Here's JP responding to my lukewarm feelings toward Affirmative Action:

You're right -- many more black doctors and lawyers come from HBCUs than from Harvard or Yale. But many more black mayors in major cities (Cory Booker, Kurt Schmoke), governors (Deval Patrick, David Paterson), Supreme Court justices (Clarence Thomas), and presidents to be (Obama) tend to come from the Ivy League.

"Elite" by definition means a small group of people -- even the people of color within that elite. But it's important that "we" make sure that we are represented in that tiny circle. Because those are the folks who shape the policy of who gets a tax break and who doesn't, whether we invade a country or not, and whether a woman has a right to decide what happens to her body.

It's important that there are black faces in the corridors of power. The Ivies (and Berkeleys and Stanfords and Dukes) of the world are the pathways to that power. In New York, the black neighborhood doctor undoubtedly affects the lives he touches. But so does the black Columbia alum who sits in the governor's mansion, who may decide how much funding the public schools will get next year.

And here is is Amitav responding to JP:

I would push back on JP's defense of the value of AA at Ivy League schools for three reasons. First-- why should we assume that the people mentioned needed race-based AA to get into their elite schools? Cory Booker obviously didn't; he played football at Stanford. And as a Rhodes Scholar, I doubt he was a borderline applicant at Yale Law. The idea that the Bookers and Obamas wouldn't be at top schools without race-based AA is not clear to me.

Second, such anecdotes imply a causation (Harvard --> political success) that is misleading and probably backwards. Douglas Wilder went to Virginia Union. JC Watts went to University of Oklahoma. Colin Powell went to CCNY and Condi Rice went to University of Denver. Willie Brown went to San Francisco State and David Dinkins went to Howard. For that matter, Richard Nixon went to Whittier, Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College, LBJ went to Southwest Texas State, and I don't think Harry Truman even went to college. It's true that an elite college can open doors-- but it's not the sole determinant of future success. The people JP named have the intelligence, work ethic and people skills to have been extremely successful coming from any school.

Finally and most important-- Economic empowerment comes from more poor people who are literate, numerate, and not in jail (to start), and who are ultimately in college-- not from a larger Congressional Black Caucus. Rather than pushing to get an upper middle-class kid into a Northwestern rather than a U of Illinois, we need to focus our resources on getting "at-risk" youth of all backgrounds to (a) graduate high school and (b) pursue some sort of higher education-- trade school, community college, or 2nd Tier State U would each be a huge improvement. The battle to have it both ways (race-based affirmative action without regard to income) allows people to stop and think that the problem is solved when it is manifestly untouched.

Most of you know that I favor the Amitav argument--I'm much more concerned with getting people "in the game" than getting them a higher seeding. At some point you just have to accept that you're in the game and compete like everyone else. Also, I'm bias--I think anyone who didn't attend Howard is deranged.  While this mostly applies to black folks, you aren't exempt white people. Anyway, I'd love to hear the rest of the room. As I always say, keep it civil please.

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