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COLUMN LEFT / ROBERT SCHEER : Blacks Just Need to Learn to Play Golf : Who needs affirmative action? Minorities should adapt to the traditional white-male values.

March 19, 1995|ROBERT SCHEER | Robert Scheer is a former Times national correspondent

Forget affirmative action. Maybe it once was a necessary tactic but its time is clearly gone. True, there used to be slavery and segregation and women didn't have the vote but that's all ancient history. C'mon, blacks and women have all the power now. Just look at the O.J. trial.

Try getting a decent job if you're a white man. You don't see my name on the masthead of this paper. What kind of meritocracy is this if my merit isn't rewarded the way I think it ought to be?

I'm not making this up, folks. The census stats back me up. Minorities and women now hold 5% of senior management positions, and those used to be white-guy jobs. Even among Fortune-1,000 companies, women now have 3% of the top slots, according to last week's report by the bipartisan federal Glass Ceiling Commission. So far, black men don't have any of the top jobs, but if affirmative action isn't stopped, who knows what could happen?

Don't try to paint me like some kind of racist for saying this, like I've got something against black men. Our beef is more with women than with black men, who are going nowhere fast. Even though almost 800,000 black students a year graduate from college, many of them business majors, they don't have what it takes to get to the top. Most of them still don't play golf. That's what a lot of white executives told the federal commission, which, incidentally, was created by the Bush Administration, so its results are reliable. One white manager told the truth: that, in hiring, "What's important is comfort, chemistry, relationships and collaborations." That's why black, college-educated professional men earn only 71% of their white counterparts on the bell curve: The comfort level is too low.

The real threat is from women, with whom white men have a longer history of relationships. I hesitate to bring it up because they vote and it's better to have white women believe that affirmative action is a black thing. But take what's called "middle management." Black men account for only 4% of those positions, but almost 40% of middle managers are women. Unless you marry one of them, you're out of luck, and what does that tell you about who wears the pants?

The big problem up the road is that you'll have to get along with those women, what they call networking, just to get a job. What does that say about traditional values when a man has to worry about what a woman thinks of his performance? Meritocracy, in the wrong hands, can be a killer. No wonder the federal commission concluded that "Many middle- and upper-level managers view the inclusion of minorities and women in management as a direct threat to their own chances for advancement." They'd be stupid not to.

But we don't have a chance at turning back the tide unless we eliminate the discrimination against white males in the universities. On the nine campuses of the University of California, white men were 40% of the student body in 1980, and now they're a miserable 24%, less than half the number of women. Girls were always better at the school stuff but you could count on them to drop out along the way. Another threat is the 12% who are Latino, but Proposition 187 should scare them off. Same for the Asians, who outnumber white males at UC. I know that Asians are not covered by affirmative action, but even with round-the-clock tutoring, we can't keep up with them. And none of this would have happened if the blacks hadn't started all this. You don't see blacks endangered at UC--they went up a full two-tenths of a percent in the past 15 years, from 3.8% to 4%. They're taking over.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a level playing field, and I know that a lot of blacks come from disadvantaged backgrounds due to poverty. After all, census data show that almost half of black children live in poverty, which shows that they have lost the spirit of individual responsibility. We have got to stop coddling them. The answer is to end poverty by eliminating food stamps, school lunches and infant nutrition programs that provide such an irresistible incentive for people to raise their kids in lousy neighborhoods. If poor people want a good job, they should get it the way the rest of us do. Call an uncle or a business associate of your father. Invest your inheritance wisely. Get active in a prestigious church or a good golf club. Blacks are going to make it when they learn to act and look like everyone else.

I am for social policies that are colorblind, just as the founders of our nation were.

For me, all I want is my country back. You know what I mean: a return to traditional values where the white man is king, even if his woman has to work.

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