Webster's New World Dictionary defines affirmative action as "a policy or program for correcting the effects of discrimination in the employment or education of members of certain groups, as women, blacks, etc."
If only it were that simple.
On the one hand, affirmative action was one of the major vehicles that allowed the first significant wave of African-Americans to enter corporate America in the 1970s. Indeed, many of the nation's most powerful black executives today got their chance to excel because of affirmative-action initiatives in higher education and in industry.
On the other hand, it can easily be argued that African-Americans have been far from the chief beneficiaries of affirmative-action policies. In fact, women, the disabled and other disadvantaged groups also have been at least as successful as African-Americans. Nonblack minorities, too, have built upon early affirmative-action rulings to create access to opportunity.
Also, benefits to blacks have been minimized because neither government nor private industry has ever fully embraced affirmative action. In fact, many people are dedicated to the policy's destruction. Much progress was made in this regard during the "Reagan revolution." Now with the GOP in firm control of Congress and most of the 50 states, and civil rights groups such as the NAACP weakened, if not under siege, attacks on affirmative action are sure to intensify.
A sign of these times now sits on the Supreme Court. The late Thurgood Marshall's victories as a...