Public Opinion and The Demise Of Affirmative Action

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George State University Law Review


Skewed perceptions about the black condition and a quiet avoidance of racial realities now dominate discussions about race. It is common to hear that discrimination is not a norm but an aberration, and that white disadvantage mirrors that of blacks. Part I of this article evaluates the link between increasingly widespread images of black success and declining realities of whiteness as privilege25 and its impact on the future of affirmative action. Part II shows that tying white disadvantage to black opportunity and achievement is not new and has always been strong currency in Supreme Court civil rights jurisprudence. Part II also shows that, while available scholarship has focused on the interpretive aspects of the Court's affirmative action jurisprudence, it has paid little or no attention to the role of public perception in redirecting the Court's attention to the concerns of whites. Part III of this article argues that public mood and opinion are more powerful than the constitutional and statutory provisions implicated in the affirmative action debate because public opinion is a key force driving the interpretation given to those provisions. Part IV evaluates the effect of public opposition to racial competition and the theory of colorblindness on affirmative action programs in the areas of education, voting, and employment. This article contends that we must recognize racial discrimination and continue to work at eradicating such practices. Identifying how discrimination against blacks continues will serve as a counterweight to perceptions of black advantage and will minimize the public outcry against affirmative action.

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Winter 2002