Featuring the author Russell K. Nieli, Senior Preceptor, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University; with comments by Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; moderated by John Samples,
Director, Center for Representative Government, Cato Institute.
Racial preference policies first came on the national scene in response to black poverty and alienation in America as dramatically revealed in the destructive urban riots of the late 1960s. From the start, however, preference policies were controversial. Many who had opposed segregation and supported color-blind justice felt a sense of betrayal. A majority of Americans continue to oppose affirmative action, often with great intensity. Much of social science research on the topic undermines the central claims of supporters of affirmative action. The mere fact that preference policies have to be referred to through an elaborate system of euphemisms and code words—affirmative action, “diversity,” “goals and timetables,” “race sensitive admissions”—tells us something, Russell Nieli argues, about their widespread unpopularity, their tendency to reinforce negative stereotypes about their intended beneficiaries, and their incompatibility with core principles of American justice. Nieli concludes with an impassioned plea to refocus our public attention on the “truly disadvantaged” African American population in our nation’s urban centers. Please join us for a provocative look at racial preferences.