A funny thing happened on the way to diversity

Lasting effects of “Bakke decision”

Gregg Reese | 11/3/2017, midnight
Much like medication prescribed to cure ailments...

To be sure, this approach yielded dramatic results. Black people gained entry into professions they’d previously been excluded from, as unemployment among their ranks plummeted. The median family income among African Americans rose from 1960 onward, according to the Pew Research Center. Most tellingly, 1965’s Appalachia Regional Development Act brought economic assistance to that stereotypical, 13-state bastion of White deficiency, proving that Johnson’s “unconditional war on poverty in America” could improve the lot of Americans of all races.

Alas, these overtures were no “magic bullet.” For every area that witnessed significant improvement as a result of the steps taken by the Johnson administration, others were overlooked. More poignantly, relaxation of standards to enable minority access to the job market, and especially to gain enrollment in selective institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, this meant that talented White candidates with better credentials were excluded. The most prominent example of this is the University of California (U.C.) vs. (Allan) Bakke decision of 1978.

Bakke, an ex-United States Marine Corps officer and engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, had been denied admission to the U.C. Davis Medical School at the age of 33 (an example of the practice of age discrimination allowed in higher education during that time). During the same period, several Hispanics and one Black student gained entry with better grades and lower scores in the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) than Bakke, which motivated him to file a lawsuit. The suit resulted in a split decision, although Bakke gained admission (he went on to become an anesthesiologist) as the court maintained the validity of affirmative action.

The outcome stands as the most important piece of legislation since 1954’s Brown vs. the Board of Education, in a battle for racial equality that shows no signs of gaining closure. Even after the dust settles in an individual case like Bakke, the debate still goes on.

Not just Black and White

“Alan Smithee” is a pseudonym for those in the entertainment industry who wish to distance themselves from a particular project for whatever reason. We’ll use it here as a moniker for an actor-who wishes to remain anonymous in relating his personal experiences negotiating the racial mine fields of these United States. Originally from the South, he made his living in the defense industry before embracing his passion for acting.

He started off his interview by declaring he has no recollection of benefitting from affirmative action in his working career. As for the hue and cry so pervasive in the country at the moment, he has no sympathy for the sob stories sung by the “make America great” faithful.

“Those people are just full of it!” he retorts.

Not a knowing recipient of racial quotas or preferential treatment, he is none-the-less adamant that such programs are a necessity.

“We have to make the playing field level somehow,” he said.

The discontent that permeates the media is, in his opinion, just sour grapes for those nostalgic for the way things were.

“What they’re really saying is ‘We takin’ back what’s ours!’”