The purpose behind affirmative action

Linda Wallace's opinion piece on affirmative action ("Think of it as 'affirmative action: the sequel,' " Aug. 15) was well intentioned, but seriously flawed. While I admire her bravado in rejecting a job offer when the misguided managing editor said, "We need a black on the metro desk," she was mistaken if she thought that her worth would be affirmed if her boss had simply said, "We need a white to fill this job." She should have taken the job.

Affirmative action is not based upon the premise that, as Ms. Wallace writes, "the protected classes of employees are disadvantaged, weak or helpless." The underlying premise of affirmative action is that women and minorities are equally qualified, but have experienced both past and often current discrimination, intentional and unintentional. Employers are encouraged to "cast a wide net" and to recruit individuals who may not resemble themselves, their relatives, or their fraternity brothers where there is an underutilization of qualified women and/or minorities.

Affirmative action was never intended to be a panacea and does not guarantee that an individual will receive the opportunity to perform once selected. That's why antidiscrimination laws exist. Affirmative action gets the door open, and then it's up to the employees to perform. If they don't, that's their fault.
Shirley Wilcher
Executive director Americans for a Fair Chance

Regarding "Think of it as 'affirmative action: the sequel' ": Remarkably, white women have been one of the largest beneficiaries of affirmative action, yet you hardly ever hear them lamenting its worth. It seems to me that blacks who argue against programs such as affirmative action are simply misguided.

Because this country has made being black such a negative experience, to put it simply, blacks are bound to feel affected by labels. I am a African-American board-certified physician, who, admittedly, benefited from affirmative action, and I have no qualms about it. I have not had one patient query me about my having been a recipient of "special programs." All they see is the credentials on the wall, and my confidence in my presentation to them and their upcoming treatments and care.
George Dawson
New York

Future of Zimbabwe farming

Regarding "Zimbabwe's deadlock over land," (Aug. 12): This article may underplay the precipitous decline in production following the expulsion of white farm families. While no one can deny the anguish of the white farmers, the larger issue is the pauperization of a once rich nation. President Mugabe's land distribution program could cause a national famine.
Kent Hackmann

SEC rules unhelpful

Interesting editorial ("Tougher Financial Police" Aug. 15), but it misses the essence of the problem. SEC rules prevent shareholders from using the simplified shareholder proposal procedure to nominate truly independent directors. Now, only director-nominees beholden to management – for their selection, nomination, and payment of their proxy solicitation costs – get their names on the corporate ballot. If those directors ask the "tough questions" of management, as their fiduciary duties require, they will not be selected for renomination.

All outsider director-candidates must incur expenses of a substantial sum to get out their own ballots to shareholders. The SEC does not need more money and power; it needs to give realistic control of corporations back to the owners – all shareholders. We'll take care of the policing of our financial interests by enforcing accountability.
Les Greenberg
Culver City, Calif.
Committee of Concerned Shareholders

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