Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech in Washington, D.C. (Aug. 28, 1963).
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longread / justice

The Massive Liberal Failure on Race, Part III

The Civil Rights movement ignored one very important, very difficult question. It’s time to answer it.
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It’s clear that minority contracting laws, which are still very much in force, have a countervailing effect on minority hiring at general market firms. At a time when blacks in advertising need a policy to help them move up, what they have instead is a policy that encourages them to walk out. So if you want more “diversity” in general-market agencies, pretty high up on your to-do list should be a trip down to Washington, D.C., to eliminate the set-aside programs that keep black agencies and black talent marooned in their own corner of the industry. Yet when I suggested this idea to the NAACP’s general counsel—that the nation’s oldest civil rights organization seek to eliminate affirmative action set-asides for minority-owned business—she rejected the notion out of hand. “We don’t want to dilute what the African-American advertising firms have created,” she said. When I floated the same idea to Cyrus Mehri, one of the most established and respected employment discrimination lawyers in the country, he, too, insisted that the fight to integrate the white agencies shouldn’t take business away from black-owned agencies.

But it does. The integration of white institutions poses an existential threat to the viability of historically black institutions. Jackie Robinson didn’t just integrate the Major Leagues; he destroyed the Negro League. Here on Madison Avenue was a textbook example of the left’s third major blunder in dealing with race: ignoring the most fundamental question of post-Jim Crow society. Does black America want in or would it rather stay out?
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