FedSoc LiveBlog: Civil Rights – Affirmative Action in the Obama Era

November 12th, 2009

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

right legislation

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