Interview with Luke Harris
QUESTION 15
JACKIE SHEARER:

So how does equal protection come into play with this issue?

LUKE HARRIS:

What we're talking about is really expanding our conception of what it means, ah, to provide substantive equal protection to all Americans. And, what we're suggesting is that, ah, it's, it's going to be important if all Americans are to be treated equally. That all the significant factors that play a role in their mobility through American society are considered, even if those factors embrace race or gender or class for that matter. And what's important about understanding how Affirmative Action works in this whole process is that if you look at it this way, you're not talking about a range of programs that is giving Blacks and other people of color anything. If you're not talking about a program that inevitably discriminates against the individual potentialities of Whites, what you're talking about are a range of programs that are designed to offset a specific set of institutional criteria that for generations had been discriminating against the individual potentialities of people of color. And something like that ought to be permissible in American society. I mean those kinds of rational differentiations have been made in American society with, ah, with respect to its admissions policies for much more mundane reasons. Ah, these admissions committees have distinguished between Yale alumni and non-Yale alumni, to admit them. They have distinguished between people from, ah, the far west as opposed to people from the east so that they can do that it seems to me that it's much more important for them to consider whether or not someone applying is, ah, a Native American or someone who is defined as a Black American to understand the historical context out of which, you know, they're, they're life experience grows. And these kinds of rational differentiations, it seems to me, ah, are, are perfectly normal within the context of a society that's moving toward a meaningful concept of equality. Because they have nothing to do with impairing the rudimentary principle of individual merit as defined by the human promise. And that fact is what American Affirmative Action programs are all about, trying to create a situation where the human promise of people of color is realized the first time in American history and trying to do this in the face of a range of admissions criteria that have a much more truncated vision of what, ah, normal admissions procedures have normal--have, have usually been all about.