Affirmative Action Special Report
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Debra Williams/AP
Piscataway, N.J., high school teacher Debra Williams was retained – and a white teacher laid off – in dispute settled in November 1997. (AP)

More recent Washington Post editorials, opinion pieces and letters about affirmative action.

A selection of recent opinion pieces and editorials on affirmative action from The Washington Post.

Debating Without Facts
January 11, 1998
The White House-sponsored dialogue on race has been a flop up to now in large part because too many people, black and white, don't know what they're talking about. – Richard Harwood

The 10 Percent Solution
December 19, 1997
When talking about affirmative action, people know exactly what they're saying. They seek a society that recognizes hard work, striving and merit. They also care about fairness and know that racism and economic disadvantage deprive many of a fair start in life. – E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Sacrificed to Affirmative Action
November 29, 1997
Her name is not on the case, Piscataway Board of Education v. Taxman, but she is the loser. Debra Williams is the black teacher who was retained when a white teacher, Sharon Taxman, was fired for budgetary reasons. The Piscataway Board of Education said that Williams -- the only black teacher in the business division -- was kept for the sake of diversity. – Nat Hentoff

Turning a Corner on Civil Rights
November 23, 1997
In the teacher firing case from Piscataway, N.J., civil rights groups were afraid that the court would set them down in such a way as perhaps to shut down affirmative action almost entirely. As a result, they chose to pay at the office rather than run the risk of having to pay in court. – Editorial

Sen. Hatch's Unfair Opposition
November 12, 1997
There is always a lot of subtext in Senate confirmation battles, but the fight over Bill Lann Lee's nomination to be assistant attorney general for civil rights has a particularly high ratio of unstated backstory to stated issue. – Nicholas Lemann

A Debate in the Wrong Forum
November 10, 1997
Our own uncomfortable sense through the years has been that great care needs to be used in employing the bundle of techniques that go by the name of affirmative action. Their use needs to be clearly limited. Otherwise, they too easily can end up – and sometimes have – as the mirror image of precisely the kind of routine labeling and treatment of people according to race, ethnicity, etc., that they are meant to expunge. – Editorial

Affirmative Action: We Know Better
November 7, 1997
Some of us believe that the best way to achieve a colorblind future is to practice colorblindness now. And some of us believe that colorblindness after centuries of racism will merely lock in white advantage – that we need to level the playing field before insisting on a single set of rules. – William Raspberry

Seeing Through Camouflaged Racism
October 15, 1997
A good deal of prejudice has gone underground since the civil rights movement and now produces insidious, coded behavior that impedes blacks but is hard to attack. – David K. Shipler

From California, Here It Comes
June 18, 1997
President Clinton's latest speech on race, delivered in San Diego, called for yet more "conversation" on the subject. It was valuable, if only as an illustration of the liberal mind at century's end. – George F. Will

Affirmative Action: Beyond Diversity
May 7, 1997
Rather than thinking of affirmative action in terms of diversity or compensation, we should see it as a structural remedy for a structural problem: as a means of eradicating the caste structure that now mars our society and that has its roots in slavery and the segregation of Jim Crow. – Owen M. Fiss

Affirmative Action's Limits . . .
April 11, 1997
Affirmative action is a program defended in the name of equality whose actual purpose is to redistribute inequality. Affirmative action does not seek a general expansion of incomes or opportunities. Rather, it tries to achieve a different apportionment of existing opportunities. It's the classic zero sum game – E. J. Dionne Jr.

Fired for Being White
October 5, 1996
When students see a teacher being removed from the faculty solely because of his or her race, what lesson does that teach the students? – Nat Hentoff

Affirmative Action's Long Record
November 1, 1995
Let us get one thing straight: One group – white men – still is getting the best jobs and the highest pay even though it represents less than half the work force. As long as that's the case, we will need affirmative action to ensure that all of us enjoy a fair chance to achieve success. – Judy Mann

What Actions Are Affirmative?
August 21, 1995
Those of us who care about the threat to affirmative action had better get clear on what it is we wish to save, and why. – William Raspberry

Affirmative Action: The Army's Success . . .
March 15, 1995
Nowhere else in American society has racial integration gone as far or has black achievement been so pronounced. Indeed, the Army is the only institution in America where whites are routinely bossed around by blacks. – Charles Moskos

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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