Moving Toward a Color-Blind Society

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Moving Toward a Color-Blind Society

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a world in which race would become irrelevant and "all God's children" would be "judged by the content of their character." But, over the past decade, race has become an increasingly divisive issue in American society.

At Trends, our mission is to identify economically important trends and use them to forecast what will happen, why it will happen, and how you can profit. So, it's rare that we have to address issues that contain a racial component. However, we feel that our clients need to consider the unmistakable trends emerging along the fault line of "affirmative action," where the realities of race and economics intersect.

What has the U.S. learned from its 40-year experiment with race-based preferences? Like most simplistic solutions to complex problems, affirmative action has done significant good in a few specific cases and significant harm in a far larger set of cases. This harm is not only manifest for those who have felt the sting of "reverse discrimination," but ironically, it has also been felt, more subtly, by those who were supposed to benefit from the policies.

The moral argument for affirmative action is grounded in the bitter legacy of black slavery and Jim Crow laws that legally mandated discrimination. Adoption of affirmative action policies was motivated by the desire to right the wrongs of the past.

Leading up to the 1960s, when the foundations of affirmative action were introduced, most black Americans were poor and few held public office. Virtually none had risen to prominent positions in the nation's top universities, corporations, law firms, and banks.

A key goal of affirmative action was to increase the presence of minorities in these roles, where they had been historically excluded. The inventors of affirmative action argued that favoring members of "slighted groups" would be a quick and effective way of creating a fairer society.

To them, the issue was the need to fairly distribute opportunity and socially valuable resources to those who had been the victims of racial discrimination. These resources included jobs, admission to higher education, public and private contracts, broadcast licenses, credit, and housing.

Reacting to this need, America became one of many countries that hold different racial, ethnic, or other groups to different standards by giving them certain advantages.

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