America is dedicated to the principle of equal treatment of all its citizens by government. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that all men are created equal, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that all Americans be treated equally "without regard to their race, color, or national origin."
Ironically, since the mid-1960s, this principle of equal treatment has been largely ignored to compensate for the historic discrimination encountered by racial minorities and women. These preferential policies are known as affirmative action.
In a 2003 decision, the Supreme Court called affirmative action a system of racial "preferences" and ruled that consideration of race must not continue indefinitely.
Surely, after the election of America's first black President, it is evident that America is committed to no longer judging individuals on the basis of skin color.
High school students applying to college and for jobs would be justifiably embittered if they were rejected because of the conditions of their birthrace, gender, or ethnicity. A civil society and a prosperous nation should insist that individual meritthat is, the particular qualifications of each individualserves as the criterion for admission to college as well as hiring and promotion decisions in the workplace.
For every person who benefits from preferences based on race rather than merit, someone else is unfairly denied that same opportunity. As someone who is often characterized as a "minority," I want to knowand I especially want others to knowthat my accomplishments are the result of my own efforts.
Until merit is the sole standard by which we are all judged, our country will remain divided. It is time to end affirmative action.
President, American Civil Rights Coalition
Affirmative action policies are vital tools for creating opportunity and developing a diverse workforce. We should not end them.
In November, Colorado voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have ended the use of affirmative action in public education, public employment, and public contracting. I opposed the measure because it would have eroded the racial progress we have made since the 1960s. This is no time to turn back.
The good news is that, thanks in part to affirmative action, more women and minorities are in the workforce, starting their own businesses, going to college, and participating in government at all levels. We all benefit when people of diverse backgrounds get a meaningful chance to succeed.
But we still have much work to do.
For example, in my home state of Colorado, the state's Pay Equity Commission recently found that women make, on average, 79 cents for every dollar men earn. And last year the Bell Policy Center in Denver found a huge gap between the percentage of whites and minorities who earn college degrees in Colorado: 50 percent of white adults, compared with 16 percent of minorities.
On the national level, census data show that substantial inequality persists: Blacks are three times more likely than whites to live below the poverty line, and the median income of blacks, $30,200, is less than two thirds that of whites, $48,800.
As we consider the future of affirmative-action policies, we must be mindful that we all still live with the legacy of past gender and racial discrimination. We should not jettison these policies until we have a level playing field for all.
Bill Ritter Jr.
Governor Of Colorado