Golden Gater Online

[ Golden Gater Online October 22, 1996 ]

Reverse discrimination debate causes outrage

by Mugo wa Macharia

A stunned crowd of SF State students fired off a barrage of insults, interrupting a debate on reverse discrimination between two controversial authors.

Dinesh D'Souza was speaking to more than 400 students who gathered in McKenna Theatre at SF State last Thursday afternoon to attend a widely publicized debate on "reverse discrimination." The event was sponsored by Refuse and Resist, Diversity in Action, (both student organization at SF State), the Associated Students, SF State's Human Relations and the PEW Institute.

D'Souza is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and is the author of "The End of Racism" and "Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus," which was a New York Times bestseller.

He was a senior domestic policy analyst in the Reagan administration from 1987-88. Currently he lives in Washington, D.C.

His opponent, Tim Wise, is a New Orleans-based political organizer and analyst specializing in race relations and political movements of the far right. He is the author of "Little White Lies," a book about affirmative action and reverse discrimination.

He has been credited with convincing dozens of Neo-Nazi skinheads to leave the racism movement after a nationally-televised confrontation with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

History was at the root of their disagreement.

While D'Souza was coming from a moral and philosophical viewpoint, Wise argued that people who have been held back by racism should be compensated.

D'Souza seized the opportunity as the first one on stage by calling for the end of affirmative action, which he said discriminates against Asians and whites in University of California admissions.

He said an African-American student who is qualified to join UC-Berkeley has a better chance of being admitted than an Asian or white student with the same scores.

He argued that because the dropout rate of African-Americans is so high, affirmative action is just an illusion.

"The problem is not racism. It's merit," D'Souza continued. "Merit is producing the same racial gap as race."

He said that studies have shown that if the UC system admitted students on merit alone, the whole campus would be Asian and white.

"Blacks would be virtually extinct," he said, and added because that would cause embarrassment to affirmative action proponents, individual rights have been turned away by implementing race-based admission policies.

D'Souza said virtually every measure of academic or economic achievement have given the same results -- with white people on top, then Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans at the bottom.

"I realize the fact might cause pain. I know of no exception," the 36-year-old native of India explained. D'Souza migrated from India to the United States when he was 7-years-old and became a citizen in 1991.

"You're a joke," a sharp, irritated voice came from the audience, reflecting a wide-spread sense of shock and outrage many experienced at hearing a person of color speak out against affirmative action.

His speech was also interrupted with loud questions to the crowd from Dorothy Hamilton, who asked, "Is what we are listening to democratic?"

"Get off stage," shouted another member of the audience.

Wise began strongly telling the crowd that while he didn't want to advance the scoff against D'Souza, all D'Souza said was wrong. This announcement earned him applause even before he made his first point for continuing affirmative action.

"For those wondering why (D'Souza is) confused, buy his book. You'll understand the source of his confusion," Wise said. "He's quite confused by historic facts."

Wise argued that although opponents of affirmative action suggest that it is about creating race and gender preferences, the opposite is true.

"It's about ending preferences based on prejudice and stereotypes," Wise explained.

Wise even scoffed at his opponent's argument that white men are suffering from affirmative action programs by referring to the Glass Ceiling Commission, which found that senior level managers of Fortune 1,000 industrial companies and Fortune 500 service industries are predominately by white men, about 95 to 97 percent.

Congress created the Glass Ceiling Commission as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The commission had 21 members, who conducted a study and prepared recommendations for "eliminating artificial barriers to the advancement of women and minorities."

"Why doesn't CCRI abolish alumni scholarship," Wise asked and added: "The old boy's network will still exist where jobs are not advertised but filled by way of networks."

Wise argued that in the 1950s minorities and women didn't have access to loans and jobs, clear preferences white people had that he said went unquestioned.

But D'Souza argued that "if racism is removed, the situation of blacks and Hispanics won't change."

"If a black person steals a pair of Reebok shoes, the society says, 'What's wrong with black people?' When the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world eat people, no one asks what's wrong with the white people," Wise rebutted.

During the heated 90-minute debate, D'Souza called Wise an "Uncle Tom of the white race," and challenged all SF State professors who defend affirmative action to quit their jobs and give them to minorities.

He closed by saying that he was surprised by the lack of intellectual diversity at SF State and called liberalism an alibi for black failure.

Wise appealed to the white students in the audience to vote for affirmative action and said that by 2030 if programs for minorities are abolished, social unrest and economic chaos will prevail.

"That's not the country I want to live in," Wise said, adding, it's an issue for everyone to be concerned with."

The debate was continued outside with a crowd of students who questioned D'Souza for about a half an hour.

"I would like to be able to agree with D'Souza, but we live in a world of preferences. He is ineffectual and not based in reality," said Ben Balthaser, a creative writing and Russian major.

"Tim Wise came from a historical perspective while D'Souza was philosophical. Philosophy deals with abstract moral concepts," he added.

"D'Souza was more verbiage and repetitive. I can say he had no rebuttal," said Dan Kaminsky, a computer science major.

"As an Asian-American, I don't classify myself as a model minority. He felt intimidated when I asked him about internal slavery in Indonesia. He would rather go with a black man," said Sandy Hing, an ethnic studies and La Raza major.

According to Greg, a student who refused to give his last name in fear of a backlash, "Everybody is into self-preservation. If a proposition gives $5,000 to a black person, he will vote for it."

J.R. Valrey, a black studies and broadcasting major, said that Wise was very informative and educated on what white supremacy is doing to people of color and women.

"I don't see so many (white people who are educated on issues of white supremacy," Valrey said.

About D'Souza, Valrey said: "He is evidence of neocolonialism hard at work in America, where they have our own fighting against us. He amused me."

"I thought it was interesting to see a white male arguing on behalf of people of color and a person of color arguing on behalf of whites," said Aniefre Essien, a business major.

[ Golden Gater Online October 22, 1996 ]

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