Bigotry and 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.


Question:

By your refusal to accept other points of view on the subject of affirmative action, you fit the dictionary definition of a bigot yourself!

Is discrimination of any kind wrong I say it is. Affirmative action IS a form of discrimination, and therefore, in my opinion, it is wrong. How does discrimination become right in your defense of affirmative action

Answer:

The American Heritage Dictionary definition of a bigot is: “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”

I’m white and I am completely tolerant of other groups, religions, races and politics, unless those groups work against human rights. I am tolerant of Roger Clegg and Ward Connerly to the point of allowing them to air their views in an issue of DiversityInc magazine. I don’t agree with them and will also include differing opinions, including my own.

I am indeed not tolerant of groups like neo-Nazis–but not to the point of denying anyone their constitutional rights.

You are welcome to your opinion, but it doesn’t change the fact that people suffer because of their “religion, race, or politics.” Although great strides have been made, discrimination is alive and well in the United States today and the aftereffects of virulent, violent and legislated racism persist and can be measured. For example, black households currently have one-tenth the wealth of white households, Barack Obama is only the third black senator since Reconstruction (more than 100 years ago), there are not 50 percent women senators, at least 30 percent of work-capable college-educated people with disabilities are unemployed, etc.

In my opinion, affirmative action does not discriminate, it provides access. I think it’s detrimental to our society to deny Americans equal access (based on a factor like race) to education and capital that will allow them to develop to their true human potential. It is not their fault, nor mine, that they and their ancestors were discriminated against, but I feel it is my responsibility to support affirmative action to correct the past injustices and provide a level playing field so the best talent wins. This must be a proactive program.

Now I know the thought on many people’s minds is that it is illegal to discriminate and therefore affirmative action is not needed. That opinion brings up a deep and potentially disturbing question: Are people created equal or NOT created equal

If you feel that people ARE created equal, then, logically, talent is equally distributed too. I believe this–I also believe that the evidence of representation of wealth and power in our country demonstrates something went wrong along lines of race, gender, orientation, disability and age. I believe that our country is best served by enabling the best talent and making sure it has access to where it will best serve and flourish.

That is affirmative action. You can narrowly define it as “discrimination” and attack it, which is what bigot Roger Clegg does, but I think it’s anti-American to deny people the right to exist as equals. I think it’s simply not in our best interest. Sometimes you have to help a person become an equal. This raises the stature of both the helper and the helped and, in the end, our society.

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