legalized discrimination was in effect
Eighty percent of the days of African Americans in this nation have been under discrimination, slavery
and Jim Crow laws
History doesn’t speak in half a voice. We shouldn’t be selective
Structural inequality, the legacy of discrimination, didn’t go away the morning Pres Obama elected,
though certain excuses are off the table.
Shameful to suggest that Sotomayor lacked intelligence for Supreme Court; she was at the top of
classes in high school, Princeton and Yale
Her hearings were about staking claims around who would be allowed to be nominated
We need to find some common ground if we’re going to progress
Ms. Shirley J. Wilcher, American Association for Affirmative Action
Good afternoon. Thank you for the invitation to speak today.
The Obama Admin makes clear that affirmative action is alive and well and did not retire in the Bush
It’s still appropriate under New Haven to use affirmative action and considerations of race in certain
Affirmative action will probably be used again as an official phrase.
The administration will also focus on Veteran’s issues and people with disabilities issues.
As reflected in Obama’s budget priorities and promotion of agency responsible for oversight show
that affirmative action stands strong.
Don’t see a backing away from the issue, or the definition changing
I am delighted by nomination of Sotomayor
She embodies the spirit of affirmative action
Given opportunity and achieved great success
-The door opens, and you walk through
-She is the prime example of the positive results of affirmative action
I am pleased that the President understands this and that he changed the face of the court for times to come
**Moderator Question: Mr. Kirsanow: can you tell me how the Supreme Court is going to handle the next race-related course?
Hon. Peter N. Kirsanow
We’re possibly seeing a shift away from preferences, but it’s hard to tell because of the fluid nature of the Court’s composition, etc.
To Prof Shaw, and Ms. Wilcher: We’ve heard that affirmative action doesn’t work. As Pres said it doesn’t do as much good or harm as we think? Do we have examples of people who have been helped or hurt?
Prof. Theodore M. Shaw
Some anecdotal evidence, some statistical evidence. There’s a whole generation of people in this country who went to universities which would have been previously closed to them, which was a result of conscious attempts to open the doors
I don’t know that it’s possible to measure statistically who has been hurt. If AA is structured properly, it should be just like any other criterion that is used in admission and selection
Ms. Shirley J. Wilcher
In the ‘80s there was statistical evidence that improvements were made in the executive order program, which set standards for government contractors
My own anecdotal evidence and the generation of women of color shows that it has worked
Affirmative action means giving someone who is qualified a chance, an opportunity
(Response to Ms. Chavez)
I don’t believe that the President supports the statements of General Casey following Fort Hood
I think there is a concern about the effects of discrimination based on religion
(Response to Hon. Mr. Kirsanow)
If a physical abilities test is job related, the employer wins; if it’s not, then the women win. We need to discuss all the aspects of disparate impact