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In 2028, Will We Still ‘Need’ Affirmative Action?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
Oprah & Cosby: donor fatigue. Me: taxpayer fatigue. My two Asian, college daughters: overrepresented minority fatigue. “The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there. If you ask the (inner-city?) kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers.” Even old ditzy-flitzy weathervane Supreme Court Justice Sandy Day O’Connor put a 25-year limit on her last opinion in favor of affirmative action. White Guy, do you think women and minorities will be appreciably different by 2028, so that they won’t “need” free stuff for their sex and/or skin color?

Answer:
If you believe all people are created equal, then the timeline to end affirmative action is easy to determine: We can end affirmative action when household income is statistically within one standard deviation for all races.

This is a simple and fair measure of the equity in our society. It will take some work to make this happen, however it is the only way for our country to truly show that we have the strength of our own convictions. If you do the math, you can tell that whatever investment we need to make will be miniscule compared with the benefit our entire economy will reap. For example, if black households had the same median wealth of white households, it would be equivalent to injecting the entire GDP of Japan into our economy—every year.

Please understand that this isn’t wealth redistribution. This is simply removing the impediments to talent development. There are several precedents for societal change on this scale. For example, the G.I. Bill gave education to veterans returning from World War II and Korea. This democratized higher education. Our country went from an industrial/agrarian society to a knowledge-worker society in one generation. The resulting creation of wealth due to the more effective use of human capital in this country was unprecedented in human history.

 

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