Interview with Mary Frances Berry

OK, now, um, does preferential treatment for Blacks, in and of itself, mean reverse discrimination against Whites?


One of the things that happened in the Civil Rights struggle and the use of remedies for the lack of opportunity was a quarreling dispute and struggle over language. You know, if people can define you, they can confine you. I always say, "If you let me set the terms of the debate, I'll always win." So that, when you start talking about affirmative action as being preferential treatment, you have already set up a situation where anybody who is the beneficiary of "preferential treatment" will lose. Ah, if you say "reverse discrimination against somebody" it already sounds like a bad thing is happening and you don't focus on what the injustice was. So, affirmative action was not preferential treatment for Whites. What it was, was trying to do something about remedying, or preferential treatment for Blacks, the injustice that had occurred in the past.