MPR’s Midmorning is debating whether there’s still a need for affirmative action. Guests in the 9 a.m. hour are Mary Frances Berry of the University of Pennsylvania and former chairperson of the Commission on Civil Rights; and John McWhorter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and author of “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.”
Kerri says the show stems from an appearance on the show by Gwen Ifill. She says the phones lit up when the subject of affirmative action came up so her staff knew they had to do an entire show on it.
9:09 a.m. – Berry says people have always referred to affirmative action as a quota to hire unqualified people and that’s incorrect. She says it’s clearly needed now. She says until the country comes up with something better, “we have to keep trying.”
9:12 a.m. – McWhorter says a “very white person” has had it hard too. He says he witnessed a transition from race-based factors in universities where people would “automatically get affirmative action. You get it whether you want it or not.” Basing it on skin color — as opposed to, say, socio economic inequity — in appropriate. (His article on the subject)
9:15 a.m. – “Nothing you’ve said is anything I think,” Berry said. She says universities only “affirm.” She says she’s had many white people who don’t do well on standardized tests who she’s recommended. “It’s about our country and our demography and who we include and what we think will be the future of our country.” She says she looks at the “whole person.”
9:20 a.m. – McWhorter: “People with brown skin are admitted with lower test scores”.
Berry: “I don’t know anywhere where that happens.”
9:21 a.m. – Caller: Many people benefit who are white. She’s a college instructor who says her class benefits. McWhorter says he sees “just as much diversity from the white Catholic who’s 7 feet tall, from Chinese….”
9:22 a.m. – Online commenter says admission policies should be “class based.” McWhorter agrees. Berry says most universities do admit people based on trying to get the working class and poor “a free ride.” She does not think people who are poor should be admitted if the school isn’t looking at “the whole person.”
9:26 a.m. — Kerri references the link I’d already provided above. McWhorter says he never met someone who scored well on an SAT ‘who wasn’t a great student.’ Berry says she had one who flunked out in the first year.
9:28 a.m. – Berry explains her comment above. What she meant was that people are not admitted simply because they were black or Latino. McWhorter says he’s seen that happen. “Outrageous,” said Berry. First time today they’ve agreed on something.
Tangent time: California’s ban on affirmative action under court scrutiny.
9:32 a.m. – A student at William Mitchell School of law calls to tell Berry about two cases before the Supreme Court (aside: Students, you might want to just bring up these cases for clarification, instead of trying to ‘school’ lawyers who live these things and probably have more intimate knowledge of the cases.).
9:36 a.m. – Pressed on whether policies of ‘race only” is the consideration, McWhorter concedes “not only.” But “they’re trying to make ‘race neutral’ policies tip toward race,” he said.
“In none of those California or Georgia cases did people say all they wanted to do is look at race, that’s just academically irresponsible,” Berry says. “You’re making it sound like they’re saying, ‘oh, black people, let’s put them in this pile.'”
“Nobody’s saying that,” McWhorter replied.
9:39 a.m. – “In the age of Obama, his being elected to the presidency does not resolve these issues,” says Berry. “We still have all these propositions around the country… trying to get rid of affirmative action.
Tangent time: Life after affirmative action, Nebraska is trying to figure it out.
9:42 a.m. – If you’re listening live, you’re hearing references to Richard Sanders. Here’s what they’re talking about
9:43 a.m. – “Cosby” cited as an example of African American middle class. An attorney married to a doctor. That’s usually not middle class in any race.
Debate over whether there should be more people of color on TV news. Berry says, “John, do you think that there are more people of color who are well educated who can read the news?” McWhorter says “yes.”
This is an area where there is a lot of concern in journalism circles, that as the industry continues to die, it’s taking out gains made by affirmative action first.
9:48 a.m. – Does MnDOT stiff minority-owned contractors? A caller says so and Berry says that’s been the case in the construction industry for quite awhile.
“If there’s evidence of discrimination in the contracting in Minnesota, then, yeah, you have to have some kind of program,” McWhorter says.
9:50 a.m. – Mark from Woodbury calls to relay personal story. When he was an ungrad in Boston, he applied to several grad schools. He got a phone call from professor at U of Washington who said he could apply for many grants, and realized they were “Hispanic grants.” Looking at his file later, he said he realized he was only accepted at the school because they thought he was Hispanic. He says he believes in affirmative action “when it’s done right.”
Berry says affirmative action is illegal in the state of Washington by referendum.
9:54 a.m. – McWhorter and Berry both say Obama probably won’t make any statements above affirmative action. “He’s a politician, he wants to be popular, and he wants to get re-elected,” Berry says.
She says the images of he and his family has moved the discussion into an undesirable area of people thinking “we’re done and we don’t have to do any more.”