Glenn Loury Berkeley is one of the most dogmati…

Glenn Loury

Berkeley is one of the most dogmatic of places. When I was there as an undergraduate, the big debate was regarding affirmative action. You couldn’t be against affirmative action without being ostracized and certainly, nobody took what you said seriously or would engage you on the subject.

It is clear that American history contains moments when, simply due to the color of one’s skin, certain people were treated in awful and in some instances sub-human ways. It is also clear that these moments were responsible for building a kind of structural racism that lives on today in some or all of our institutions in one form or other. So before the civil rights movement, there were two types of racism, overt and structural. The efforts of civil rights advocates resulted in policies that in most instances have removed or drastically reduced overt racism. For example, out-right racism (of the name calling, cross-burning, lynching variety) is no longer acceptable, in any form, in the large majority of our society. The tactics that civil rights advocates used, impassioned speech of freedom and equality for all, to remove these overt racism made sense for that purpose.

The question remains of how to remove the structural racism. The answer is not obvious but it is obvious that you can’t create color blind institutions by color conscious policy. The policy would be a constant reminder of the thing its trying to erase.

At Berkeley, you couldn’t discuss that obvious deficit of policies like affirmative action. Like all dogmas, Berkeley’s stunted true discussion and for a dogma that calls itself “progressive” it eliminates the prospects of progress.

The hope of true dialog on the subject would be to yield policies that resolve the conflict; eliminate structural racism while encouraging color-blindness.


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