Dr. Ben Carson

Today, there are many young people from a variety of racial backgrounds who are severely deprived economically and could benefit from the extension of a helping hand in education, employment and other endeavors. Such extra consideration is actually helpful to all of us as a society. For each individual we prevent from going down the path of underachievement, there is one less person who will need support from governmental entitlement programs. More importantly, there is one more person who may make substantial contributions that benefit mankind.

The real question is this: Who should receive extra consideration from a nation that has a tradition of cheering for the underdog? My answer to that question may surprise many, but I don't believe race determines underdog status today. Rather, it is the circumstances of one's life that should be considered.

For example, let's take a child who is a member of a racial minority with parents who are successful professionals who have given their child every imaginable advantage. The child applies to a prestigious university with a 3.95 grade-point average, excellent SAT scores and a great record of community service. This child would obviously be an excellent candidate for admission.

Let's take another child who is white, but whose father is incarcerated and whose mother is an alcoholic. Despite these disadvantages, the child still has a 3.7 grade-point average, very good SAT scores and a resume that includes several low-paying jobs. Without taking any other factors into consideration, the choice is clear: The first student would be admitted over the second.

However, I think extra consideration should go to the second child, who has clearly demonstrated the tenacity and determination to succeed in the face of daunting odds. If that second child happens to be a member of a racial minority, obviously he would receive the extra consideration, as well.

I call this "compassionate action." Such a strategy demonstrates sensitivity and compassion, as well as recognition of substantial achievement in the face of difficult obstacles. The groups who benefit from compassionate action will probably change over time, depending on which ones have the greatest number of obstacles to overcome. The point is, it's time to be more concerned about the content of character than the color of skin when extending extra consideration.

Some people are still willfully ignorant and wish to look at external physical characteristics in determining a person's abilities. These people are unlikely to change even when equipped with information, because they already think they possess superior knowledge and wisdom. All we can do is pray that someday, they will have a change of heart.