Human Rights

Pat Buchanan Continues His Racist Attacks on Sotomayor

What opponents of affirmative action like Pat Buchanan fail to grasp is that this country was built on affirmative action -- for white males.

Yesterday, on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan attacked Sonia Sotomayor, specifically, and affirmative action, in general. Included in his attack were such claims as "this has been a country built basically by white folks," that Sotomayor was purely an affirmative-action candidate who lacks real credentials and his suggestion that we need more white, male Supreme Court nominees -- like Robert Bork -- despite the fact that 108 of the 110 Supreme Court justices in our nation's history have been white.

What opponents of affirmative action like Buchanan fail to grasp is that this country was built on affirmative action -- for white males -- and you don't have to go back to the Founding Fathers to see this in action.

If you go back to the 1950s, which Buchanan apparently wants to do, and look at the major private universities, you would find that 20 to 30 percent of the admissions were "legacies" -- people who got there not on merit but because they were the sons of alumni and donors. George W. Bush, of course, is the poster child for this generation of affirmative action babies.

I'd like to see Buchanan, or any conservative, defend Bush's admission to Yale on the basis of merit. And I'd like to stack up Bush's credentials next to Sotomayor's and ask which one was more deserving of admission to a major university, or the bench, or the presidency, or anything.

The white-male affirmative action that bozos like Bush benefited from and want to protect was a monopoly of opportunities; monopolies work to undermine healthy competition and produce bad results.

The affirmative action that emerged from the 1960s civil rights movement was an effort not only to promote diversity of people and opportunities, but to democratize opportunities so that white-male hierarchies did not automatically get all the perks. This has been healthy for America, not only because society has become more diverse, but also because it now is less likely that the truly unqualified -- the frat boys like GWB with no academic credentials and problems with excessive alcohol consumption [but a connected family] -- are not automatically passed on to graduate schools, and then on to unsuccessful business careers, not to mention catastrophic political careers.

I prosecuted employment discrimination class actions for 25 years, in the process forcing many major corporations to hire and promote women, minorities, older people and the disabled. In every single case I had, when the case was over and the workforce was integrated, no matter how bitter the litigation had been, the companies would confide in me that their workforces after "affirmative action" were stronger, more competitive, more productive.

Affirmative action has been good for American business and good for America. Indeed, corporate America, which has seen the benefits of fair-employment practices firsthand, long ago abandoned opposition to it. Too bad racists like Buchanan have failed to pay attention to what really has happened in the American workforce, and in America, over the past 40 years.

Guy T. Saperstein is a past president of the Sierra Club Foundation; previously, he was one of the National Law Journal’s "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America."
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