The Assault On Affirmative Action

After the abolition of legalized segregation in the '60s, governments, schools and businesses turned to quotas and preferences to give minorities a hand up. Then came the backlash.

Rejected by a University of California medical school to make room for blacks, Allan Bakke alleges "reverse discrimination"--and wins when the Supreme Court orders his admission. The decision outlaws quotas, but preserves race and sex as "positive factors" in deciding who gets in.

Signaling that past discrimination does not justify special financial aid, a federal appeals court throws out a University of Maryland blacks-only scholarship.

The Supreme Court undercuts minority set-asides, ruling for contractor Randy Pech, who claimed that a road-building job in Colorado was unfairly awarded to a Hispanic-owned business. Now businesses will get special treatment only when there's specific evidence of old wrongs--not blanket assumptions about racial inequity.

Led by Gov. Pete Wilson, University of California regents scrap affirmative action. Meanwhile, Wilson abolishes all state preference programs under executive control.

In Hopwood v. Texas, a federal appeals court totally rejects race as a factor in admissions, even for "the wholesome practice" of producing racial balance. The case will likely go to the Supreme Court.

A bill heading for debate in Congress would ban all federal preferences, including minority hiring targets that now guide contractors. Sponsored by Dole--and opposed by Clinton-- it would reverse a Nixon presidential order.

The California Civil Rights Initiative-- sure to be on the ballot--would bar preferences at state universities and in government. Wilson and the Republican National Committee are championing the drive, which will be a key issue between Clinton and Dole.