Balancing transformation and affirmative action

South Africans are very proud of their huge diversity, including scores of different cultures and 11 official languages. Many are rightly, I think, proud of their incredible accomplishments since the demise of apartheid. Now, however, their post-apartheid world is entering the world of affirmative action and reverse discrimination claims. Some whom I’ve spoken to fear that the country is on the verge of another big polarization or, on the opposite side, “another miracle.”

The challenge now, as a journalism colleague told me, is “What’s the right balance between transformation and affirmative action?”

Even if you agree that the past history of South Africa (or the United States) requires a re-leveling of the playing fields, no two people are likely to agree on the specifics or the degree of any program designed to accomplsih that.

I attended an affirmative action lecture by law Prof. Phillip T.K. Daniels from The Ohio State Universtiy. The questions and comments at this lecture pointed out the fact that South Africa and the United States are facing the same situations of how to balance the claims of those who say they were harmed by affirmative action with the civic need to eliminate huge gaps in opportunity.


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