The Color Bind: California's Battle to End Affirmative Action, by Lydia Chavez. Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, 305 pp., $40.00 hardbound and $18.00 paperback.
The proper role of race, ethnicity, and gender in the allocation of societal rewards is one of the great controversies of our time. No university, employer, or government is immune from this issue. How the legal and ethical consensus finally evolves will have enormous influence on the stability and character of the American experiment.
At the center of the debate is the chameleon-like term "affirmative action." It originally required behaviors without regard to race, ethnicity, and gender and then, under manipulation by bureaucracies, courts, and politicians, began to require exactly the opposite.
Eventually affirmative action meant that, unless proportional representation by race existed in any organization, discrimination could be assumed to be the cause. Race conscious remedies were therefore necessary to assure the proper proportions. Advocates were blind to the reality that in many fields, for example, as different as sports, science, surgery, and symphony orchestras, proportional representation could only be created by discrimination against persons who otherwise would be chosen by merit principles.
The two books reviewed here tell from different perspectives the pivotal story of the passage of California's Proposition 209 which confronted the affirmative action status quo. The Ups and Downs of Affirmative Action Preferences was written in part by Harry Glynn Custred, Jr., professor of anthropology at California State University, Hayward, who was, with Tom Wood, the coauthor and principal organizer for Prop 209. M. Ali Raza and A. Janell Anderson, professors in the business school at Cal State, Sacramento, cowrote Custred's book and had …