The polarization of America's news media was supposed to have ceased with the dawn of the Obama era. With Fox on the right and CNN on the left, the media establishment was racing away from the center faster than the Milky Way fleeing from the Big Bang. The presidential election was supposed to bring about a new era of bipartisanship and bridge-building. From reading the medias' web pages, such a process has not begun.
CNN just posted another column from their resident self-serving columnist, Roland S. Martin. He discusses Obama's first Supreme Court nomination process. In it, he makes surprisingly vicious and racist statements under the guise of enlightened commentary. For example, this one:
"It's always amazing when diversity is discussed that people feel the need to use the qualifier "qualified." If you think about it, there never seems to be an assumption when white men are being discussed that they are unqualified. Their qualification is simply assumed and is inherent in their whiteness and maleness."
Here, Martin not only misses the point, but makes a rather racist assumption. He is claiming that all white men assume all other white men are automatically qualified for all jobs. Furthermore, the implication is that all white men assume all women and minorities are unqualified until proven otherwise. The truth is much less vicious and much simpler: an unqualified white man would never be considered for a job. There would be no reason to even wonder about whether or not they should be hired simply for inclusiveness' sake.
On the other hand, affirmative action puts administrators and hiring managers in the uncomfortable situation of potentially having to hire a woman or minority that is less qualified than the available pool of white men. Doing so might be a wise choice for the long term; a way of "priming the pump" by having women and minority role models and mentors available in positions of authority, ready to inspire the next generation of woman and minority leaders who will be, it can be assumed, just as qualified, if not more so, than any white man. But hiring managers think in the short term, and they want the best qualified person right now. They don't want to have to wait for the next generation.
But hence the inclusion of the term "qualified" in the discussion of hiring a woman or minority. For two equally qualified candidates, one a white male and the other a minority and/or female, the second candidate is assumed to be a more desireable hire based on their race or gender. Their race or gender becomes an additional qualification that the white man lacks. Therefore, on a strictly linear scoring system, the woman or minority candidate can be slightly less qualified in every other way than the white man, but their race/gender "kicks them up a notch" to where they are equal to the white male candidate.
Now this is where the "fuzzy" aspect comes in. In this hierarchial scoring system, how much is being a woman or minority worth to the hiring manager? Does it make them 1% more desireable? 5%? 20%? If we say that their race or gender makes them 20% more hireable, that means they only need to be 80% as qualified as the equivalent white male in order to be equally desireable.
But then many times hiring managers will realize that, below a certain level of competency, it makes no sense to hire any one at all. If, for example, in the scenario cited above, the hiring manager realizes that they could only compensate for a 10% lack of qualifications, what then? Hiring an 80% qualified candidate could be a disaster, if that last 20% includes things such as certifications or explicit experience items. So they set a minimum level of qualification, below which no candidate, no matter their race and gender, is considered. White males that are not 100% fully qualified are discarded out of hand. And women and minority candidates that are at least 90% qualified are carefully considered. That is what is meant by a "qualified minority or woman candidate."
There is nuance to this discussion that must be carefully considered. But unfortunately, Martin chooses the low road of simple conclusions and flings racist assertations. Such is the unfortunate plight of the media today.