Thomas Sowell

Cant has become the norm in discussions of any issue involving race or ethnicity. However, a new book by JWR's Linda Chavez -- a memoir of her own remarkable life -- should make it inescapably clear what counterproductive and even vile things have been going on in the name of racial betterment. The book is titled "An Unlikely Conservative," a title based on Ms. Chavez's poverty-stricken childhood and her initial role as an activist on the political left.

The daughter of an Irish mother and a Mexican American father, Linda Chavez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1947. A series of misfortunes caused her family to live precariously, often in cramped quarters with relatives who took them in. Linda had no ambitions for education or a career until she met and married a man who was ambitious for her as well as for himself.

In 1970 she began teaching at UCLA in a newly created Chicano Studies program -- where her education in the realities of racial policies began with ugly and brutal experiences that included death threats. Why? Because she tried to educate her students by holding them to academic standards and equipping them with the skills that they woefully lacked, rather than indulging in the radical rhetoric and rap sessions that they wanted.

The UCLA authorities were wholly uninterested in Linda Chavez's problems -- or in the future of the Chicano students they had admitted for show, and were willing to placate with special programs for the sake of campus peace. As she puts it, "the university accepted virtually every Mexican American who applied, no matter how ill-prepared."

While she characterized the college administrators who made such decisions as "well-meaning but hopelessly naive," a less charitable description of them might include self-indulgent, arrogant and even cynical. All these qualities are likewise apparent when academic administrators admit black students who have little chance of graduating.

When Linda Chavez's odyssey took her to Washington, there were more lessons to learn -- the hard way -- about double dealing and double crossing. This book should be especially eye-opening for young people who are constantly being told how wonderful "public service" is.

"The federal government was not at all what I expected," Ms. Chavez said. "Nothing -- and almost no one -- worked."


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate