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Statue Squabble Embodies Lies of Racial Preferences

By Marc Levin


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After captivating America and the world with its courage and heroism in putting out the monstrous fire of September 11, the New York City Fire Department was recently forced to extinguish the flames of a public relations disaster. Developer Bruce Ratner commissioned a statue for the FDNY headquarters based on the inspirational photo of firemen Billy Eisengrein, George Johnson and Dan McWilliams hoisting the American flag at Ground Zero the afternoon of September 11.

However, there was one modification to Hackensack Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin's image: the three white firemen morphed into one white, one black and one Hispanic. Thus, the two white firefighters were replaced by fictitious firemen of color who did not actually rise from the rubble and unfurl Old Glory.

While the purpose of this falsification was to achieve some artificial proportionate diversity, the fact is that of FDNY's 11,495 firefighters, only 2.7 percent are black while 3.2 percent are Hispanic. Nevertheless, had the statue been a general tribute to firefighters, it would have hardly been objectionable, but because it aims to depict an actual occurrence, it is fraudulent.

Although the public uproar has now led Ratner and the FDNY to reevaluate the statue, this is not the first time that truth has been sacrificed on the altar of diversity. Last year, according to the March 16, 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of Wisconsin at Madison digitally inserted the face of a black student, Diallo Shabazz, into a picture on the cover of a brochure. The picture portrayed Shabazz amid a sea of white faces at a Wisconsin football game he had not attended. University officials subsequently apologized to Shabazz and acknowledged their purpose was to make the campus appear more diverse.

As disturbing as these two incidents are, far more troubling is the fact that they symbolize the intellectual dishonesty of racial preference programs. These two intangible affronts to truth pale in comparison to the countless people everyday who lose a place in college, a job, or a contract because of preference programs. Whether used in college admissions, employment, or contracting, racial preferences are built on lies.

First, they necessarily involve a double standard. For example, at the University of Texas School of Law prior to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Hopwood decision, minority applicants were placed in a different pile, reviewed by a different committee, and were automatically accepted at lower grades and test scores than whites and Asians were automatically rejected.

The practice of racial preferences is also dishonest because, more often than not, minorities who receive a position because of the preference are not told that they were selected over a more qualified candidate by virtue of their race or gender. Instead, the disclaimer at the bottom of most employment applications simply contains the contradictory cliché that "we are an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer."

Ultimately, the truth must be faced. As a new study by the Center for Equal Opportunity demonstrates, minorities who are admitted to medical school through preferential policies are more likely to fail the licensing exam. Similarly, in his book Illiberal Education, Dinesh D¹Souza documents statistics showing minorities admitted to the University of California at Berkeley undergraduate program using preferences had a drop out rate several times higher than that of whites, Asians, and minorities admitted based solely on merit.

The dishonesty of racial preferences even affects those minority group members who never received a preference. In his classic book Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, Yale University Professor Stephen Carter describes the stigma that black professionals must cope with as a result of racial preferences. For example, prospective patients will often assume, many times wrongly, that a black doctor is not as competent because he or she must have received a preference in college and medical school. One can only imagine the horror that many highly qualified minority professionals feel when they realize that their competence is being unfairly questioned because of their race and the existence of racial preferences.

While programs under the rubric of affirmative action that merely involve concerted efforts to recruit qualified minorities are less objectionable, those programs that give a preference based on race or gender in the evaluation of candidates are just as dishonest as the FDNY statue and the Wisconsin brochure.

Fortunately, two cases involving racial preferences in college admissions, one at the University of Georgia and one at the University of Michigan, are now pending before the United States Supreme Court. A decision that finally and unequivocally declares that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not permit government-imposed racial preferences would be a victory not only for equality, but for honesty.

Levin is President of the Houston-based American Freedom Center ( and can be reached at


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