Friday, July 07, 2006

Mail Bag: Someone e-mailed me asking me to explain my point of view on affirmative action. Since I have nothing else to blog about, I'll make a post out of it.

My belief is that race can be used as a factor in hiring and admissions decisions. This does not mean instituting any sort of quota or choosing someone with poor qualifications because of his or her race. Among the qualified applicants, if one of them is a member of a minority group that is underrepresented, employers should take that into consideration when making the final decision.

The argument against affirmative action generally is that the most qualified person should get the job. I absolutely agree with that. But rarely in any hiring decision is there only one good candidate. Employers use all sorts of subjective criteria to make hiring decisions (posture, speaking voice, handshake). That's the entire point of an interview, to get a feel for a job candidate and to help the employer make a gut decision on who to hire. Otherwise, all hiring could be done by scanning résumés and checking references.

You're always taking a risk when hiring someone. You don't know how that person will perform on the job until several months have passed. So to say there's always one best candidate is a fallacy.

Diversity generally helps in a workplace, no matter what the field. If everyone looks the same, chances are many of them are going to think the same. Getting people with different backgrounds also brings in people with different points of view and experiences. Granted, some professions need that more than others do, but it's no secret that hiring people of different races and ethnicities has a positive effect on society, and that's reason enough.

If you don't get any qualified minority applicants, go find them. They're out there. Groups, from the National Association of Black Journalists to the Houston Hispanic Architects & Engineers, make for an excellent starting point when looking for qualified professionals of color. Instead of fishing from the same pond all the time and catching the same fish, diversify your search.

A little bit of effort goes a long way. You don't need to set quotas or discriminate against qualified white people. Everyone you hire, no matter what color, should be qualified to do the job. You just have to make a small concerted effort, or an affirmative action, to find a diverse workforce.


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