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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 2, 2013 at 7:30 AM

The ongoing evolution of affirmative action

Affirmative action is outdated, and Supreme Court agrees

Abigail Fisher, who sued the University of Texas when she was not offered a spot at the university's flagship Austin campus in 2008, with Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation, speaks at a news conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Monday, June 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in higher education will have "no impact" on the University of Texas' admissions policy, school president Bill Powers said Monday, noting UT will continue to use race as a factor in some cases.  [AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.]

Abigail Fisher, who sued the University of Texas when she was not offered a spot at the university’s flagship Austin campus in 2008, with Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation, speaks at a news conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Monday, June 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in higher education will have “no impact” on the University of Texas’ admissions policy, school president Bill Powers said Monday, noting UT will continue to use race as a factor in some cases. [AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.]

I was rather disappointed to see the semantic gymnastics to which Lynne Varner resorted to analyze the latest Supreme Court decision on affirmative action as actually supporting the continued application of this terribly tired doctrine. [“Column: Affirming a call for diversity,” Opinion, June 28.]

She writes that Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, leaves intact a ridiculously stated 2003 ruling that Varner maintains embraces the patently fanciful order of “allowing race to be one factor in college admissions decisions as long as it is not the determining factor.”

Somebody will have to explain to me, very slowly, how something can logically survive as one factor in making decisions and yet not, by simple definition, be a deciding factor.

Of course, the more sensible among us — that is, those not emotionally committed to the survival of affirmative action — read the eminent justice, when he writes, according to Varner, “that race should be used only after ‘available workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,’” as stating very clearly and, excuse me, affirmatively, that race is only allowable as a decisive factor when literally all else has failed.

Clearly, the court recognizes affirmative action is, at its very best, a hopelessly obsolete relic of an era when justice cried out for an immediate, if perhaps inefficient, method for injecting racial balance in a system never before concerned with such.

A diverse student body definitely enhances the educational experience of our children. However, hanging on to the indefensible notion that such diversity is impossible unless race continues to be the deciding factor when two applicants, otherwise equally qualified, approach the admissions committee is simply incorrect.

David Doyal, Federal Way

Income and resources outweigh race

I heartily agree with Victoria Bernstein’s letter in Saturday’s paper. [“Northwest Voices: Economic inequality,” Opinion, June 29.]

If anyone has any doubts, pick up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers.” How we are raised and where we are from sets much of the tone for whether we will get ahead in sports, academia and business.

We need to focus less on race and more on class. Gladwell’s examples seem to support the argument that when people, regardless of race, have fewer resources, their talents aren’t developed and they lose chances in life as adults.

We should all be very concerned about the erosion of the middle class, and we should do what we can to ensure that people from all walks of life can develop their talents and make a decent living.

Marilyn Milano, Seattle

Comments | More in Education, Politics | Topics: affirmative action, class, diversity

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