Affirmative Action's Historical Roots

I read with concern the opinion-page article "Failings of Affirmative Action on Campus," March 26. While affirmative action on college campuses is not the solution to the provision of equal opportunity to people of all races, neither is it the cause of the growing campus racism. That, unfortunately, results from the persistent indoctrination of the society with the concept that white people are superior to those of other racial groups. Long before contemporary affirmative action policies were conceived, prestigious college campuses had black students - the cream of the crop, the hand-picked, the elite. After graduation when these people with unquestionably excellent credentials applied for jobs, many were turned down, often in favor of a mediocre white person. Affirmative action is not new; for centuries it supplied opportunity to mediocre white males without their feeling "belittled."

I, like the author, would like to see a colorblind society. However, until all people are taught from the time they are born that skin color does not determine their fate and until they are given opportunities to acquire skills that will allow them to achieve, policies like affirmative action, though inadequate and perhaps flawed, must be pursued.

Virginia L. Hood, Burlington, Vt.

Infants should be top priority The war metaphor in the editorial "Saving the Youngest," March 28, is most appropriate. As the editorial rightly points out, the struggle in Washington over funding for a new initiative to reduce America's tragically high infant death rate is as much a test of our national commitment as any foreign conflict.

While the debate rages, let us not forget that years of experience have taught us what needs to be done in order to save the lives of many thousands of babies each year. We must be certain that the scarce dollars allocated for the new initiative are spent on proven solutions, examples of which are mentioned in the editorial: basic prenatal care, nutritional guidance, and counseling of pregnant women. The March of Dimes believes that the best way to do this is not to create yet more demonstration project s, but to build creatively on existing programs, such as the Community and Migrant Health Centers program, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Medicaid, and the National Public Health Service Corps.

We are grateful that both the Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan and Congress believe so strongly in the need for a new effort to save the 40,000 infants in this country who die each year before their first birthday. We believe that the present initiative will ultimately be broadened if the issue of infant mortality remains a top priority until the problem is eradicated once and for all.

Jennifer L. Howse, President, March of Dimes, West Plains, N.Y.

Spring scurryfunging Regarding the article "Hot News From the 1930s," March 29: Ah! Rapture and delight! To see in print and roll off the tongue the word that I have done and done.


Barley Harding, Des Moines

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