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Carlos J. Nan

Adding Salt To The Wound: Affirmative Action And Critical Race Theory, Carlos J. Nan, 12 Law & Ineq. 553-572, 565-572 (1994). Copyright (C) 1994 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory & Practice; Carlos J. Nan. 

The 1993 Economic Report of the President provides evidence that affirmative action programs have been, for the most part, ineffective. Moreover, the report illustrates that arguments of "reverse discrimination" are undoubtedly futile. In fact, claims of reverse discrimination would be valid:

Furthermore, white males have benefited from their own affirmative action for over 200 years. "[C]ritics neatly take our eyes off the system of arrangements that brought and maintained them in power, and enabled them to develop the rules and standards of quality and merit that now exclude us, make us appear unworthy, dependent (naturally) on affirmative action." The standards of merit set by white males are also questionable. The usual excuse given by employers or academic administrators is that there are not enough "qualified" minorities carrying the requisite merits to capably handle the duties of the vacant position. Bell notes, however, that such assertions are incredulous or discriminatory at best as these employers and administrators: know that the qualifications they insist on are precisely the credentials and skills that have been long denied to people of color. Those credentials, moreover, are often irrelevant or of little importance and therefore serve mainly as barriers to most minorities and a great many whites as well. In fact, Delgado argues, "[m]erit sounds like white people's affirmative action . . . . A way of keeping their own deficiencies neatly hidden while assuring that only people like them get in."

CRT [Critical Race Theory], however, acknowledges that there are advantages to being a racial or ethnic minority. For example, the values of "double consciousness," termed by W.E.B. DuBois, provide people of color with the ability to see society in terms of two perspectives. One perspective is the world as seen from the eyes of the oppressor in which people of color are exploited and dehumanized. The other perspective is seen from the eyes of the oppressed in which their own values and cultures are revered. In other words, minority status is viewed as an affirmative qualification. For exmple, "[a] black professor who can alleviate the racism of his white students and inspire learning and hope in his black students is a better teacher for that."

Nevertheless, Delgado claims that even if "double consciousness" is ever recognized as a valuable asset, whites will deny it exists, or insist they have it as well.

Delgado also questions the diversity argument for affirmative action: In law school admissions, for example, majority persons may be admitted as a matter of right, while minorities are admitted because their presence will contribute to "diversity." . . . The assumption is that such diversity is educationally valuable to the majority. But such an admissions program may well be perceived as treating the minority admittee as an ornament, a curiosity, one who brings an element of the piquant to the lives of white professors and students.

Delgaldo, moreover, attacks the role model argument for affirmative action. Being a role model requires that you "uplift your entire people"; complete the duties required in the job description, as well as assist your community whenever it affects your position or that of your employer; conform into behavior that will encourage the community of color to adopt majoritarian social mores; and lie to your community about how they too can achieve the "American Dream" because the arms of opportunity are open and waiting to welcome them. The program, instituted, arranged, and produced by "others" appears to work against people of color much like cream to coffee. "[I]f you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep."

So where does that leave people of color? All this cynicism about a program which was allegedly intended to benefit the least advantaged and about how it has actually patronized communities of color, has destroyed any hope of amelioration of the country's racial problem. Where do people of color go from here? The first step, according to CRT, is to expect nothing but the worst from the dominant culture. History provides enough evidence of what white people have accomplished, not only for themselves, but for society in general. In addition, assuming arguendo that the dominant culture has an interest in ending the racial dilemma and healing the wounds they have inflicted upon communities of color, that interest will be limited such that programs implemented to assist people of color do not infringe on whites' property interest or status. Furthermore, attempts by the dominant culture to ease the racial dilemma should be critically scrutinized as only a vehicle to calm racial tensions and prevent civil disorders, rather than as a reparation for the destruction and mayhem inflicted upon communities of color. The statistics provided in this article, illustrating the dramatic "advancements" reached by affirmative action and civil rights legislation, should provide sufficient evidence to persuade a person of color to look at the dominant culture and their alleged interests in alleviating the racial crisis with a suspicious eye.

The second step CRT advances is to "take our own program, with our own goals, our own theoretical grounding, and our own managers and call it 'Affirmative Action.' " In other words, people of color should pursue a culturally nationalist objective.

It is necessary for us to develop a new frame of reference which transcends the limits of white concepts. It is necessary for us to develop and maintain a total intellectual offensive against the false universality of white concepts . . . . By and large, reality has been conceptualized in terms of narrow point of view of the small minority of white men who live in Europe and North America. We must abandon the partial frame of reference of our oppressors and create new concepts which will release our reality, which is also the reality of the overwhelming majority of men and women on this globe. We must say to the white world that there are things in the world that are not dreamt of in your history and your sociology and your philosophy. The bottom line being, that only people of color can comprehend the history, experiences, and dilemmas faced by their community. Therefore, people of color are in a better position to theorize, evaluate, access, confront, tackle, and resolve the problems encountered within their community.

In order to reach this intellectual level, whites, and in particular people of color, must accept the reality that this country, along with its Constitution, statutes, court-made laws, politics, economy, and social mores and attitudes, is not color-blind, but rather race-conscious. Malcolm X appropriately stated:

The problem white society, and in particular white liberals, have in grasping this concept is twofold. Gary Peller, a white law professor who has contributed to CRT scholarship explains:

Peller, however, explains:

Race consciousness is a problem within the white community, particularly the liberal community, because, in their eyes, it creates a false sense of superiority which in turn results in the subjugation of people of color. Historically, white race consciousness forces people of color to feel inferior. The civil rights movement, however, made some whites realize that their position was not the result of racial superiority but rather brute force. Nonetheless, whites were not willing to give up their undeserved status. All they were willing to do is drop the notion of conscious racial superiority and relieve themselves of guilt through limited integration, thereby compelling people of color to assimilate into white culture.

Race consciousness for people of color, on the other hand, does not imply the annihilation of the white populace or the superiority of communities of color over caucasians, as it does for whites. Rather, it is a "commitment to the vitality of the [community of color] as a whole and to the economic and cultural health of [each respective community's] neighborhoods, schools, economic enterprises, and individuals."