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July 26, 2010

Senator James Webb (D-VA) on Affirmative Action and Race

Ilya Somin:

In his much-discussed recent Wall Street Journal op ed, Virginia Senator James Webb makes some good points about affirmative action and race, but also some key mistakes and omissions. On the plus side, Webb's article highlights the contradictions between the "diversity" and compensatory justice rationales for affirmative action. He also correctly suggests that slavery and segregation inflicted considerable harm on southern whites as well as blacks; it is therefore a mistake to view these injustices as primarily a transfer of ill-gotten wealth from one race to another. On the negative side, Webb is very unclear as to his own position on affirmative action. He also seems to blame racism and the historic economic backwardness of the South on the machinations of a small elite. The reality was more complicated. Low-income southern whites were often much more supportive of racism and segregation than economic elites were, and Jim Crow might have been less virulent without their support.

I. Competing Rationales for Affirmative Action.

One of Webb's best points is that affirmative action has resulted in preferences for groups that cannot claim to be victims of massive, systematic injustices inflicted in the United States:

Clusty Search: James Webb, Ilya Somin.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 26, 2010 4:32 AM
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