Is Affirmative Action “preferential treatment”

Letter to a conservative friend considering State Question 759 – to be on all Oklahoma ballots in November:

When you ask, “Why can’t we treat everyone the same instead of treating some preferentially?” I want to ask,

“You mean that way it was in 1955?” – – when racism was the law of the land, and women seeking careers could only hope for employment in jobs like teaching or nursing? and few woman had ever been admitted to OU Law School? and millions were spent on men’s sports but only nickles and dimes on women’s sports?

A society that values the dignity and worth of all its members need have legislation protecting classes and groups whose dignity and worth are just not valued by the many – at least in hiring and contracting by public entities. President Truman shocked millions by ordering the racial integration of the Military Services. It’s worked out OK. Was President Truman giving preferential treatment to racial minorities? Some would say yes.

But – – at least in the hiring and contracting by public entities spending public revenues that everyone contributes to – – it does seem fair and reasonable to suggest that the social discrimination against women and minorities that remains so patently obvious should be addressed. Our state and federal institutions should not continue to discriminate against women and minorities who also pay taxes.

Oklahoma’s Affirmative Action statutes are voluntary compliance laws. There are no mandates, quotas, or set-asides for women or minorities. State agencies submit an annual plan on how they might reduce discrimination against women and minorities; that’s it. They do not even have to meet their own goals.

Discrimination against women and minorities in society is less than it was 25 years ago, but is still measurably not equal or fair. And, without general agreement that such discrimination is unacceptable, it will continue … and worsen. (Witness the Kansas State Speaker of their House of Representatives who recently sent out emails referring to Michelle Obama as “Michelle YoMama” and forwarded publicly a “prayer for the President” that comes from one of the Psalms, asking that a leader’s “days be short … that his children become fatherless and his wife become a widow.”) Such words can result in violence.

Finally, it must be obvious that the statewide votes in the last ten years, in Oklahoma – – for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, and for a Constitutional Amendment to ban the use of Muslim Sharia law – -were transparent strategies to bring thousands of poorly informed voters to the polls to vote on these inflammatory issues …… and while there, to vote for the “Party-of-Family-Values-and-Christian-Morality.” It worked, and that Party has taken over the Oklahoma House, Senate, and every statewide elected post. It seems that the statewide vote on SQ 759 – – that would nullify Oklahoma’s Affirmative Action statutes – – is one more example of the same strategy. Some white voters are just pissed off by legislation that proposes to give more fair consideration to non-white people. And some men are just pissed off by legislation that proposes to give more fair consideration to women. I do not consider reducing obvious discrimination by state agencies “preferential treatment.” I call it agreement that racial and gender discrimination is beneath us as a society, and we ought to collaborate for a higher standard.

And – as has been pointed out – states that have repealed and reversed their Affirmative Action statutes have gone backwards in the fair consideration of women and minorities in hiring and contracting by state agencies.

Incidentally, on the other side: The Supreme Court has just upheld the principle of “Separation of Church and State” with its ruling that religious entities are free to hire or not hire anyone they choose according to their religious beliefs. In other words, the right of houses of worship to discriminate against women and minorities as they choose has been upheld. I support that ruling, just as I always support the principle of Separation of Church and State – the principle that: 1. No one religion should be considered “the state religion” (E Pluribus Unum). 2. Religious entities should not be required by the state to conform to laws regulating life in society outside their religious community. (You and I would probably agree, however, that such religious freedom should not include the practice of sex with children, torture, slavery, prostitution, marriage with a minor, etc. etc. Sounds absurd, but there are extremists all around with extreme ideas.)

Onward, – – – Nathaniel “Batch” Batchelder, The Peace House in Oklahoma City

ATTACHMENT: Resolution to Vote NO on State Question 759