Try this experiment. Take a blank sheet of paper and jot down what you think are the most pressing social problems facing America today. Give yourself just five minutes or the list could become unwieldy. With the list developed, ask yourself this question about each item on it: Do liberal policies alleviate or exacerbate the problem? I recently found myself with time on my hands while having some routine maintenance done on my car. Genetically incapable of just sitting and doing nothing, I decided to pass the time by developing a list of social problems as described above. I then annotated each item on the list according to whether liberal policies tend to alleviate or exacerbate the problem. My list contained the following social problems: racism/discrimination, religious intolerance, moral decline (abortion, drugs, gun violence, etc.), loss of individual liberty, loss of freedom of speech, and various problems growing out of poor public education. Over time I plan to write a column based on each item on my list. In this column, I begin with racism and discrimination.
Even a cursory examination of the facts will show that liberal policies have exacerbated racism and discrimination in America. Liberal policies originally intended to give minorities equal opportunities soon morphed into government enforced demands for equal results. Demands for equal results, in turn, created a sense of racial favoritism and racial entitlement, two phenomena that, predictably, have bred racial resentment. Further, liberal policies have not eliminated racial discrimination, which, of course, was their stated purpose. Rather, these policies have just reversed who is being discriminated against. They have also created an ironic situation in which minorities who do not subscribe to liberal policies on race or the liberal politicians who favor those policies are discriminated against by other minorities who scorn, belittle, and attack them.
The concept of “reverse discrimination” grew out of liberal policies that went beyond leveling the playing field to favoring minorities. I don’t like the term reverse discrimination because: 1) it inaccurately implies that discrimination is practiced only by white people against minorities, and 2) discrimination is discrimination regardless of the race of the perpetrator or the victim. When minorities are told they have only one acceptable choice when selecting political parties, taking stands on issues, or voting in elections, they are being discriminated against even if those who attack and scorn them are of the same race and/or gender.
My thoughts on so-called reverse discrimination aside, liberal policies that simply switch whose ox is in the ditch do nothing to eliminate discrimination in America. In fact, it is doubtful that government policies—no matter how well-intended—will ever eliminate discrimination because man-made solutions always have unintended consequences that inevitably undermine even the best of intentions. People with a different agenda can always co-opt the work of people of good will to serve their own nefarious purposes and this has certainly happened with liberal policies intended to eliminate discrimination.
Because of the inherent shortcomings of big government policies, the only way to truly and fairly end racial discrimination in America is to establish a society in which decisions are made on the basis of merit rather than race. Only in a meritocracy will Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of a society in which people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin be finally realized.
There is one segment of American society that has adopted a merit-based approach with great success and should be studied by those who are truly interested in ending discrimination. That segment of society—with all of its warts and blemishes—is professional sports. Whether the sport is football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or boxing, those who succeed are those who perform best, regardless of race. There is no Affirmative Action in professional sports. To make the team you have to outperform everyone else who wants the position you want. Once you have earned a spot on the team, you must continue to outperform the competition to keep your position. Not surprisingly, minorities have not just done well in the meritorious world of professional sports, they have dominated. The same approach should be adopted in the workplace as well as for college admissions and other situations in which race is now used as a decision-making criterion.
Try to imagine what would happen to the quality of play, competitiveness, and public appeal of professional sports if teams were required to practice Affirmative Action. Now consider that this unlikely situation is occurring every day in America in business, industry, colleges, and universities. American firms trying to compete in the global marketplace while forced to make hiring and firing decisions on the basis of Affirmative Action are at a competitive disadvantage that just gets worse as time goes by.
Affirmative Action and other liberal policies relating to race and gender had their place in another time and another age. But we are no longer in the 1960s where Jim Crow was the norm in certain regions of the country and women were limited to lower-level positions in the workplace. It is time for America to move beyond Affirmative Action and other so-called equal opportunity policies to a merit-based society that promotes and encourages hard work, innovation, entrepreneurship and that rewards on the basis of performance.