We have a moral obligation to right the wrongs of the past
It is shocking but not surprising that the activist behind the case that brought about the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action in college admissions has turned his sights toward workplaces — and is behind litigation against a grant program for Black women entrepreneurs in Georgia (“Next affirmative action target: workplace,” Page A1, Aug. 21). Edward Blum’s legal track record comprises mostly cases that are, at their core, anti-Black since, in essence, they seek to prevent Black people and families from overcoming blatant forms of institutional racism. Blum’s latest attack, on the Atlanta-based Fearless Fund, a grant program founded by and created to nurture financially aspirational Black women, is yet another whitewashing of the meaning of “freedom” and “equity” from a reverse racism angle.
In reality, freedom means having equitable access to this country’s economy and rights. By our very humanness, several generations of Black people have not been afforded this access. We have a moral obligation to right these wrongs by every lever possible, whether that’s through policies such as paid leave for all or through philanthropic ventures to level the field, such as the Fearless Fund. Blum’s claim that the Fearless Fund’s Black women-only eligibility requirement is racially biased characterizes racism as a social construct instead of a systemic issue — a tactic that itself is inherently racist.
Affirmative action was a step toward both correcting past laws that intentionally excluded entire groups of qualified people and distinguishing between structural racism and social prejudice. It is imperative that those of us who actually believe in freedom stand up against systemic biases, people, and actions that continue to deprive Black lives.
Families Values @ Work
Berwyn Heights, Md.
Efforts to address discrimination should not be conflated with discrimination
In his Aug. 23 column, Jeff Jacoby leans on the fact that our country was “founded on the principle that all persons are created equal” while ignoring the reality that all have never been treated equally in practice (“Corporate America is on notice: Discriminating by race is illegal,” Opinion). Whether by misunderstanding or on purpose, too many promote a mind-set that efforts to address centuries of discrimination are the so-called real discrimination.
A haunting statistic from a 2015 study by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank found that, in Greater Boston, the median net worth for white households was almost $250,000, but for Black households, the figure was $8. Eight dollars. Nationally, the gap is nearly as stark, according to a 2019 study: $188,200 for white households, $24,100 for Black households.
In Boston, a persistent racial gap in homeownership remains. White residents’ homeownership rate is 44 percent compared with 30 percent for Black residents. Nationally, the gap is even starker: 72.7 percent for white people, 44 percent for Black residents.
This is the outcome of centuries of injustice. Meanwhile, white Americans have been eligible for programs not available to Black Americans, such as Federal Housing Administration insurance that led to redlining or “white only” public housing projects, thus benefiting from racial discrimination in government programs for generations.
Affirmative action is a method of addressing discrimination, not discrimination itself. This calls to mind an oft-used expression among those working to achieve social justice: To the beneficiaries of injustice, efforts toward equality can feel like oppression.
Jordan Berg Powers
Member of the board and the Jews of Color Advisory Committee
President and CEO
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Consider the economic argument: Diverse companies are found to be more innovative
Re “Corporate America is on notice: Discriminating by race is illegal”: In Jeff Jacoby’s column asserting racial discrimination in the workforce, he blames diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and seems dismissive of them, without considering why achieving a highly diverse workforce is needed. There are numerous moral and ethical reasons for a DEI approach to hiring, and one would hope those would be enough. But consider purely economic reasoning: Multiple studies have shown that we achieve the highest degree of innovation when teams have members of diverse backgrounds, and even then, only when everyone on that team is treated fairly and given an equitable chance to contribute.
For companies to be successful, they need to be achieving that highest degree of innovation in engineering, medicine, manufacturing, and every other field. Jacoby should consider that by eliminating DEI efforts, we would be hurting potential achievement.
The writer is the COE Distinguished Teaching Professor and associate chair of undergraduate studies in the department of chemical engineering at Northeastern University.
Continuing impact of racial discrimination cannot be ignored
Jeff Jacoby’s characterization of corporate programs to promote diversity as intolerable discrimination flies in the face of our nation’s history as well as the current state of racial injustice and economic inequality. Like Chief Justice John Roberts in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Jacoby writes as if the problem of discrimination against people of color is a thing of the past and the continuing impact of race can be ignored. This position is particularly disturbing considering that white male privilege is ongoing throughout the corporate and academic world, not to mention the overt racism that is now expressed by a frighteningly large number of Americans. That our nation’s long history of discrimination can be corrected without programs such as affirmative action is ridiculous.
Robert G. Bill
There is still progress to be made
Jeff Jacoby is spot-on in noting that racial discrimination is illegal and, drawing on the Declaration of Independence, writing that it “should be intolerable in a nation founded on the principle that all persons are created equal.” However, he’s off base on two points.
First, discrimination based on race (or gender or religion) has been practiced since the founding of this democratic republic, and thus there has been a need for laws to counter that discrimination that closed opportunities for others. Progress has been made over time, thanks to laws, such as affirmative action, that opened opportunities to people who were being discriminated against.
Second, Jacoby offers a twist on the Declaration of Independence by substituting “men” from the original text with the word “persons” in his own paraphrase. One can wish the guys who signed the Declaration meant that “men” included women, people of color, and Indigenous people, but that’s, at best, unlikely. Hopefully they would if they were writing today, and they would pass laws that try to counter discrimination that closes doors to opportunity.
Thomas B. McCullough