Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2003 / 28 Shevat 5763

Clarence Page

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Consumer Reports

Why corporations like diversity, too


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It amuses me to hear the hyperventilated news reports about how census figures are revealing that Hispanics now "officially" outnumber blacks in America.

Oh? Say, what about black Hispanics? What about-just for starters- Cuban, Mexican, Dominican or Puerto Rican blacks? Can they outnumber themselves? And what about blacks who are also some other race? Do they count?

In fact, the latest census figures show that, as of July, 2001, Hispanics or Latinos of any race now outnumber those of us who call ourselves simply "black" or "African American" by 37 million to 36.2 million. But if you add blacks who list at least one other race or ethnic group on their U.S. Census form, the number jumps back to the lead at 37.7 million.

But the "one-drop rule" that defined blacks as any one with one drop of black blood is slowly falling out of fashion. The end of hard racial boundaries is good news, if it also means the end of racism. Unfortunately, it's too early to celebrate that happy event.

As the current fuss over the University of Michigan's affirmative action program, now before the Supreme Court, shows, America's old black-white argument has changed. Programs that try to boost black, Hispanic and Native American Indian college enrollment for the sake of "diversity," as Michigan's does, are denounced in some quarters for "discriminating" against whites and Asian Americans.

Yet, if the debate were that simple, it would have been settled long ago. Even President Bush decided against calling all considerations of race or ethnicity in college admissions unconstitutional, as some conservatives wanted. Instead, he chose to defend the virtue of "diversity" as a goal while denouncing Michigan's points-based method for achieving it.

Instead, the White House argued in its legal brief filed on behalf of the rejected white applicants who were suing Michigan that there were other "race-neutral" ways to achieve diversity that the university had overlooked.

For example? The administration praised the percentage-programs implemented in Texas while Bush was governor; in Florida while his brother Jeb Bush has been governor, as well as in California.

Those plans grant preference in each state's top universities to a particular percentage of top achievers in each of the state's high schools.

Percentage plans have much broader support than race-based plans because they seek racial diversity through the decoy of geography. Only in a society as racially segregated by geography as ours can such a scheme work.

Unfortunately, it does not always achieve numbers as high those reached by the more straightforward approach that Michigan takes, which is simply to award extra points to members of underrepresented minority groups.

Now a new reason has emerged in defense of Michigan's approach: It's good for business.

Citing the benefits that a diverse workforce brings in global markets, about four dozen blue-chip American companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Abbott Laboratories and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines unit, have announced friend-of-the-court arguments in defense of the Michigan program, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Major corporations support affirmative action for a number of bottom-line reasons. Creating a diversity-friendly workplace helps them recruit from a rapidly diversifying talent pool. It helps them reach out to broader markets. It also helps reduce turnover and other labor costs, which tend to be the biggest expenses in most businesses.

But the so-called race-neutral programs won't work for the business world, many CEOs note. In fact, in using seemingly color-blind criteria, like one's home geography, to produce a specific racial result, percentage plans seek the sort of "disparate impact" that results in low numbers of women or minorities. Some companies have been sued over this.

Many companies fear their exposure to "disparate impact" lawsuits could only get worse, along with their labor costs, if they have a smaller pool of qualified black and Hispanic college graduates from which to hire and promote.

In this way, the affirmative action debate once again forces Americans to take a closer look at how fairly we make opportunities available, particularly now as we perch on the brink of America's most multiracial, multicultural century.

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Up

01/28/03: Shaq vs. Yao, a new world diss-order
01/23/03: Affirmative action will be remarketed under new name
01/13/03: Bond movie offers clues to Korea crisis
01/07/03: Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
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06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
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05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

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