I must confess that despite the fact that I support affirmative action in principle and realize that innumerable past injustices must be remedied, the playing field made level, and the glass ceiling shattered, I do find myself bothered when I read about a young man who appears to lose out on a job opportunity because he isn’t a woman or a member of a minority. I had a number of students and a son who ran into this sort of reverse discrimination and I was never comfortable with it on an emotional level even though I realized that past wrongs needed to be corrected. There is, however, considerable strength in the argument that today’s young people shouldn’t have to pay a price for the sins of their predecessors. I am happy to see the native people buying back much of their native land with the money they take from gullible white gamblers, but that is a bit different from seeing even deserving women and people of color get the attention and rewards they deserve and have been denied over the years if there is the least suspicion that there was any sort of discrimination involved in the process. In such cases, there is always the suspicion that this is not really fair to the people who must step aside in order for others to get ahead. I didn’t like it when it was happening to the minorities and I don’t particularly like it when it happens to those in the majority — though (again) I understand why it happens.
Along these lines I read in the current Sports Illustrated an editorial telling about the dismissal of a black woman coach in Texas for having a sexual affair with one of her athletes while at the same time a white male coach at the same university is reprimanded for having sex with a member of his training staff, forced to take a leave of absence, and then rehired later at a higher salary. The details of the story make it clear that there is a double standard at work here since the two cases are practically identical in most of the particulars; yet the punishment in the two cases is as different as can be: one coach lost her job and the other gets a promotion and a raise in salary. One is a black woman, who was not married at the time, and the other is a white man, who was married and who just happens to have been a star quarterback on the football team — which, in Texas, carries a great deal of weight. The university in question is the University of Texas, reputed to be one of the great academic institutions in the Southern part of this country which is not known for its outstanding academic institutions (though we will find the occasional Duke University, The University of North Carolina, and The University of Virginia which tend to stand out). One would expect more of such exemplary institutions of higher education as the University of Texas.
In the end the matter will be decided in court since the woman who was fired has decided to try to make things right after many years. I am pulling for her with both my head and my heart. I hope she wins and draws attention to the injustice that is so easily recognized. Double standards are always just plain wrong wherever and whenever we find them.