Quantcast Hugh Murray "Affirmative Action," Commentary, Jan 1991


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From Commentary, January 1991, 14-15.


Affirmative Action

Hugh Murray

To the Editor of Commentary:

I enjoyed reading the article by Frederick R. Lynch, “Surviving Affirmative Action (More or Less)” [Commentary, August 1990].  I am one of those who has survived it less.

Beginning in 1969 I heard comments like, “It doesn’t matter what he knows, so long as he’s black,” in hiring faculty in the field of political science. Then I was in Europe for a few years.  Upon my return, I recall my shock and anger when a Mississippi college responded to my inquiry about employment, “If you are black, please send your credentials to. . . .”  I was stunned by the blatant racism.

I continued doing research for others, and publishing on my own, but somehow, no university, no college, no community college, no junior college, would hire me.

A few years ago a friend of mine applied for a teaching post at a New England university, near where he resides.  He was rejected.  This man has a Ph.D. from a major university and has published two major books in his field, which received favorable reviews in both the New York Review of Books and the New York Times Book Review.  Living near the campus, he was given a temporary job teaching one class at the last minute.  On two occasions during that semester he did not have to teach because the finalists for the full-time post, the one for which he had been rejected, displayed their skills teaching before his class.  Neither had Ph.D.’s; neither had published anything of significance.  My friend had to sit there and watch them competing for the post denied him.  The chairman of the department later told him informally that of the applicants for the post, only the females had been considered.  He could have published 20 books, or 200, and the university would still not have hired him.

Last fall I received a telephone call from the chairman of a department at a Tennessee college where I had applied for a teaching job.  He asked me a number of questions, and my hopes began to rise. Then his tone changed.  “How can I put this delicately: Are you black?”  I said no.  He told me they had to hire a black.  So the interview, and my hopes, ended.

Last year I published articles in the American Scholar, the Journal of Ethnic Studies, Polity, Louisiana History, and the new Journal of Unconventional History. In 1989 I published in the Texas Journal of Political Studies, the Florida Historical Quarterly, Labor History, Journal of Sport History, Journal of Ethnic Studies, Over Here, the Journal of Unconventional History, and twice in Theory, Culture, and Society. . . . I have also worked as a research assistant for the editor of 40 volumes of the works of W. E. B. Du Bois, among others. Thus, few can deny that I am a scholar.

Yet aside from three years’ teaching at universities in Europe, I have not had a teaching post in America since 1969.  And I have applied in almost every state all the way from junior colleges on up.  Frederick R. Lynch survived, more or less.  I have survived less and less, running elevators, checking insurance policies, freelancing, even being unem-ployed.

In America we no longer have the blacklist, or even the red list (Angela Davis has taught for years), but we do have the white list, and the male list. Affirmative action is the white list of our time, and it is as unfair as any blacklist.

A response from Frederick Lynch.

How many others like Hugh Murray are to be found out there? Few wish to consider this matter openly. On the contrary, Mr. Murray’s letter reached me just three days after Jesse Jackson flatly asserted in his syndicated column that “blacks are not taking jobs from whites” under affirmative action. In spite of such recent developments as the struggle over the 1990 Civil Rights bill, there remains a powerful bipartisan taboo against admitting that considerable numbers of whites in all sectors of society have been denied equal protection—and sometimes badly mauled—by reverse discrimination. Meanwhile, more universities are boldly advertising “targets of diversity” and other set-aside faculty positions, using dual standards for student admissions and scholarships, setting up “safe speech” rules, and the like.


Posted October 17, 2012


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