Good riddance to affirmative action

by Steven Ray Garcia

In the June issue of the Bar Journal, a letter from Tina L. Rasnow of the California Women Lawyers cuts to the heart of why Californians of all races and genders supported Proposition 209 and why the Ninth Circuit was right to uphold the law.

Fighting discrimination with discrimination does not solve the problem.

In fact, as more than 25 years of experience has shown, affirmative action creates more class envy and polarization by making minority achievers suspect in the eyes of the majority and by often making minorities clamor to fit into an affirmative action mold.

Indeed, I suffered discrimination at the hands of my decidedly liberal (and pro-affirmative action) classmates in law school who felt certain that I and several others of my ethnic minority group were among their prestigious ranks because of some affirmative action admissions program. That attitude only served to cheapen what we had accomplished in our own right not because of affirmative action programs but because of hard work and drive.

And therein lies the rub.

Rasnow and those of her ilk believe that it is the "ignorant minorities" who must be helped through affirmative action and that those same minorities are so ignorant that they supported the ouster of the very system designed to help them.

There are other points of view, especially in minority communities. Twenty-five years of crafting an entitlement mentality through affirmative action did not yield a sufficient groundswell of support for affirmative action to permit voters, including large groups of minorities, to allow it to continue.

And rightly so, for there is a history of rejecting handouts among many minority groups. That history has made some minority group members bristle at the notion of affirmative action.

My own grandfather, with his second grade education, rejected a WPA job during the Depression and the New Deal reforms in favor of selling tin he collected from garbage cans in alleyways and hauling manure for farmers to support his wife and 11 children.

The entire family may have suffered in the short term ó indeed, my fatherís school day was cut short when he started driving a truck at age 11 to help my grandfather ó but the family came out more resilient and hardworking in the long run, a heritage that continues today.

Donít misunderstand; there have been many times when we have struggled to overcome prejudice and discrimination, but overcome it we have. Through our own efforts, we have demonstrated that we are equal or superior to the task. Perhaps more significantly, we did not develop a chip-on-the-shoulder entitlement mentality that made us look to a government program for our success.

In the final analysis, the elitist attitude demonstrated by Ms. Rasnow and others in the pro-affirmative action crowd undermined the support for affirmative action even among significant segments of those it was supposedly designed to help.

That was a good thing, and the Ninth Circuit should be complimented, not scorned, for taking the high road and listening for once to the voice of the people. After all, there is no constitutional right to affirmative action, as the pro-affirmative action crowd would assume.

As one who has fought prejudice throughout my life, including among those of my own minority group with whom I have dared to disagree, I say good riddance to affirmative action.

I want my accomplishments and those of my children to be gauged for what they truly are ó the result of long hours of hard work in an effort to be the best ó and not scoffed at as the result of a handout from some claimed elite trying to tell me what is the best for me and then crafting a program to support that decision.

Attorney Steven Ray Garcia lives in South Pasadena.