Topics in the News: Affirmative Action

Andrew Cuomo on Civil Rights : Jan 9, 2013
Women's Equality Act: Shatter the glass ceiling

Let's make history and let's pass a Women's Equality Act in the State of New York. Women's Equality Act would have a ten point agenda.
  1. Shatter the glass ceiling by passing a real equal pay law - treble damages for underpayment or discrimination.
  2. Have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace period.
  3. Strengthen employment, lending, and credit discrimination laws.
  4. Strengthen human trafficking laws.
  5. End family status discrimination.
  6. Prevent landlords from denying housing to qualified tenants based on the source of funds, Section 8 families.
  7. Stop housing discrimination for victims of domestic violence.
  8. Stop pregnancy discrimination once and for all.
  9. Protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening the Order-of-Protection laws.
  10. Protect a woman's freedom of choice. Enact a Reproductive Health Act because it is her body, it is her choice. Because it's her body, it's her choice.
Click for Andrew Cuomo on other issues.   Source: 2013 State of the State Speech to NY Legislature

Jeb Bush on Civil Rights : Jun 19, 2012
Replaced affirmative action with "One Florida" initiative

An ardent proponent of privatization, Bush helped eliminate nearly 14,000 jobs, and by executive order he replaced affirmative action in university admissions and state contracting with his own "One Florida" initiative, a move that generated lasting ill will with many in the African American community.

Bush was alternately dubbed the "best governor in America" by admirers and "King Jeb" by detractors, but few would dispute that [Bush will] "go down as one of Florida's most consequential governors."

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.132

Condoleezza Rice on Civil Rights : Jan 10, 2012
Fierce defender of affirmative action

Stanford's Political Science Department wanted to hire me. I got a call from Stanford's affirmative action officer. If a department was willing to hire a minority professor, the university would provide half the money for the position. Even with that incentive, departments were reluctant. But this time the department had come to her. "How did this happen?" she asked.

Years later, after having been on the other side of faculty hiring, especially as the provost of Stanford, I understood exactly what had happened. Stanford, in an effort to diversify its faculty, had made it possible to hire minorities without going through the normal processes. The Department of Political Science saw a young, black, female Soviet specialist and decided to make an affirmative action hire.

Contrary to what has sometimes been written about me, I was and still am a fierce defender of affirmative action of this kind. Why shouldn't universities use every means necessary to diversify their faculty?

Click for Condoleezza Rice on other issues.   Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.199-200

Condoleezza Rice on Civil Rights : Jan 10, 2012
Supporter of affirmative action, if done in the right way

Issues of affirmative action are tricky in a university, whether in admissions, in faculty hiring and tenure, or in selecting a football coach. There is probably no single issue on which I've felt more misunderstood. For instance, I have been called an opponent of affirmative action. In fact, I'm a supporter of affirmative action--if done in what I consider to be the right way. No one can doubt that years of racial prejudice produced underrepresentation of minorities and women in all aspects of American life. That is not acceptable in America, which is the world's greatest multi-ethnic democracy.

Yet the question of how to remedy that situation is a delicate one. I've always believed that there are plenty of qualified minorities for these roles. But the processes of selection, the networks through which people are identified, can very easily be insular and produce the same outcomes over and over. The answer lies in looking outside established networks and patterns of hiring.

Click for Condoleezza Rice on other issues.   Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.275-276

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Oct 18, 2011
I benefited from affirmative action in my academic career

The Ivy League preselects America's leaders. Michelle and Barack Obama are where they are because, in getting into Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard Law, and onto law review, they benefited from affirmative action.

Barack Obama himself conceded the point in 1990 when, as president of Harvard Law Review, he wrote in defense of its affirmative action policy:

"As someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not personally felt stigmatized."

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p.258

Jerry Brown on Education : Oct 8, 2011
Vetoed considering demographics in college admissions

Gov. Brown vetoed a controversial, affirmative action-like bill that would have allowed public colleges and universities in California to consider demographic factors in admissions processes.

SB 185 would have made it legal for UC and CSU schools to consider factors such as race, gender, ethnicity and national origin in student admissions. The bill had faced scrutiny by those who questioned its legality. Opponents of the bill said that it contradicted Proposition 209. Approved by voters in 1996, the proposition made it illegal for students to receive preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity.

Though Brown said that he agrees with the purpose of the bill, he believes the courts should determine the limits of the proposition, according to a veto message he sent to the State Senate. "Signing this bill is unlikely to impact how Prop. 209 is ultimately interpreted by the courts; it will just encourage the 209 advocates to file more costly and confusing lawsuits," he wrote.

Click for Jerry Brown on other issues.   Source: Daily Californian on 2014 California governor's race

Sarah Palin on Civil Rights : Sep 30, 2008
Equal pay for equal work; but not Ledbetter Act

Q: Where do you stand on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?

A: I’m absolutely for equal pay for equal work. The Ledbetter pay act--it was gonna turn into a boon for trial lawyers who, I believe, could have taken advantage of women who [would] allege discrimination many, many years ago. Thankfully, there are laws on the books, there have been since 1963, that no woman could be discriminated against in the workplace in terms of anything, but especially in terms of pay. So, thankfully we have the laws on the books and they better be enforced.

Q: Why should a fear of lawsuits trump a woman’s ability to do something about the fact that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes?

A: There should be no fear of a lawsuit prohibiting a woman from making sure that the laws that are on the books today are enforced. I know in a McCain-Palin administration we will not stand for any measure that would result in a woman being paid less than a man for equal work.

Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Aug 27, 2008
Keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work

Now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Aug 25, 2008
OpEd: Not the seed of civil rights, but the flower

Despite his own background, Obama paradoxically is a post-racial figure in a society weary of racial division. Both for younger, more tolerant Americans who are electrified by his promise, and for an older generation of more conservative whites skeptical of racial preferences, Obama shines out as the opposite of affirmative action--a biracial African American who, against all odds, succeeded based on sheer merit. After a generation of blacks helped up the ladder by affirmative action, Obama is not a black man who got his preset position thanks to the need for racial symbolism, such as, say, Clarence Thomas. He rather evoked Jackie Robinson--one whose talent was so exceptional that he could not be denied. He is what Americans of goodwill dreamed could occur once we put racism behind us; as Leon Wieseltier memorably put it, not the seed of civil rights but the flower.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Obama`s Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, p. 17

Barack Obama on Jobs : Jul 1, 2008
Supports Fair Pay Act: equal pay for equal work

Obama's proposals on combating employment discrimination include: working to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. Obama will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. Obama will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p. 66

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Apr 16, 2008
Apply affirmative action to poor white college applicants

Q: You said about affirmative action that affluent African Americans like your daughters should probably be treated as advantaged when they apply to college, and that poor white children should get special consideration.

A: The basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we’re providing ladders of opportunity for people? Race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities to say, “we’re going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they’re black or Latino or women...”

Q: Even if they’re wealthy?

A: I think that’s something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can’t be a quota system.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Feb 2, 2008
Fight job discrimination to give women equal footing at jobs

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 35-36

Hillary Clinton on Civil Rights : Jan 21, 2008
Equal pay is not yet equal

Equal pay is not yet equal. A woman makes $0.77 on a dollar & women of color make $0.67. We feel so passionately about this because we not only are running for office, but we each, in our own way, have lived it. We have seen it. We have understood the pain and the injustice that has come because of race, because of gender. It’s imperative that we make it very clear that each of us will address these issues. You don’t hear the Republicans talking about any of this. You don’t hear them talking about the disgrace of a criminal justice system that incarcerates so many more African-Americans proportionately than whites, and any kind of effort to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities, something that I’m committed to doing to make it clear that these are important institutions that have led the way for so many great leaders to be where they are today. So we have a specific set of policies and priorities that are really part of who we are, as well as part of what the Democratic Party stands for.
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Dec 4, 2007
Benefited from affirmative action but overcame via merit

As a black, Obama must display enough natural talent to be immune to the stigma of affirmative action--the perception that he is a mediocrity lifted up by lowered standards.

Still, he has clearly benefited from affirmative action. American universities impose this policy on black students with such totalitarian resolve that even blacks who don’t need the lowered standards come away stigmatized by them.

What began to separate Obama from this stigma was his editorship of the Harvard Law Review. Here was something that required genuine merit. Here was a position he had to gain through competition rather than through the suspension of competition. Obama’s fame began precisely with this achievement because it distinguished him from the general run of black students who carried the stigma of having been pulled forward by lowered standards. He was special because he was clearly more than an “affirmative action baby,” someone who could succeed without the ministrations of white guilt.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: A Bound Man, by Shelby Steele, p. 13-14

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Oct 30, 2007
Include class-based affirmative action with race-based

Obama declared his daughters “should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed.”

But Obama is not race blind, and neither is his ideal of affirmative action, which would combine both race-based and class-based preferences. He said, “I don’t think those concepts are mutually exclusive. I think what one can say is that in our society race and class still intersect, and there are a lot of African American kids who are struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first generation as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people together to help build this country.“

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 65-66

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Aug 26, 2007
Better enforce women’s pay equity via Equal Pay Act

Despite decades of progress, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar men make. Obama believes the government needs to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace.

Women are majority owners of more than 28% of US businesses, but head less than 4% of venture-capital-backed firms. Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, and reducing discrimination in lending.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 2008 Presidential campaign website, “Flyers”

Joe Biden on Abortion : Apr 29, 2007
No public funding for abortion; it imposes a view

Q: Are you still opposed to public funding for abortion?

A: I still am opposed to public funding for abortion. It goes to the question of whether or not you’re going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote.

Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series

Jeb Bush on Civil Rights : Feb 15, 2007
Dismantled Florida's affirmative action program

Two black lawmakers staged a sit-in, to protest his unilateral dismantling of Florida's affirmative action programs--designed, in part, to thwart a petition to put the question on the November ballot. Brother George was running as a compassionate conservative. The last thing Jeb wanted was a divisive, hot-button question like that on the Florida ballot.

Two months later, 10,000 black protesters descended on the Capitol on opening day of the legislative session, the largest such demonstration in decades. One of the sit-in legislators, Kendrick Meek, made it his personal mission to avenge Jeb's affirmative action decision with a voter registration drive to turn out the black vote against George. Now, most voter registration drives end in failure. Signing up new voters is one thing. Getting them to actually show up is another. Meek delivered, and the 280,000 extra black voters who cast ballots over the 1996 turnout gave Al Gore a virtual tie, broken a month later by the US Supreme Court.

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p. 12

Condoleezza Rice on Civil Rights : Oct 11, 2005
Supports college affirmative action, as beneficiary herself

Rice was under pressure to increase the number of tenured female and minority faculty. Rather than bow to the pressures, Rice charted a centrist course. Admitting she was a product of affirmative action, Rice endorsed using racial and gender preferences in hiring faculty. “I am myself a beneficiary of a Stanford strategy that took affirmative action seriously, that took a risk in taking a young Ph.D. from the University of Denver.”

Yet, as much as she backed affirmative action in hiring faculty, she strongly opposed it in granting tenure. She consistently refused to give into demands that she favor minority and women professors in granting tenure.

Rice has broken with President Bush to endorse race-based preferences in college admissions. Rice said, “ I believe that while race-neutral means are preferable, it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body.”

Click for Condoleezza Rice on other issues.   Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.115-118&179

Hillary Clinton on Civil Rights : Oct 11, 2005
Argued with Bill Clinton about diluting affirmative action

Only a few months after the 1994 election, Bill and Hillary spoke to me about how they should handle this new hot-button issue. Should they side with those who wanted to end affirmative action, or remain loyal to the core constituencies of the Democratic Party?

At first, the president wanted to explore alternatives to affirmative action. He and I discussed modifying affirmative action to grant preferences to those in poverty, regardless of gender and color.

But Hillary soon ended this flirtation with moderation. She saw great danger in disappointing the black and feminist groups that supported the Democratic Party.

Hillary pointed out that many middle-class blacks and professional women felt they needed affirmative action to get ahead in their workplace or win government contracts. Diluting the program to give preference to poor people, regardless of race or gender, might strip of their privileges, and they are the core of the Democratic Party.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.120-121

Joe Biden on Government Reform : Feb 11, 2003
Disallowed bringing pornography issues into Thomas hearing

The 1991 campaign against Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court was far more personal and extreme than the campaign against Robert Bork had been. Members of the civil rights establishment set the tone by calling Thomas a variety of despicable names because he disagreed with the prevailing wisdom about affirmative action. Then the feminists had their moment with the belated appearance of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of offensive ribaldry when he was boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; she was questioned intensely and skeptically by Alan Simpson and several other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. A delegation of feminists visited Joseph Biden, just as Ralph Nader had done four years earlier. "They wanted the committee to expose the fact that Thomas watched pornographic films," Biden recalled. "But I told them that if he did, it wasn't material. It was private." (The media were happy to provide all the relevant details to a soap opera-loving public.)
Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p.104

Mike Huckabee on Civil Rights : Nov 1, 2002
No affirmative action for state contracts nor colleges

Q: Affirmative Action: Should race, ethnicity, or gender be taken into account in state agencies’ decisions on:

Q: College and university admissions

A: No.

Q: Public employment

A: No.

Q: State contracting

A: No.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: 2002 AR Gubernatorial National Political Awareness Test

Hillary Clinton on Welfare & Poverty : Jan 1, 2000
Working should mean no poverty

No one who takes the responsibility to work hard every day should have to raise their family in poverty, Hillary says. That’s why she supports raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work. She worked with former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin to increase microcredit programs, which make investment capital available to small businesses.
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: “About Hillary”

Newt Gingrich on Civil Rights : Nov 1, 1998
Discontinue affirmative action programs

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Congressional 1998 National Political Awareness Test

Jeb Bush on Civil Rights : Jul 2, 1998
Supports Affirmative Action; against quotas

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test

Barack Obama on Civil Rights : Jul 2, 1998
Supports affirmative action in colleges and government

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test

Deval Patrick on Civil Rights : Jan 10, 1997
Crafted “mend it, don’t end it” for affirmative action

Q: You’re credited with crafting the administration’s “mend it, don’t end it” approach to affirmative action. What needed to be mended?

A: As in any program with good intentions, particular means of using affirmative action principles are subverted, and are not functioning very well. And so we ended [such] programs. But we do believe that affirmative action can be done a right way; that on the whole it has been done the right way.

Q: You said that you think it’s still necessary. I assume that’s because we don’t have a colorblind society.

A: I think it is a complete ruse to suggest that declaring ourselves colorblind in law is going to cause us to be colorblind in fact. I think that there will come a day as long as we remind ourselves of fundamental American values, of equality, opportunity and fair play, when we will set aside the kind of negative attention that the differences in this country sometimes--sometimes bring. But we are not there yet.

Click for Deval Patrick on other issues.   Source: Elizabeth Farnsworth interview on PBS Newshour

Newt Gingrich on Civil Rights : Jun 1, 1995
Affirmative action OK individually, but not by group

In 1995, a California referendum [was proposed to] eliminate affirmative action programs in state and local government. When Gingrich was asked about the issue at his regular daily press conference, he was consistent.

"It is my belief," he said, "that affirmative action programs, if done for individuals, are good, and if done by some group distinction, are bad. Because it is antithetical to the American dream to measure people by the genetic pattern of their great-grandmothers. So, I'm very interested in rewriting the affirmative action programs so that they allow individuals to get help whether they are Appalachian white or blacks from Atlanta. But I think it ought to be based on the fact that you individually have worked hard and are trying to rise and that you come out of a background of poverty and a background of cultural need."

A reporter noted that some beneficiaries of government preferences have been subjected to discrimination for centuries. "That's been true of virtually every American."

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Newt!, by Dick Williams, p. 31

  • Additional quotations related to Affirmative Action issues can be found under Civil Rights.
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Civil Rights.
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Page last updated: Mar 06, 2014