Fox host Chris Wallace used a discussion on the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington to ask whether the time has come for the government to stop “putting a thumb on the scale” for African Americans with affirmative action policies. Wallace's question ignores the continuing problem of economic inequality between whites and African Americans.
The August 25 edition of Fox News Sunday discussed racial progress since the 1963 March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom. During the segment, Wallace raised the issue of affirmative action and asked Fox contributor Kirsten Powers, “50 years after the March on Washington, one of the questions is how long - well, how much longer the government should give special treatment to minorities.” After Powers noted that historically unemployment among African Americans has been higher than among white Americans, Wallace asked contributor Scott Brown, “At what point have we gone as far as the country, as the government, needs to go in putting a thumb on the scale, if you will? You know, it is 50 years after Martin Luther King's speech. Obviously there were hundreds of years of discrimination. But at what point do we, in effect, say, 'you're on your own?'”
As Powers noted, the March on Washington was about civil rights, but it was also about economic inequality. Today, white families tend to earn twice as much income as do African-American families, while African Americans experience double the unemployment rate. There's also a racial gap when it comes to wealth. According to the New York Times, “Many experts consider the wealth gap to be more pernicious than the income gap, as it perpetuates from generation to generation and has a powerful effect on economic security and mobility.” CNN reported that as of 2010, white Americans were worth as much as 22 times more than African-Americans:
One of the greatest drivers of the wealth and income gaps is the lack of higher education, according to a report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. The study found that “obtaining a college degree is vital to economic success and translates into substantially greater lifetime income and wealth.” And in general, those with higher educational attainment are less likely to be unemployed.
Multiple studies have shown that banning affirmative action would result in lower enrollment rates among African Americans. One Princeton study declared, “Ending affirmative action would devastate most minority college enrollment.”
Wallace mischaracterized affirmative action as “putting a thumb on the scale” in favor African Americans. In reality, it's about removing the thumb that was already there.