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Affirmative Action Based on History



At the debate on affirmative action two weeks ago, Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield '53 responded to a question from the audience. A student wondered why the professor had directed his focus on affirmative action as it applies to black Americans while neglecting the relation of the programs to white women. Part of Mansfield's response was something to the extent that blacks are more deserving of affirmative action than white women. (He later elaborated that "deserving" was used from a historical perscpetive.

Mansfield's original statement elicited oohs and aahs from an audience that clearly felt his response was at least surprising or perhaps, to the fragile, hypersensitive psyches of he '90s, even offensive. However, isn't this prioritization of historical experiences of particular population groups to which Mansfield alludes the fundamental premise of affirmative action programs? --Henry G. Nuzum '99

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