The Success of Affirmative Action

United States

 

The New York Times on the Web
July 14, 2008
 

To the Editor: 

Re "Affirmative Distraction” (Op-Ed, July 6): 

Stephen L. Carter, in his laudable call for a renewed effort to address race and poverty, does not adequately acknowledge the important role that affirmative action has played in unraveling the two.

I speak from experience. Raised on welfare by a great-aunt, tracked in the lower rung in the dilapidated public school system in Camden, N.J., I was bound for a marginal economic existence — if I managed to survive Vietnam. 

Through affirmative action programs, I got myself into college and then into Yale Law School, where I crossed paths with Mr. Carter.

The dramatic growth of the black middle class is attributable to the opportunities that were provided to talented people who would otherwise have suffered from our societal legacy.

The true ”affirmative distraction” is a false opposition between race and class. So-called post-race institutions that have experimented with class-only affirmative action have found that they are no substitute for removing the unique disadvantages that are associated with being both nonwhite and poor. 

Luke Charles Harris Poughkeepsie, N.Y., July 8, 2008

The writer is an associate professor of American politics and constitutional law at Vassar College.

 

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