The Politics of Affirmative Action

Against the Current, No. 38, May/June 1992

Aaron Brenner

Racism and Justice:
The Case for Affirmative Action
By Gertrude Ezorsky
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 140 pages, paperback $6.95.

AS THE ASSAULT on affirmative action reaches a fever pitch, it is heartening to read Gertrude Ezorsky’s Racism and Justice: The Case for Affirmative Action. The book provides a powerful defense, in social, moral, and practical terms, for race-conscious employment programs, and demonstrates their historic effectiveness.

Ezorky’s book is especially timely given that many people on the liberal left have joined with neo-liberals and conservatives to temper or even relinquish their support for affirmative action. It has become fashionable to see race-consciousness as a political liability largely responsible for the historic failure of the progressive agenda.

As the argument goes, since the 1960s, programs aimed specifically at people of color and other disadvantaged groups have driven a wedge through the Democratic coalition of white workers, middle-class liberals, and minorities, thereby weakening the Democratic Party and the left political agenda as a whole. Captured by white liberals and Black militants in the late 1960s, the Democratic Party supposedly abandoned its emphasis on the universal programs (e.g. social security) that had cemented the loyalty of its white working- and middle-class constituencies.

Instead, it pursued group-specific programs (e.g. Aid to Families with Dependent Children and affirmative action) which, by supposedly undermining traditional meritocratic values, alienated the white working and middle classes. Adding injury to insult, these programs put the burden of remedying societal discrimination on a key Democratic constitutency, white male workers. As a result, welfare liberalism collapsed and was replaced by populist conservatism.(1)

Kevin Phillips, the conservative pundit, was perhaps the first person to articulate this vision of an emerging Republican majority, as far back as 1969, but during the 1980s a number of left liberals and social democrats, including the editors of In These Times, Jonathan Rieder, Theda Skocpol, Paul Starr, William Julius Wilson, and Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary Edsall, have adopted some form of this argument.(2)

As they see it, white backlash–the tax revolt, the rise in racism, opposition to affirmative action and social welfare programs, the anti-choice movement–is a reaction to an attack on white working- and middle-class people by Black militants, white radicals, and establishment liberals.

This argument is an attempt to understand and overcome a real problem facing the U.S. left: the ease with which conservatives, from Nixon and Wallace to Reagan and Bush, have perpetuated a politics of scarcity that pits sections of the working class against each other.

Since the late 1960s, Republicans have often won the support of key white working-class constituencies, especially so-called ethnics–urban Catholics of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European descent–by attacking welfare, affirmative action, property taxes, open housing, busing, and big government.

This success has occurred despite continued overwhelming support for the principle of racial equality among all sections of the population,(3) raising two questions. How do we understand the rise of white working-class support for conservatism, a key part of which is opposition to affirmative action? And what do we do about it?

Who Pays for Affirmative Action?

For the past twenty-five years, the country’s majority has lived with stagnating incomes, deteriorating working conditions, and employers’ offensives against their labor organizations. Meanwhile their families have worked harder and received fewer services.

Given this situation, it would seem obvious that group-specific programs, along with the particular groups they benefit, are viewed with hostility by many white working- and middle-class people who are not the beneficiaries.

To the extent that affirmative action, welfare, minority business set asides, and other pieces of the liberal agenda are instituted in a way as to harm white male workers (an extent exaggerated by many on the left and the right), this hostility seems understandable. Affirmative action can result in lost jobs and other lost opportunities for white male workers. White male workers can be forced to pay for redistributive programs even though they may receive no benefits.

Conservatives seem to offer reasonable alternatives. Cutting property taxes helps millions of working-class home owners. Ending affirmative action might open up job opportunities. Eliminating social programs could free money for use on programs that might go to white male workers.

But the analysis should not end here. If, in the face of economic crisis, white working- and middle-class people object to the fact that they are paying and not benefitting from government programs aimed at the poor and other oppressed people, why do they put up with other “targeted” programs from which they also do not benefit, such as tax cuts for business and the wealthy, economic enterprise zones, and deregulation?

Are not these programs contrary to the country’s “traditional meritocratic values”? How is it that U.S. workers have come to define certain groups–people of color, women, the poor–as undeserving of government aid? How is it that they have come to accept the necessity of propping up capital at their own expense?

With the economic pie shrinking, and with the labor movement unable to mount any response to the employers’ offensive, Republicans and Democrats have successfully convinced workers that their agenda must be that of capital. Any attack on the employers’ share of income seems not only hopeless but downright counterproductive in that it threatens investment and jobs.

Without a compelling alternative that poses the needs of all workers to those of capital, the necessities of accumulation lead inevitably to austerity. Once workers have accepted austerity, the question becomes who will pay.

So far, stronger sections of the working class, mostly white men, have tried to defend their positions at the expense of weaker sections, mostly women and people of color. And both major parties have encouraged them in doing so.

The Republican Party’s Southern strategy–the attempt to win white workers in the South through implicit and explicit appeals to racism–has worked extremely well, both South and North, since it was first introduced by Barry Goldwater in 1964.

In response, however, the Democratic Party has not sought to unify white and African-American workers against the GOP’s preference for business and the wealthy. Quite the opposite. Demands of the oppressed have been met (if at all) only by shifting the burden within the working class.

Democratic leaders (who have controlled Congress for most of the past three decades) have made sure that affirmative action and other “targeted” programs are paid for by workers, not employers. Recognizing the requirements of capital accumulation and the source of their campaign funding, Democrats have taken their African-American votes for granted and tried to match Republican appeals for lower taxes, less government, and greater military might. Remember the helmeted Michael Dukakis proclaiming the Massachusetts miracle on top of an M-1 tank during the 1988 presidential campaign?

In this light, we must reassess the analysis made by Skocpol, Starr, the Edsalls, and others. They assert that militant liberals, winning control of the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, imposed their agenda of affirmative action, welfare and other civil rights reforms on unwilling white workers, thus driving a wedge through the New Deal Democratic coalition and opening the door to the conservatives.

This is bad history and victim blaming of the worst sort. Black militants, feminists, anti-poverty activists, advocates of gay and lesbian rights, and other radicals have never been taken seriously by the Democratic Party, much less imposed an agenda on anybody. Blame for white working-class disillusionment with the Democratic Party lies not with radicals, but with the Democrats’ steadfast refusal to remove the burden of reform from the working class.

The Case for Affirmative Action

The divisiveness of affirmative action as now constituted is a real problem for the left. Unfortunately, the victim blamers have sought to avoid the issue rather than confront it.

As a substitute for affirmative action, a program directly aimed (“targeted”) at ending the impact of past and present discrimination against women and people of color, the victim blamers propose “universal” programs addressing general economic hardship. Their programs include macroeconomic policy to generate a tight labor market, promote economic growth, create jobs, and provide job training, child care, parental leave and a family allowance.

Since these programs would apply to everyone, they would alleviate the impact of racism without antagonizing white voters.(4) A rising tide would lift all boats, so to speak.

But such is not the case, as Ezorsky shows. While there is no arguing with the need for a huge expansion in such programs to ease the pain of economic depression, there is no evidence they would stem the effects of institutional racism, which “occurs when a firm uses a practice that is race-neutral (intrinsically free of racial bias) but that nevertheless has an adverse impact on blacks as a group.”(5)

Take job creation. During the 1980s, some fifteen million jobs were created, mostly in services, mostly in the suburbs. As some 86% of jobs are filled through word of mouth, the vast majority of African Americans were never exposed to these jobs.(6) “Lacking ties to whites as family, friends, fellow students, neighbors, or club members, blacks tend to be isolated from the networks in which connections to desirable employment–where whites predominate–are forged.”(7)

There was nothing intrinsically racist about the way employers did their hiring, but the impact on Blacks was adverse, to say the least–a clear example of institutional racism.

For African Americans to find employment given the reality of social and economic segregation requires an affirmative action program which includes “minority outreach, strengthened by numerical goals and timetables, with preference to basically qualified blacks.” In other words, a job creation program, no matter how broad, that does not address institutional racism must relinquish its claim to universality. And since race-conscious affirmative action is the only method of addressing institutional racism, it is required to make any government program truly universal.(8)

The victim blamers, by substituting their programs for affirmative action, do more than avoid the issue. They play into the hands of conservatives, albeit unintentionally, in a context in which there is little force with which to push through their “universal” programs.

In seeing race- and group-conscious policies as the cause of the failure of the progressive agenda, the victim blamers have adopted the views of conservatives and neo-liberals, such as Nathan Glazer, Thomas Sowell and Michael Kinsley. As they see it, the struggle against discrimination swerved radically off course when Black militants and white establishment liberals began to demand equality of results, not just equality of opportunity.

By insisting that affirmative action result in proportional representation for minorities in jobs, training programs, and universities, anti-racists supposedly demanded racism in reverse. Affirmative action supporters are the real racists since they would have employers, university admissions officers, and others in power be “race-conscious” instead of “race-blind.”(9) Say the critics, affirmative action is an affront to the American principles and practices of fairness and meritocracy.

Without an explicit rejection of the liberal individualism inherent in this view, Ezorsky shows why we should not accept such a vision. She demolishes its assumptions.

She demonstrates that there is nothing meritocratic about a system in which the vast majority of jobs are won through personal contacts, in which there are two million instances of housing discrimination every year, in which predominantly African-American school districts receive less funding than economically similar white districts, in which Blacks with a college education suffer a higher unemployment rate than white high-school dropouts, and in which African Americans constitute over 50% of the nation’s maids and garbage collectors, but only 4% of its managers and 3% of its physicians and lawyers.(10) Put simply, the United States is not and never has been a meritocracy.

Ezorsky further points out that a consistent meritocratic argument against affirmative action would also have to attack those programs that give preference to personal contacts, workers with seniority, veterans, legacies and athletes. All of these contradict hiring or promotion by merit.

The fact that conservatives and neoliberals spend their time attacking minority scholarship programs and not university deans’ discretionary admissions lists is clear evidence of their hypocrisy and racism. It is far safer for George Bush to attack set-asides for minority businesses than to oppose savings and loan deregulation, which has proven to be nothing more than affirmative action for bankers.

Ezorsky goes even one step further to show that contrary to being an affront to standards of merit, affirmative action can actually enhance them. Under affirmative action, hiring and promotion criteria must be closely related to the ability to do the job. This helps white workers as well as African-American workers because it eliminates hiring and promotion based on personal contacts, favoritism, and arbitrariness.(11)

Ezorsky recognizes that in practice affirmative action can (it does not always) pit better-qualified or more-experienced white male workers against less-qualified or less-experienced minority and female workers.

When, for example, a lower-seniority African-American steelworker is chosen for promotion over a higher-seniority white steelworker in an affirmative action program, Ezorsky suggests that the white steelworker be compensated through a federally subsidized program funded by a progressive tax. In effect, this would shift the economic burden of affirmative action from the working class to business and the wealthy, thus weakening the material basis of white workers’ opposition.

Recently, affirmative action has come under attack from several Black liberals, the most prominent being Shelby Steele and Stephen Carter.(12) The thrust of their argument is that affirmative action undermines the self-confidence of African-Americans as they compete in the market. Because affirmative action is so widespread, Black people can never be sure if they have “earned” their achievements or if they were “given.” As a result, they lose their self-respect.

Against this argument, Ezorsky suggests that “because the overwhelming majority of blacks have been grievously wronged by racism, they deserve to be compensated for such injury and black beneficiaries of employment preference–like veterans compensated by employment preference–have no good reason to feel unworthy.”(13) I would add that I have yet to hear George Bush question his merit for the presidency because he was a legacy at Yale.

Does Affirmative Action Work?

One strikingly pervasive myth about affirmative action is that it has not benefitted those it was meant to help: the most disadvantaged people of color. Supposedly only middle-class minority members benefit from race-conscious programs. Ezorsky cites several studies which strongly suggest otherwise, including one of Black women textile workers in the South whose wages have tripled since the advent of affirmative action in the mills.(14)

@9BODY = More evidence of affirmative action’s positive impact on working-class people of color can be gleaned from a brief look at the major Supreme Court cases dealing with race- and gender-conscious programs. These cases covered workers at a power company, metropolitan transit workers, sheet metal workers, steelworkers, and firefighters, not typical members of the middle class.(15)

According to a study by the Bureau of National Affairs, affirmative action has also resulted in promotional opportunities for working-class people of color (and women) in such diverse companies as Federal Express, BankAmerica, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck.(16)

By Executive Order 11246, affirmative action is mandated for virtually all federal government contractors. This means that the tens of thousands of private companies that do business with the government are required to institute affirmative action programs covering tens of millions of workers.

These programs cover all the workers in these companies, not just those working on government contracts. Affirmative action is so widespread the New York Times said it is “as familiar to American businesses as tally sheets and bottom lines.”(17)

Plus, it is effective. Since Lyndon Johnson issued order 11246 in 1965, the proportion of African-American workers finding employment and advancement in the federal contract sector (where affirmative action is mandatory) has been substantially better than in the noncontract sector (where it is not).(18)

Does this mean that affirmative action is alive and well? Not necessarily. A Supreme Court ruling in 1989 invalidated most state and municipal set-aside programs for minority businesses, though not those of the federal government.(19) The entire federal judiciary, not just the Supreme Court, has grown increasingly conservative, making it difficult for women and people of color to win job discrimination suits and easier for opponents to challenge existing programs.

A direct assault on affirmative action in education took place recently when Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander announced he would seek to eliminate all publicly funded minority-only fellowships.

The 1991 Civil Rights Act

Not all the news is bad. After chanting the “quota” mantra for nearly two years, George Bush reversed himself in November and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, virtually the same bill he had vetoed a year earlier. The three main reason for his reversal: 1) fear the Senate would override his veto for the first time; 2) worry that David Duke’s campaign in Louisiana and the Clarence Thomas hearings had alienated moderate Republicans; and 3) knowledge that a veto would allow the Democrats to exploit his opposition to civil rights in the 1992 election. This last reason might be an indication that while opposition to affirmative action remains high, many voters may not go for Bush’s racist appeals that worked so well in 1988.

The 1991 Act is significant for several reasons. It overturns several Supreme Court decisions that had weakened affirmative action. It writes disparate (adverse) impact language into law for the first time. It makes it easier for people of color and women to sue for damages as victims of employment discrimination.(20)

Is it a quota bill? Absolutely not. In fact, it explicitly outlaws quotas, along with the practice of “group norming” through which different groups are judged by different standards.

Conservatives still cry “quota” because they believe the bill “forces” employers to hire by race and gender in order to avoid disparate impact lawsuits. This has never been the case in the history of affirmative action law. All an employer has to do to avoid a suit is use employment practices that are job-related. For example, an employment requirement that results in the exclusion of all women from a job is perfectly legal if the employer demonstrates that it is a business necessity.

The fact of the matter is that employers have rarely used job-related tests.(21) To do so is an additional cost they do not wish to pay. They prefer to use race and gender characteristics when hiring, thereby avoiding disparate impact lawsuits and the expense of devising and implementing job-related hiring and promotion requirements.

In effect, these numerical standards transfer the cost of affirmative action from the employer to white and male workers. Remember, however, the law does not require the numerical standard. The employers choose it. What they really want is the right to use any hiring criteria without regard to disparate impact. Here again, white workers benefit from affirmative action to the extent it forces employers to eliminate personal favoritism and other arbitrary hiring and promotion methods.(22)

Conservatives use the term “quota” to apply to any use of numerical standards for the hiring and promotion of certain groups. As Ezorsky points out, the use of the term is intentionally derogatory, reminiscent of the quotas that kept Jews and African Americans out of universities for so many years.

She prefers the term numerical goal, of which we can distinguish two types.

First is an impartial numerical goal that seeks to see people of color and women hired and promoted at a rate matching their presence in the community. This numerical goal is said to be impartial because, absent discrimination, we would generally (though not always) expect people of color and women to be distributed in a company as they are distributed in the community.

Second is a preferential numerical goal, usually employed to redress past discrimination. For example, when promoting workers from semiskilled to skilled positions, a company might choose African Americans 50% of the time in an effort to redress their historic underrepresentation in skilled jobs at the company.

Quotas are distinguished from numerical goals in two ways. First, the former are hard and fast requirements while the latter are targets. Second, quotas often imply the lowering of qualification standards, while numerical goals usually require a minimum qualification after which the goal can be implemented.

Numerical goals and quotas are not always bad. They are effective in addressing past and present employment discrimination, especially where “voluntary” efforts at reducing the impact of institutional racism have failed.

As Ezorsky demonstrates, quotas are justified by the persistence of racism and sexism, the need to compensate women and people of color who have suffered from past racism and sexism, and by the worthiness of basic employment equality as a social goal. True, quotas can (though often do not) hurt particular white and male workers, but such workers, when clearly identified, can and should be compensated.(23)

Contrary to the outcry from conservatives, the use of quotas is not widespread. According to a June 1991 survey of top executives in the Business Week 1000 listing of top corporations, 78% said their companies used “special efforts to recruit” minorities and women, but only 5% said they “use lower hiring standards for them.” Only 40% said their companies “set numerical goals but not quotas.” The rest either did not use any numerical standards (48%) or were not sure (12%). The survey also found that only 6% of the executives felt affirmative action caused their company “a lot of trouble.”(24)

Despite signing the Civil Rights Act and declaring “I support affirmative action,” Bush and his administration are attempting to further dismantle race- and gender-conscious affirmative action.

On the eve of signing the act, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray circulated a proposed signing statement that said, in part, that “any regulation, rule, enforcement practice or other aspects of these [Federal government] programs that mandates, encourages or otherwise involves the use of quotas, preferences, set-asides” or any other devices on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin are “to be terminated as soon as legally feasible.”

While Bush withdrew the statement after outcry from Democrats and moderate Republicans, the directive was clearly a trial balloon. If re-elected, Bush will no doubt attempt to float it again.(25)

Following Bush’s lead, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it would not apply the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to currently pending cases. This interpretation is contrary to what several of the bill’s authors (Republicans as well as Democrats) assert. Furthermore, the EEOC and the Justice Department have set about to interpret the act in the most conservative way possible. They will attempt to use the act’s prohibition of quotas as a wedge against all affirmative action programs.

They also hope to put the widest possible interpretation on the laws’ use of the term “business necessity,” thereby freeing employers from the cost of proving that their employment practices are job-related. The EEOC has particular power in this area because the act calls upon it to rewrite the “Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures,” which are used by employers to confirm they are in compliance with affirmative action law. Given its conservative bent, the EEOC will no doubt rewrite the guidelines to weaken affirmative action.(26)

Unfortunately, opponents of affirmative action are also helped by the ambiguities of the act itself. The act is not clear on just which types of race- and gender-conscious employment programs are allowed and which are not. It is ambiguous about the extent of damages for proving intentional discrimination. It is not clear whether or not state and local civil service tests are allowed or how they may be used. This leaves the bill’s interpretation to the courts, which are dominated by conservatives. For years to come we can expect more legal challenges to affirmative action, especially as both public and private employers make working people pay its costs.(27)

The Politics of Race and Class

Affirmative action is also receiving renewed political challenge, especially in the presidential campaign. The Republicans are the loudest critics, as David Duke, Patrick Buchanan and George Bush compete to discover and exploit the next Willie Horton. In more subtle ways, the Democrats also join the assault.

Unlike in previous campaigns, the Democrats are attempting to exploit the class resentments caused by more than a decade of all-out attacks on working people. But their newly discovered willingness to acknowledge class inequalities should not blind us to the class basis of their party. Democratic candidates espouse a middle-class populism that sees enemies in both the rich and the poor, in both business and labor, in both the elite and the illiterate, with the weight of the attack always tilted toward the bottom.

Whereas conservatives divide the country between Black and white, the Democrats slice the pie differently, into three parts, with the middle class caught (where else?) in the middle. That which divides the middle class from those above is class, but that which divides them from those below is race.

People of color are excluded from the picture of the Democratic middle class because they are, by definition, the poor, the unemployed, the recipients of welfare and the criminals who make up one side of the vice grips that supposedly “squeeze” the middle class. The Democrats kill two birds with one stone: they temper their assault on those at the top while also appealing to the racial resentment they have bred so well.

For socialists, the growing recognition of class inequality represents an opportunity not to relinquish race- and gender-conscious affirmative action, but to expand its defense. First, employers must pay for race- and gender-based affirmative action, not white and male workers. Second, in addition to, but not in place of, race- and gender-based programs, affirmative action can be expanded to include those white and male workers who have suffered from class inequalities.

Third, and most important, socialists can question the assumption that lies at the heart of the debate over affirmative action: that people have to compete for scarce jobs and resources.

Admittedly these demands are not on the agenda at the moment, but socialists can still counter the class criticism of affirmative action. The source of white male workers’ pain is not African-American or women workers but the employers who keep jobs scarce. But for institutional racism they might not have had better qualifications or more seniority than their Black and female counterparts. And finally, they have an interest in seeing the divisive impact of racism and sexism eliminated.

Through these discussions, the debate over affirmative action can be a springboard from which we can leave behind the bankrupt assumptions of liberalism and begin to outline both a socialist critique of contemporary capitalism and a vision of a socialist alternative.


  1. For a provocative exposition and critique of this trend see Adolph Reed Jr. and Julian Bond, “Equality: Why We Can’t Wait,” The Nation, December 9, 1991.
    back to text
  2. Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority (New York: Arlington House, 1969); “Duke, Farrakhan and Tribal Loyalties,” In These Times, November 6-12, 1991, 2, and “Democrats Share the Blame for David Duke,” In These Times, November 27-December 10, 1991, 14; Jonathan Rieder, Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1985); William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987); Theda Skocpol, “Sustainable Social Policy: Fighting Poverty without Poverty Programs,” American Prospect No. 2 (Summer 1990): 58-70; Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (New York: Norton, 1991).
    back to text
  3. Edsall and Edsall, Chain Reaction, 47, 74-5, 143.
    back to text
  4. See especially the Edsalls, Chain Reaction; Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged; Skocpol, “Sustainable Social Policy”; and Paul Starr, “Civil Reconstruction: What to Do Without Affirmative Action,” The American Prospect No. 8 (Winter 1992).
    back to text
  5. Ezorsky, 9.
    back to text
  6. Ezorsky, 15, 67.
    back to text
  7. Ezorsky, 15.
    back to text
  8. Often “group-specific” and “targeted” are euphemisms that refer to programs for the poor and other oppressed minorities. (A capital-gains tax reduction is never called a targeted program.) They are falsely counterposed to “universal” programs such as social security and the mortgage interest tax deduction, neither of which are in fact universal. “Universal” is simply a euphemism that refers to programs that mainly benefit white people.
    back to text
  9. Nathan Glazer, Ethnic Dilemmas 1964-1982 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983); Thomas Sowell, “Are Quotas Good for Blacks?” in Racial Preference and Racial Justice: The New Affirmative Action Controversy, ed. Russell Nieli (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991); Michael Kinsley, “TRB From Washington: Race Unconscious,” The New Republic, December 16, 1991. I am told that Glazer has retreated somewhat in his opposition to affirmative action, but I have not found any statement to that effect.
    back to text
  10. Ezorsky, 13, 69, 27.
    back to text
  11. Ezorsky, 88-93.
    back to text
  12. Shelby Steele, Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America (New York: St. Martin, 1990); Stephen Carter, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby (New York: Basic Books, 1991).
    back to text
  13. Ezorsky, 93-94.
    back to text
  14. See also Jonathan Leonard, “Splitting Blacks?: Affirmative Action and Earnings Inequality Within and Across Races,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #1327, April 1984.
    back to text
  15. Griggs v. Duke Power, 401 U.S. 424 (1971); Johnson v. Transportation Agency, 480 U.S. 616 (1987); Local 28, Sheet Metal Workers International Association v. EEOC, 478 U.S. 421 (1986); United Steeelworkers fo America v. Weber 443 U.S. 193 (1979); Local Number 93, Firefighters v. City of Cleveland, 478 U.S. 501 (1986).
    back to text
  16. Bureau of National Affairs, Affirmative Action Today: A Legal and Practical Analysis (Washington, D.C.: BNA, 1986).
    back to text
  17. Steven A. Holmes, “Affirmative Action Plans Are Now Part of the Normal Corporate Way of Life,” New York Times, November 22, 1991.
    back to text
  18. Jonatahn Leonard, “Employment and Occupational Advance Under Affirmative Action,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #1270, February 1984; idem., “The Impact of Affirmative Action on Employment,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #1310, March 1984; Richard Freeman, “Affirmative Action: Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?” New Perspectives (Fall 1984); idem., “Black Economic Progress after 1964: Who Has Gained and Why?” in Studies in Labor Markets, ed. by S. Rosen (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981).
    back to text
  19. Michael DeCourcy Hinds, “Minority Business Set Back Sharply By Courts’ Rulings,” New York Times, December 23, 1991.
    back to text
  20. The text of the act can be found in Congressional Record, October 25, 1991, 15273.
    back to text
  21. Ezorsky, 33.
    back to text
  22. See Editors, “It’s a Quota Bill,” Paul A. Gigot, “Without Beliefs, Bush Stumbles Into Carterism,” and Kenneth P. Carson, “New Civil Rights Law Shoots Itself in the Foot,” Wall Street Journal, November 22, 1991.
    back to text
  23. Ezorsky, 55-57, 33-38.
    back to text
  24. “Corporate America Grades its Efforts,” Business Week<D>, July 8, 1991, 63. The accompanying article concluded that affirmative action is an “important symbol of America’s commitment to civil rights. More than that it’s an effective club. A deep vein of prejudice still runs through American society, despite all the talk about the increasingly diversified work force. Government-mandated hiring preferences prod companies into integrating their work force, and in the past twenty-five years of affirmative action, blacks and other minorities have benefited socially and economically. Individual businesses and the economy have profited, not lost. Until America comes up with a better idea, it’s wise to stick with a policy that, despite its flaws, is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity.”
    back to text
  25. Steven Holmes, “Bush To Order End of Rulings Allowing Race-Based Hiring,” New York Times, November 21, 1991; Andrew Rosenthal, “President Tries to Quell Furor on Interpreting Scope of New Law,” New York Times, November 22, 1991.
    back to text
  26. Robert Pear, “Agency Restricts Scope of Redress in Old Bias Cases,” New York Times, December 31, 1991; Steven Holmes, “Lawyers Expect Ambiguities in New Rights Law to Bring Years of Lawsuits,” New York Times, December 27, 1991.
    back to text
  27. The confusion over the act was so great even before it passed that Senator Danforth, one of the bill’s Republican sponsors, had an “Interpretive Memorandum” read into the Congressional Record in an attempt to preempt any contradictory interpretations. See Congressional Record, October 25, 1991, 15276.
    back to text

May-June 1992, ATC 38