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Part II: Affirmative Action

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy, has frequently proclaimed her love for Affirmative Action, even going so far as to define herself as “a product of Affirmative Action.” She also claims she would not have been admitted to Princeton or Yale Law school without this policy because her “test scores were not comparable” to those of her peers. She maintains that she was granted these positions because she is a hispanic woman. Her devotion to “diversity at all costs” has driven her to deny promotions to the New Haven firefighters who earned them just because their skin isn’t dark enough to merit a position of authority.

If Affirmative Action is the great equalizer, then why do we limit its power to the corporate world? If racial equality is the ultimate objective, then why don’t we eliminate “racial bias” in every realm? Nowhere is “racial bias” more prevalent than in athletics. Lets take the NBA as an example. In the 1960’s, teams were comprised of approximately 80% whites and 20% blacks, a ratio roughly equal to that of the general population. Half a century later, these figures have become horribly skewed. While whites still account for around 80% of the United States’ population, only 20% of NBA athletes are white. Meanwhile, the number of black athletes has jumped from 20% to 76%.

In the NFL, the situation is not much better with a mere 31% white athletes. It’s hard to believe we have neglected these injustices for so long, especially when we already have a system in place to “level the playing field.” If it is acceptable to require Wall St. to turn down the most qualified candidates in order to keep the competition “fair,” then why are sports teams exempt? While Obama was busy railing on CEOs for cutting themselves too big a check, he conveniently forgot American sports are also billion dollar industries. If it’s okay to demand that executives limit their pay, then why don’t we force all-stars to take a pay cut in order to spare the fans some pain at the ticket counter?

Of course, few people would want Obama meddling with their favorite team, and nobody wants to lose their competitive edge by administrative mandate. My question is, “Why are other companies any different?” What many people don’t understand is the amount of competition that already takes place between the “corporations.” While sports teams have dramatic competitions on an organized schedule, companies must make game changing decisions on a daily basis. If a company fails to remain competitive, it will inevitably fail (or beg for bailout cash a la Government Motors).

Team coaches and managers understand this concept. That is why they choose their players based on statistics, not personality or ethnicity. People ignore the disproportionate numbers because they are confident their coaches have put the best possible team on the field. Why should we assume the motivation of a corporate board is any different? Because businesses must compete to survive, the hiring process will inevitably become color blind. Just like a professional sports team, companies must choose the best available candidate to fill an open position. Failure to choose the most qualified candidate, regardless of race, is an unsustainable practice. It’s also how we end up with judges who don’t understand the purpose of the courts.