Harvard law professor: Affirmative action not about putting down white people

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 13:56 EDT
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Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy (Screenshot)
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During a presentation last weekend at the Politics and Prose bookstore, Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy argued that affirmative action in college admissions was a legally acceptable form of “benign discrimination.”

Kennedy was at the legendary D.C. bookstore to discuss his new book, “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.”

He explained that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited states from denying any individual equal protection under the law. The Fourteenth Amendment is violated when any authority takes harmful action against a person or group based on their race, Kennedy said.

“When the University of Texas, for instance, has an affirmative action plan in which it reaches out a helping hand to Latinos, reaches out a helping hand to black students, and in so doing to some degree limits the opportunities of white students or white applicants, is the University of Texas trying to put down white students who are to some degree disadvantaged?” Kennedy remarked.

“Is the University of Texas trying to put down those students because they are white? Is the University of Texas trying to say that white people are inferior? Is the University of Texas trying to stigmatize those would be students at the University of Texas? The answer is, clearly not.”

Though white applicants are disadvantaged by affirmative action policies, they are “being disadvantaged for a reason that is a good reason.”

Kennedy said it was important to distinguish between benign and malign discrimination. A sign reading, “Colored people welcome” is an example of the former, while a sign reading, “Colored people unwelcome” is an example of the latter.

Kennedy argued affirmative action was a form benign discrimination used to fight the “invisible wind of racism.” Race-neutral polices, on the other hand, perpetuated the pre-existing racial inequalities in the United States.

Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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