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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 07/28/2010

NAACP fries Webb for call to end affirmative action

By Peter Galuszka

The head of the Virginia NAACP has skewered U.S. Sen. Jim Webb for arguing in an op-ed piece that affirmative action programs should end.

King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state NAACP, wrote: "Do you really believe that affirmative action has hurt white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants or are you pandering to the divisive, conservative, Tea Bagger types whose votes you will need in 2012?"

Webb created quite a stir with his Wall Street Journal commentary titled "Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege." I thought he presented a lucid and engaging discussion of how the old stereotype of the privileged Anglo-Saxon should have died years ago.

And, having grown up partly in the South, I could appreciate how negative images of the region and the people held by non-Southerners often lack a basis in reality. After leaving my North Carolina home for college in the Boston area in 1970, for example, I was struck by how many highway patrol stories I heard from classmates who had never really visited the region and whose views had been shaped by movies such as "In the Heat of the Night" or television footage of civil rights protesters being beaten (mostly in Alabama or Mississippi).

Furthermore, I have always admired Webb as a writer, notably his Vietnam war novel "Fields of Fire" and "Born Fighting," his history of pugnacious Scots-Irish immigrants, which fits perfectly his ancestors and some of mine.

But at the end of his Journal piece, Webb, out of the blue, hits us with: "Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end."

Whoa, I thought, how did we jump to this conclusion? He offers no support for that particular point, and I have to agree on this one with Khalfani, who wrote:

"Your opponent then and coming George Allen would not have had the gall to write about the 'myth of white privilege' even though I am sure he feels that way."

Ouch!

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | July 28, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, economy, education, history, race, schools  
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Comments

The interesting thing is that the result of this social experiment seems very spotty, and it certainly has been prejudicial to many. It would appear by and large that for 40 some years far too many have wasted the opportunity at the expense of others more qualified. The real question is how can you end prejudice by fostering prejudice? Is this the "We had to destroy it to save it" fantasy and philosophy? Do you really think that reversing prejudice doesn't simply alienate a different group of people - that it doesn't make anyone "color blind" - that it doesn't continue the divisiveness - that it doesn't drive the dividing wedge deeper?

Posted by: tnvret | July 28, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Khalfani, who wrote: "Your opponent then and coming George Allen would not have had the gall to write about the 'myth of white privilege' even though I am sure he feels that way."
-------------------------------------------
The reason for that is because George Allen had absolutely no creditability nor trust when it came to the issues of affirmative action but Senator Webb does!

I am a Black American and I am sick of hearing Rush Limbaugh's underachieving male listeners blaming Affirmative Action for their low economic, professional, and social achievements but I digress. Senator Webb is right. White Americans are having to carry an extra load in areas where the playing field is level without Affirmative Action. One of my biggest concerns about dismantling Affirmative Action in the areas where there is parity amongst the races is that White Americans in power would cease the opportunity to to assert covert Jim Crow tactics but those feelings & suspicions have been allayed with the election of President Obama.

I am sure I will get blasted really hard for this post and I understand why. I believe Senator Webb is coming from a good place and I trust him.

Posted by: SteelWheel25 | July 28, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Khalfani, who wrote: "Your opponent then and coming George Allen would not have had the gall to write about the 'myth of white privilege' even though I am sure he feels that way."
-------------------------------------------
The reason for that is because George Allen had absolutely no creditability nor trust when it came to the issues of affirmative action but Senator Webb does!

I am a Black American and I am sick of hearing Rush Limbaugh's underachieving male listeners blaming Affirmative Action for their low economic, professional, and social achievements but I digress. Senator Webb is right. White Americans are having to carry an extra load in areas where the playing field is level without Affirmative Action. One of my biggest concerns about dismantling Affirmative Action in the areas where there is parity amongst the races is that White Americans in power would cease the opportunity to to assert covert Jim Crow tactics but those feelings & suspicions have been allayed with the election of President Obama.

I am sure I will get blasted really hard for this post and I understand why. I believe Senator Webb is coming from a good place and I trust him.

Posted by: SteelWheel25 | July 28, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Question: Does the argument against Affrimative Action programs only apply to race?

What about gender? Look at how women have gain access to many of the professions they were as excluded from because of their gender prior to AA. Because of AA we see women being employed and being successful in positions such as police officers, firefighters, the armed forces, bank officers, doctors, attorneys and many, many other fields. Didn't they also take jobs away from thee white males who had previously had exclusive access to them?

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | July 28, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

tnvret,
you made some valid points; however, without affirmative action the people in power during the era when racial injustices were being perpetrated would have never of their own volition make things right with people of color. That is a cold fact that can't be disputed. Did affirmative action entrench the hatred of black people even more... Absolutely, but the law made it so they could not act on that hatred with impunity as they were able to for so long up until then.

You made the point that the record is spotty over the 40+ years of Affirmative Action. I disagree. Open minded White Americans gave Black Americans a chance and doors were opened that were before closed. Over the 40+ years we have witness some of the most ardent supporters of racial segregation change their minds and I am convince this happened because of Affirmative Action. Now, I think it is time to put many aspects of affirmative action to rest and Senator Webb is the right man to do this. If you are serious about wanting to bring to an end Affirmative Action then stop focusing on the smothering animosity that still lingers and focus instead on how ALL Americans can have a fair shot without any preferences attached.

Posted by: SteelWheel25 | July 28, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Just because Webb is a racist and a misogynist doesn't mean you have a right to criticize him. He supported Obama, what more do you need?

Posted by: jiji1 | July 28, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

SteelWheel25,

I understand the catch up concept, and I won't deny it had a positive effect for some. What I do wonder more about is what PracticalIndependent said; it seems that women made better use of affirmative action than black Americans, but I have absolutely no idea how to quantify that. Smothering the animosity is a two way street - it requires the fair shot without the unfair shot. I simply cannot be untouched when someone is given unfair advantage over me or my children to "right" a wrong for which I had no part - sorry, I wasn't there, I'm not guilty, I don't accept guilt, and I don't deserve the punishment - and neither do my children. And, yes, it makes me angry and less tolerant.

Posted by: tnvret | July 28, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

tnvret,
Thank you for responding to my post!

I agree with you. And I sympathize and empathize with you; hence the reason I agree with Senator Webb that it is time to start dismantling Affirmative Action remedies in areas were there is parity in competition or should be by now.

The biggest reason why, I believe, Affirmative Action has lasted and expanded as it has is because the wrong people/groups have been arguing the issue. Senator Webb is much like Bill Clinton when he did Welfare reform. Bill Clinton was probably the only white politician in America that could pull welfare reform off without being labeled a racist. And I believe fervently that Senator Webb is such a person that could substantially reduce the pervasiveness of Affirmative Action. Now understand tnvret, there are at least three well known Black Americans whose opposition to Affirmative Action predates Senator Webb's on this issue ( Justice Clarence Thomas, Ward Connolly, and Alan Keyes. And there are plenty more everyday Black Americans, myself included, who want to some day see Affirmative Action a thing of the past. Please believe this! I encounter good American people like yourself everyday that get a raw deal but soldier on and don't harbor hatred toward people of color. Just understand that there are plenty of Black Americans who know how you feel and want to correct the wrong you are unfairly experiencing. We want to do this because racial harmony, more than anything else, will lift us all as a nation.

By the way, nothing irks me more than to accomplish something extraordinary without the help of Affirmative Action only to have my accomplishments disparaged and dismissed as "Affirmative action" by Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads!

Posted by: SteelWheel25 | July 28, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

SteelWheel25,

You are welcome. I can really appreciate your last statement, and sometimes I think many people are unfairly given too little credit for effort, diligence, perseverance, and talent because others are unwilling to look with unbiased eyes. I've read many of Webb's books and while it may not be the most enjoyable of them "Born Fighting" is excellent, and it probably makes his view more understandable - from several perspectives. "Better together" is what we should all be striving for.

Posted by: tnvret | July 28, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Here is why Jim Webb is wrong.
http://new-possibilities.blogspot.com/2010/07/does-affirmative-action-discriminate.html

Posted by: ansonasaka1 | July 28, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The first to cry racist is usually the real racist.

Posted by: HughJassPhD | July 28, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe the person who is most qualified to do the job, should be the one to get it. I don't care what color your skin is or what gender you are. Affirmitive Action IS outdated. I believe it to be one of the factors that keeps unequal treatment alive.

This coming from a woman that works in a man's world.

I like to think that I was given this job because I was the most qualified, not because they needed to reach a quota.

One will never know whether it was their skin color, gender, or whether they were the most qualified... because of AA.

Posted by: Petals81 | July 28, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

What AA is (was) supposed to do is give "qualified" persons an opportunity to, at least be considered for a job. (BTW quotas have been against the law for over 20 years).

The concept of "most qualified" is, at best, subjective. Who's to say who's the "most qualified." What's the objective measure. Moreover, "most qualified" on paper does not necessarily make one the best candidate for a job (they may have degrees out of the ying -yang, but be ineffective working with people).

I would suggest that prior to AA programs, race was a factor in determining the "most qualified" for many professions and as a result they were dominated by white males. Today, things may have very well changed, at least to the degree where the pool of qualified applicants for a position is diverse enough such that racial minorities and females are as qualified (and are viewed as such) as to be able to compete head up with white males. So, AA mays probably no longer be ncessary in many job classes.

So, to Petals81. If you applied for a position, met the qualifications, competed for the job, had a good interview, was selected and are performing in that position...You need not feel quilty. I would suggest that, mre than likely you were hired not only because you were "qualified" but was the "best candidate for the position.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | July 29, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

A former NFL football player in Baltimore decided he wanted to become a contractor after he retired from the NFL, even though he had no experience. He was a multi-millionaire, but solely on the color of his skin he was considered a 'disadvantaged minority contractor' and was given preferences by the city government. Meanwhile a small rural white contractor from Appalachia, with only a high school degree, but experience was not given any preference.

Under what moral justification could someone say the rich former NFL player deserved a government granted advantage over the rural white contractor? Can someone explain this to me and justify this? Does this make sense from a moral or public policy perspective?

Posted by: beebop31 | July 30, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

@beebop31
Even worse is your suggestion that whites, unlike people of color, have never been the "beneficiaries of special government programs." The level of historical ignorance necessary to render a judgment such as this is stunning, and should forever disqualify you from being taken seriously by anyone with an interest in truth. Whites, of course, have benefited more from "special government programs" than members of any other racial group. Indeed, for most of our nation's history it was whites benefitting from these efforts to the exclusion of persons of color.
Among the "special programs" about which you appear to know or care nothing, one might include the Homestead Act (which gave out over 200 million acres of virtually free land to whites, beginning in the 1860s), several key programs of the New Deal, from which blacks were mostly excluded for years, but which saved millions of struggling whites--such as the Federal Housing Administration loan program, which by 1960 was being used to finance 40 percent of all white housing--and the GI Bill, which in theory was meant for all returning veterans, but which in practice favored whites, since segregation was allowed to trump the "right" of black and brown GIs to use their job or educational benefits under the program. These and other programs suggest the greatest irony in critiques of affirmative action: namely, that the nation has been engaged in affirmative action for whites virtually forever. But only now has the specter of "preferential treatment" become a problem.

Posted by: wth10 | July 31, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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