In Defense of Affirmative Action

Barbara R. Bergmann, Author
Barbara R. Bergmann, Author Basic Books $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-465-09833-0
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In this brief book, American University economist Bergmann makes a partially convincing defense of affirmative action, focusing on its role in the workplace rather than in university admissions or in the awarding of contracts. While she observes that affirmative action plans involve efforts at outreach and diversity training, she acknowledges that such programs ``do have quotalike aspects'' and claims that such goals are justifiable, at least for a certain duration. She cites evidence-from statistics and studies using equally qualified white and black ``testers''-that employment discrimination remains significant and that we need a systematic program that ``pushes'' employers to think differently: ``The purpose of affirmative action is to supply that push.'' She offers decent rebuttals of many opponents of affirmative action, noting that we don't have an ironclad adherence to ``merit'' (what about veterans' preferences?), and that affirmative action based on class rather than race wouldn't be effective. However, a true defense of the policy requires a more nuanced journalistic investigation of how it actually works. (Mar.)
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