I'm not even sure how the subject came up, but as I was out on the driveway talking with neighbors a female neighbor mentioned how frustrating it was in college when a minority woman was given an academic scholarship instead of her, when my neighbor had a slightly better GPA in similar classes. Because of her personal experience, my neighbor is not a strong supporter of affirmative action. A little later in the conversation, the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court came up, and I asked my neighbor what she thought. She said without hesitation she was so disappointed that Bush did not choose a woman to replace O'Connor. I asked if she thought there was a better qualified woman she new of over Roberts, or if it was important in other ways just to have a woman. She said it would be nice if the Court had female role models for young girls like her daughter (to prove that there are other career opportunities than being half-naked pop/movie stars) and that the Court as well as Congress should be more representative of the fact women make up a majority of the population.
My neighbor just answered her own question about why the minority woman may have been given the scholarship. We all know life at times is unfair, and that it can never be ideal. If for any other reason, everyone has in their own mind what 'ideal' means, and in the end there is only one reality. Is there a critical mass of women in high positions of government, science, business, and all other fields, that is needed to satisfy most people? And now ask the same question for all subgroups? Is the 'best qualified for the job' the absolute best way to go for a mixed, complex society? Is that the most fair way to approach life? Perhaps, and I think most whites (especially white males) may agree with this. Perhaps not, if you are, say, a black male who has as role models professional athletes or rappers, and you cannot walk into certain stores without being followed by security or walk down a street without a white woman moving to the other side of the street...is life being played on an level playing field for you? What does 'right' mean in these complex discussions on affirmative action, race relations, job opportunities, who gets the scholarship, and all that comes with it?
Of course, I am convinced there is no 'right' answer because it all depends on your own situation and circumstances. It is a relative term. I tend to think that the 'best qualified' for the job or scholarship is absolutely the goal, but I am not convinced it is absolutely 'right' until there is a level playing field. This is something to think about for sure. It would be great to hear any and all thoughts on this one!