Affirmative ActionBefore there can be any rational...


July 31, 1995

Affirmative Action

Before there can be any rational discussion about necessary "fixing" or "fine-tuning" of affirmative action, the truth must somehow emerge about what it is and what it isn't.

Cal Thomas ("Action that Affirms," July 26) does not help by distorting the concept in his self-serving paean to perseverance on the hackneyed theme "I made it on my own."

Having served as an affirmative action officer for a major state agency in the Midwest in the heyday of such efforts, I recall clearly that AA is not about quotas.

Judicial remedies are about quotas if an entity ignores minority under-representation and attempts no good faith effort to remedy it through recruitment that results in the hiring on merit of greater numbers of those who have been left out despite their hard work of preparation.

The current problems began when many covered entities -- public and private -- became lazy and began to boost their representation of minorities not through assiduous recruitment of well-qualified members of underemployed classes but through indiscriminate hiring, regardless of merit, to make themselves look compliant -- in reality, mostly in defiance of the law.

The Urban League has begun a campaign to repair the damage through dissemination of correct information. I hope it can effectively counter the sort of distortion represented by the Thomas column.

The specter he raises is like the ubiquitous but really quite rare "welfare queen": Everybody has a horror story that relies largely on stereotypes that we don't need to perpetuate, especially in print.

Anthony Cobb


Whose Fault?

Henry Berge, Baltimore sculptor and second generation member of a well known family of professional artists, expressed his disappointment with the Babe Ruth statue in a July 10 letter to the editor.

His comments remind me that across the nation much contemporary outdoor figurative sculpture is being produced by unqualified individuals. Yet those who create these works, whose lack of craft and knowledge is apparent, should not be blamed.

The fault lies with the groups who select them. Frequently, with the arrogance of inexperience, committees composed of people devoid of informed knowledge of figurative sculpture somehow imagine themselves qualified to choose a competent artist.

Because the committee knows little of anatomical proportions or the logic of the laws that govern the many differing aspects of folds in diverse materials, they select someone whose knowledge is as limited as their own.,

The resulting disaster is a very expensive and clumsy bronze. Unfortunately, it will remain long after we are gone, and it will represent us to future generations, a permanent demonstration of ignorance in action.

Tylden W. Streett


The writer is a professor at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and a professional sculptor for 38 years.

An Affirmative Action Supreme Court

By razor-thin 5-4 majorities, the Supreme Court has taken a backward step in the matter of college scholarships, composition of voting districts and government contract awards. All of these areas are loosely covered by the umbrella term, "affirmative action."

Race and gender were taken into account when remedies for past discrimination based on race and gender were enacted. Now the remedies, despite continued racial and gender discrimination, are being abandoned.

One does not have to delve too deeply into the Supreme Court appointment/confirmation process to realize that an affirmative action orientation was chiefly responsible for the seats now held by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas one because of gender and the other because of race. Few people question this reality.

Thus, it is ironic, disconcerting and indescribably tragic that these two justices are leaders and spokespersons for the opinions that are dismantling the very remedies that were responsible for their elevation to the positions that give them such immense and final power over all of us.

Lost in all of the furor or glee that the recent decisions unleashed, however, is the plain historical fact that every Supreme Court appointment has, in reality, been an affirmative action appointment. Until the elevation of Justice Thurgood Marshall, all court appointments were of white males a 100 percent affirmative action set-aside for them.

Another 100 percent affirmative action set-aside has been given to lawyers. The requirements for appointment to the court do not include legal training, but every appointee has been a lawyer.

What a shame. Our lives need not be so controlled by the legal profession, according to law. Perhaps this is where we indeed need to make a change. It would be most refreshing to broaden the makeup of the final arbiters of the decisions that govern our lives and not be caught up in the penchant lawyers have for hair-splitting, narrowly-constructed, ideology-driven opinions.

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