The book suggests that a good "This I Believe" essay must be truly honest, short, and based on a specific anecdote. Okay.
I would have thought I'd have no trouble landing a professorship. After all, I had a Ph.D from the University of California Berkeley, specializing in education program evaluation (a hot field then and now), my dissertation was nominated for UCB's dissertation of the year, and I've always been told that I'm a fine teacher and writer.
Yet I applied for a number of professorships, and after a while wasn't too picky about it--I even applied to places like the tiny Brescia College in Owensboro, Kentucky. Yet I was offered not one job that was more than a low-pay, part-time, temp, fill-in.
Finally, I was interviewed at San Francisco State for a tenure-track position. It was the interview from heaven: The professors nodded and smiled in agreement throughout the interview. When the chairman asked the other interviewers to leave and for me to stay, I was sure I'd finally be offered a job.
But he said, and I remember it word for word: "Marty, if you tell anyone I said this, I'll deny it but I want to save you the cognitive dissonance. Marty, you are by far the most qualified candidate for this job, and you don't stand a ghost of a chance of getting it. The dean has informed us that the next seven tenure-track positions to be filled will (emphasis his) be women and minorities."
Over my 2,900 career coaching and higher education clients over the past 23 years, I have seen countless examples of such reverse discrimination. Indeed, reverse discrimination is not the exception; it's the norm.
And my perhaps most deeply held belief is that the benefits that derive from reverse discrimination are far outweighed by its liabilities. Society is ultimately doomed when it prioritizes something other than merit in choosing its bridge builders, medical school students, brand-name-college undergraduates, government, non-profit, and corporate leaders, etc.
The latter reminds me of a client--an eminent, brilliant minority woman, I might add--who serves on the board of three major corporations. She told me that to meet government "goals" and to avoid the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton machine boycotting the companies or getting the media to call the companies racist, the companies have to hire and promote many blacks who, on the merits, never would have been hired. She continued to say that they may have brand-name degrees, (also the result of reverse discrimination) but they're not good employees. "The companies just write them off as a loss and farm them out to the jobs where they can do the least harm."
I worry terribly that reverse discrimination and its devastating effects, rampant already, will only accelerate under an Obama administration. His spinmeisters paint him as a "post-racial candidate" but a careful reading of his 2008 speech on race, and more important, his long-term associates--not just Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Frank Marshall Davis, but most significant, his wife who, for example, headed Public Allies--makes clear to me that Obama will use his prodigious abilities to push merit yet further toward the back of the bus. To devastating effect.
This I believe.