Episode Overview (04:53)
This episode of “The Constitution: That Delicate Balance” will examine issues related to affirmative action. The 13th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and guaranteed equal protection under the law. However, the descendants of slaves and women continued to face bias.
Can Race and Gender Be Factors? (11:40)
Moderator Tyrone Brown describes a scenario in which prestigious Dalton State University has begun an affirmative action program for the recruitment of faculty members. Judge Robert Bork, former Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler, and other panelists ponder whether race and gender can be used as factors for selecting a professor for a tenured position.
Fair or Reverse Discrimination? (11:18)
Is using race and gender as criteria for hiring an appropriate way to remedy for historical exclusion? Public Interest Editor Irving Kristol and other panelists object to the practice, characterizing it as reverse racism and promotion of mediocrity. Judge Harry Edwards, Rep. Charles Rangel and others say it is just in the context of institutional bias that minorities still face.
Equal Protection Clause Explained (06:13)
Retired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart says affirmative action programs enacted by state institutions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 to protect the rights of recently freed slaves. The Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that blacks could be excluded from certain places and institutions, a precedent that stood until Brown v. Board of Education nearly 60 years later.
What Does Merit Mean? (04:57)
Boston Globe Columnist Ellen Goodman raises a key issue: “the utter subjectivity of the word merit.” Judge Bork, New York Times Columnist Anthony Lewis and other panelists debate the concept in the context of a society that has historically assumed racial minorities have less merit.
Struggling with Race and Sex (05:51)
Doctor Alvin Poussaint, Judge William Bauer, and other panelists discuss the difficulty of hashing out issues related to racism and sexism. What is the justification for government being involved in fixing such issues in the workplace? Does affirmative action use race as a substitute for merit?
Colorblindness vs. Color Consciousness (10:48)
Lewis rejects the notion that hiring decisions should be “colorblind,” saying the Supreme Court rejected that ideal (in Plessy v. Ferguson) and “ground it into the dust … for most of the life of blacks in this country.” Is there a societal benefit to diversifying certain institutions? Can society reach the ultimate goal of colorblindness without emphasizing race?
Credits: Affirmative Action versus Reverse Discrimination (01:37)
Credits: Affirmative Action versus Reverse Discrimination
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