The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

2/28/2005

Ward Churchill and the future of affirmative action

One final thought on Ward Churchill: how does this bear on the future of affirmative action.

All available evidence indicates that Ward Churchill was an affirmative action hire, put on an extremely abbreviated tenure track at a major university, despite wholly lacking in academic credentials, simply because he was able to falsely pass himself off as an American Indian. And not just an American Indian, but the "voice" of Native American culture. We know how that he is a fraud.

What does this say about the future of affirmative action?

The purpose of affirmative action is give a helping hand to people who are members of groups that are historically under-represented within a specific universe. While an argument could have been made that this should have been limited to black Americans, because of the continuing legacy of slavery, that battle long ago was lost. Dick Nixon's social engineering legacy has been extended well beyond that narrow focus to include women, Latinos, Alaskans/Aleuts, etc.

Among the many problems with affirmative action has been identification of the target recipient. The whole woman/man thing is relatively simple and straight-forward (except at the extreme margins). But what about racial classifications? Race is an artificial construct. It has no biological meaning. Is it simply a degree of skin pigmentation? We are a racially diverse society, where Loving v. Virginia invalidated the anti-miscegenation laws of many states. And, even without that, there is little "pure" African blood among African-Americans, due to the systematic rape of females in the slavery system. So, there is an element of self-identification in determining who is a member of the protected class designated to benefit from a particular affirmative action plan.

Reductio ad absurdum: Ward Churchill.

This man has self-identified as American Indian. Don't know why. Perhaps the hate-filled little poseur just feels it in his soul (assuming, arguendo, that he has a soul).

What's to prevent others from making a similar self-identification? Especially since we live in an environment where the faculty at the University of Colorado deem it a virtual hate crime to even investigate the matter. What's to stop some marginal high school student, who's straight-off-the -Mayflower white, from making a Churchillian claim to being Native American, just so he can benefit from a set-aside designated for a member of a particular racial group? What about me? I'm just as Native American as Churchill. Why can't I apply for a government contract of some sort as a minority-owned enterprise, due to my newly-discovered status as a Native American, Ward Churchill tribe?

If anyone can gain the benefits of affirmative Churchill-style, simply by opting into the designated class, assured of the fact that not only will no one look behind the claim, but it will deemed impermissible to even make inquiry, then how we determine who should benefit?

Back when President Clinton was saying "mend it, don't end it" vis-à-vis affirmative action, one student said that everyone should be entitled to affirmative action. But if everyone is entitled to a benefit, then it is a benefit to no one. If Ward Churchill is entitled to affirmative action, who isn't?
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