Jayson Blair, the black now-disgraced, former up-and-coming reporter of The New York Times, personifies everything wrong with racial preferences. Under a program designed to increase minority (read: black) representation, Jayson Blair snared a job with the most prestigious paper in the country.
Few quarrel with "outreach," or ensuring a wide net cast over all available, qualified candidates. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his autobiography, My American Journey, distinguished between outreach and racial preferences: "Equal rights and equal opportunity, mean just that. They do not mean preferential treatment. Preferences, no matter how well intended, ultimately breed resentment among the nonpreferred. And preferential treatment demeans the achievements that minority Americans win by their own efforts. The present debate over affirmative action has a lot to do with definitions. If affirmative action means programs that provide equal opportunity, then I am all for it. If it leads to preferential treatment or helps those who no longer need help, I am opposed. I benefited from equal opportunity and affirmative action in the Army, but I was not shown preference. The Army, as a matter of fairness, made sure that performance would be the only measure of advancement. . . . Affirmative action in the best sense promotes equal consideration, not reverse discrimination. Discrimination 'for' one group means, inevitably, discrimination 'against' another; and all discrimination is offensive."
In Blair's case, management overlooked errors, omissions, and outright fabrications, yet promoted him rapidly through the ranks. Blair himself admits benefiting from racial preferences (although he blames racism, in part, for his implosion).
New York Times executive director Howell Raines, in a post-Jayson Blair townhall meeting with the paper's reporters, addressed whether race provided Blair some degree of cover and less scrutiny. "Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," said Raines. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities.
"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions (emphasis added), gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes." What?!
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