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Dealing With Discrimination

May 19, 1991

Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes an impassioned piece in support of affirmative action ("If You Hadn't Been Mexican," Opinion, May 12). Along the way, he cites incidents that support his appeal, but somehow overlooks those that might embarrass it.

Whites with inferior grades blaming him for not being admitted to college have never been a threat to affirmative action. It is whites who are rejected for reasons other than grades who have called the concept into question, as Allan Bakke showed in 1978. Angry whites in search of whipping boys to vent their frustration are nothing new. In the past, people of all backgrounds have reacted to rejection by blaming someone else, often with justification. What is new is that white anger today is too easily dismissed as the rantings of those who must now share power and privilege with someone else. Navarrette has obviously succeeded on the strength of his own qualifications, and I admire him for that.

Affirmative action is not about those who succeed miraculously in the face of desperate odds. It is about those who, regardless of color, may not succeed because they are denied access to opportunities that would make success possible. Today, those opportunities are fewer in number than the people applying for them. The liberal response to this dilemma has been to divide the population into constituencies, and then change the distribution rules so as to allocate the limited number of opportunities to a different constituency. The result has been to polarize people into groups where everyone feels cheated. Perhaps we should strive to increase the number of opportunities instead.

WILLIAM S. LaSOR JR., Corona del Mar

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