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Excerpted From: Carlos J. Nan, Adding Salt to the Wound: Affirmative Action and Critical Race Theory, 12 Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice 553 (June 1994) (145 Footnotes) (Full Document)


Using quotas instead of quality to select people for jobs and promotions rewards the dumb, lazy, and unambitious at the expense of the smart, talented, and ambitious.

I can't turn around without hearing about some 'civil rights advance!’ White people seem to think the black man ought to be shouting 'hallelujah!’ Four hundred years the white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man's back - and now the white man starts to wiggle the knife out, maybe six inches! The black man's supposed to be grateful? Why, if the white man jerked the knife out, its still going to leave a scar!

Born in Queens, New York to two immigrant parents, I am well aware of the difficulties and concerns of inner-city communities of color. By the time I was nine years old, I was living in California -- raised solely by my mother, an immigrant from the Carribbean. Despite limited funds and limited opportunities, I have worked very hard to get where I am today -- a working law student with a Bachelor's Degree in both Political Science and History.

Ignoring my perseverance and determination, to many I am merely an “affirmative action baby.” After all, affirmative action explains my success and simultaneously gives the government a pat on the back for its alleged efforts. Moreover, affirmative action provides an acceptable explanation for the failures and disappointments of frustrated, non-minority individuals.

As cries of reverse discrimination grow louder with each labelling of “affirmative action baby,” society has become more critical and skeptical of these remedial policies. This growing skepticism is necessary, however, to demonstrate the inadequacies of affirmative action and the burden it places on people of color.

Advocates of the program argue that affirmative action addresses historic as well as current discrimination. Further, they argue that affirmative action diversifies homogenous institutions and places of employment. Another goal of affirmative action policies is to provide role models for disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.

Opponents attack these arguments alleging “reverse discrimination.” They criticize affirmative action for being psychologically deleterious to its intended beneficiaries.

The actual problems of affirmative action, however, are appropriately addressed in a fairly new movement of legal scholarship. The self-proclaimed Critical Race Theory (CRT), has vociferously criticized affirmative action programs -- not on their alleged unconstitutionality or “unfairness,” but rather on their slow pace and ineffectiveness. This article will highlight CRT's contributions to the debate over affirmative action, and will subsequently examine the effectiveness of an affirmative action policy from a CRT perspective.

Part I of this article will lay out a legislative history of affirmative action and the Supreme Court's numerous interpretations. In addition to a historical backdrop, this section will discuss the effectiveness of the program in relation to its intended beneficiaries. Presumably, implementation of affirmative action programs will result in a society free of bias and racial imbalance. Statistics prove otherwise. Part II of the Article will define CRT and discuss the diverse views held by some of its core members in relation to affirmative action. Part III will analyze affirmative action from a CRT perspective, as well as provide an alternative outlook to the racial dilemma by suggesting a culturally nationalistic agenda.


[. . .]

Affirmative action programs have proven effective to a limited degree, but they have also proven quite burdensome for communities of color. As implemented, affirmative action has been wrongly utilized as a tool by the dominant culture to rid itself of guilt and responsibility for its inhumane and criminal actions. The program has created a facade of equal opportunity in the face of worsening racial conditions and disparities. This facade simultaneously denies communities of color autonomy and self-determination.

The solution lies in re-evaluating affirmative action programs and their ramifications. People of color should note that affirmative action programs have not been used or implemented in their best interest. Further, reliance on a program created and structured by the same power structure which is the cause of the problem is illogical. Communities of color should create their own programs to adequately further their interests. And if affirmative action policies are to continue, they should not be perceived or implemented to remedy past discrimination, for purposes of diversity, or to create role models. Affirmative action should be implemented as an affirmative right, justly deserved by people of color for their struggle in overcoming the racism, oppression, and exploitation they have encountered, while simultaneously contributing to this country's wealth and status. In addition, affirmative action programs should be perceived as reparations for past and current exclusion from the benefits reaped by those who did nothing, but received everything.

Well I am one who doesn't believe in deluding myself. I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate.

B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1991. J.D. expected from the University of Minnesota in 1995.


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