Ironically, Rodriguez barely addresses what I've always believed is one of the strongest arguments against affirmative action: its detrimental effects on the very people it's meant to help by turning them into perpetual victims. In passing, Rodriguez warns that whites, too, might fall prey to "the siren song of victimology that has captivated other groups." Victimology and affirmative action go hand in hand. Without claiming to be a victim, you can't make a case that you're entitled to special treatment.
But thinking you're a victim is a lousy way to get ahead in a society as competitive as this one, no matter what your skin color. It's a defeatist attitude that encourages failure, not success. And even when adopting victim status ensures preferential treatment, it leads to resentment and anger in the beneficiary and a sense of patronizing superiority in the benefactor. Such attitudes are hardly a recipe for greater racial harmony, much less success.
In the end, however, the best argument against affirmative action is a moral one. Making choices based on race or ethnicity is simply wrong. You know almost nothing about a person solely because of his or her skin color. It doesn't tell you whether the person is competent, reliable, or trustworthy. It doesn't give you useful information about the person's past performance or potential, any more than knowing the person's shoe size does. When you're making a decision about hiring someone or admitting a person to school, what's relevant is the individual's performance, not his group identity.
It's time to end affirmative action not because it makes whites anxious but because it perpetuates race obsession that harms all Americans, regardless of color. We've got to get beyond thinking of ourselves in terms of racial or ethnic origins if we are ever to live up to our ideals as Americans.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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