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Racism, Not Quotas, Cause Job Loss

Column by Daniel Stevenson

"I have a dream," declared Martin Luther King Jr. on an August day 30 years ago. "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: `We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal'. . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character." In the turbulent 1960s, King and others strove for the goals of complete racial equality. Much progress has been made in this arena in the last three decades, but America today is still a country divided on the lines of color, ethnic origin, gender, and sexual preference. This division was recently demonstrated by an employment study showing that African-Americans were the only ethnic group to have a net loss of jobs during the current recession.

Despite the obvious racism underlying this trend, Michael Chung argued in a column in last Friday's issue of The Tech ["Quotas Exacerbate Prejudice Problems", Sept. 24] that this biased job loss was the result of quotas that forced firms to hire underqualified minorities and then fire them for poor performance. This blatantly discriminatory argument could not be further from the truth in our nation today. "Politically correct" groups are not forcing the demographics of the national population on prospective employers. Rather, historically persecuted people are asking that employers ignore their ethnic group, gender, and sexual preference, and focus instead on their value as an employee. The same argument applies to institutes of higher learning, where students from groups that were unilaterally denied admission half a century ago are now being admitted based upon their abilities and talents. The incredibly diverse population of the MIT student body is testament to the success of this process.

The simple, frightful truth is that quotas did not cause African-Americans to lose more jobs during the recession, racism did. This racism cannot be conquered unless we all strive together to strike down the psychological barriers of skin color, ethnic origin, gender, and sexual preference.

Chung goes on to quote arch-conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and his ideas about liberalism and equality. The statements about "reducing the potential of our society to its lowest common denominator" and equality punishing everyone who is not "at the depths of society" demonstrate the misunderstanding or ignorance by many of the concept of equality for all. Equality doesn't mean "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," an idea espoused in the utopian socialist theory. Instead, equality means equal opportunity for all. Equality means that employment and admissions will be based solely on ability and achievement, and not on any other characteristic, period.

As an example of why the process of equality is already working fine, the columnist asked, "How often have you heard of racial under-representation in professional athletics?" Perhaps the names of Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson mean nothing today, but all too short a time ago, the entire world of professional sports was barred to African-American men and women. And even today, coaching and front-office jobs for sports teams are still predominately occupied by white males. It has taken the latter half of this century for racism to be eliminated in athletics, but discrimination elsewhere still runs rampant. How can one claim that "the most qualified participants emerge successfully" when thousands of Blacks, Hispanics, and others are persecuted daily just because they are of a different race.

The column concludes with the concept that "complete equality is an unachievable ideal" and that discrimination will persist as long as minority groups "demand equality on the level of job acceptances and college acceptances." I, as an American, refuse to believe that equality of individuals of different ethnicity, sex, and sexual preference is an unattainable goal. I cannot believe that Dr. King's dream was only a figment of his imagination. That dream can become a reality if we all work for equality of all kinds. I, too, have a dream, a dream that all Americans can, one day, learn to accept one another as equals, without regard for any of the hateful prejudices which are so prevalent in today's society, and I hope that one day this dream will become a reality.