PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary


(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2014) — This concludes the third of our three-part series, written by Tanner Colby and reprinted from Slate. It’s a discussion the leftwing Democrats that have the strangled political process in Berkshire County do not wish to have, but it’s one that THE PLANET has forced. Appropriately, this runs on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a day we remember only too well.


Special to PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary 


Today, the statistics on black and white inequality are so unchanging that they can be recited by rote: The black unemployment rate holds steady at double the white unemployment rate; the median net worth for black households is about 7 percent of white households; annual per capita income for blacks is 62 cents for every dollar of per capita income for whites.* When presented with these figures, supporters of affirmative action typically use them as evidence that conservatives kept affirmative action from working. Others say the statistics are proof that affirmative action didn’t really work that well to begin with. But there’s always the third option to consider: that persistent racial inequality is, at least in part, the result of affirmative action working exactly as it was intended to.

Richard M. Nixon speaking to a crowd in Florida, October 1970.
Nixon achieved exactly what he set out to do.
Photo courtesy Oliver F. Atkins/National Archives and Records Administration

It’s not an accident that affirmative action and Nixon’s “law and order” campaign are both rooted in the same historical moment: the backlash to civil rights. Liberals want to believe that affirmative action is a social good and mass incarceration is an unalloyed evil. The left wants to enshrine the former and abolish the latter. But affirmative action and mass incarceration are just two sides of the same coin: one program to manage the aspirations of the black middle class, one to contain the anger of the black underclass. Both are forms of social control, and neither has anything whatsoever to do with repairing the real damage wrought by slavery and segregation.

If we ever want to start fixing these problems, we can start by being honest about what affirmative action really is. Some advocates are doing just that. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes candidly about the symbiotic relationship between affirmative action and mass incarceration, saying “perhaps the two are more linked than we realize,” and asking blacks to consider if they’ve been “bought off” by a bribe. The consensus is starting to crack, a little. But to judge from the rhetoric that still surrounds the issue, most progressives are nowhere near ready to admit the truth: that the liberal establishment pinned the economic hopes of the civil rights revolution on a program set up by a president whose racial philosophy was based on the idea that blacks make great athletes and Asians are good at math.

The latest idea, floated by those who’ve started to admit the shortcomings of race-based affirmative action, is to replace it with class-based affirmative action. But that’s an equally unpromising idea. The nature of affirmative action is that it skims. It elevates the best and the brightest of a disadvantaged group while doing nothing to eliminate the root causes of that group’s disadvantage. Just as cherry-picking all the black kids with good SAT scores hasn’t brought about the end of racism, cherry-picking all the poor kids with good SAT scores isn’t going to do much to end poverty.

As big a detour as it’s been, you can’t just get rid of affirmative action. There is a separate and unequal economy that depends on it. Racial preferences may have taken black America into a socioeconomic cul de sac, but you can’t just tear up the road and leave people with no way to get out. Fortunately, the one thing the left does have is the leverage and the political capital to end affirmative action in the right way. Right now, the Democratic party and the racial justice movement are sitting on a junk heap of racial preference programs that aren’t doing anyone much good, and they lack the substantive programs they need: a true, New Deal–style reformation that repairs the infrastructure of our cities, ends mass incarceration, provides access to early education and paid family leave and job training and other programs that put all of black America on more solid footing. Since Republicans seem to want affirmative action gone so badly, if it were me, I’d be out horse trading. Just as the Obama administration is letting Washington and Colorado opt out of federal marijuana prohibition, let state and local governments opt out of affirmative action mandates, but only in exchange for opting inon universal pre-K and other things that working families actually need.

If conservative politicians and judges are allowed to end affirmative action for the wrong reasons—a very real and immediate possibility—it’s safe to say that race relations in our great land will not improve. The onus falls on liberals to end it for the right reasons and to use that opportunity to replace it with something meaningful. Otherwise the status quo is never going to change, and America will keep on wandering in circles well short of the Promised Land.

——- 000 ——–

That concludes our three-part series on affirmative action. We hope it had stimulated thought and discussion to something that, distressingly, seems to be an unthought-out assumption, that this policy is to be unquestioned and is unquestionable.

THE PLANET thinks otherwise, in solidarity with all the citizens of Pittsfield, especially my black brothers and sisters.


“I am not to be denied, I compel, I have stores plenty and to spare, and anything I have I bestow.”Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself.”





  1. Pat
    April 4, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    Excellent three part series on affirmative action. Affirmative action does only skim the surface of the real problem and leaves many still in poverty and doesn’t address the root causes of why black unemployment is double that of whites. I agree with the ideas presented that would help put all black Americans on an equal footing with everybody else such as access to early education and repairing the infrastructure of our cities.

  2. outfox
    April 4, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    A good series, but going off topic because I’ve been hearing mutterings that perhaps the 2nd grader passed due to meningitis, not a stomach flu…really scary rumor for people to hear.

  3. billy
    April 4, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    I’m going of topic to bring two stories to your attention.The BB had two stories this week in their April 3 edition. The first story was the sudden retirement of Ed Costa ,the superintendent of the Lenox School District. I find it just amazing that he hits 55 which is the retirement age for full pension and leaves his position with time left on his contract, I believe we have to get this pension hopping under control. I would hate to see continual turnover . The public sector has to work till 67 and with their two or three jobs and don’t have the luxury of having the summer off to cruise.

    The second story talks about how 219 out of town students ,mostly from Pittsfield our upsetting the Lenox school system. The school committee complains that they are given only 5000 dollars per pupil and our effectively subsidizing those out of town students. I guess we our seeing where our students are going. Lenox and Adams Charter School seem to be the clear winners. I have said before as long as the mayor and the clownsul ,as well as the School Committee keep avoiding the fiscal crisis we are creating ,by buying buses when we haven’t finished paying for old ones ,and continually avoiding getting our shrinking school population under control and freeing up more of the budget to do major infrastructure improvements that the city has been unable to afford because of it only going to the school budget.

  4. Scott
    April 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Why is it laws designed to help people always end up hurting them. Like the mandatory minimum school zone laws implemented to protect children ultimately incarcerated a lot of children.

  5. Linda
    April 4, 2014 at 1:33 pm #



  6. billy
    April 5, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    I agree Linda the worlds biggest political critic of others,has turned into a down right major waste of votes.please get your pension and take your crew and go start a think tank on Gilligans island. I wanna see people who are not wasting hundreds of thousands. Putting flooring in city hall you can’t walk on with out runners . What a damn waste of money ! .If he spent time doing his full time job,we might not have this. Increasing exodus from the city school system into Lenox and Adams.We are the laughingstock of the county. Maz is more worried about behind referred to as Madame president than doing the job right and actually doing some real budget cutting in the school system.
    I am so ashamed of our leaders after this fiscal crisis not learning a damn thing and worried more about their pensions or their next political office. Theywill have to address the problem because that onetime fiscal stimulus of 1.3. Million dollars for raises that Yon and I believe Sherman voted against ,because it would become a reacurring expense keeps showing up in our budget. .

  7. billy
    April 5, 2014 at 2:44 am #

    Meant being referred to as Madame president.

  8. billy
    April 5, 2014 at 2:50 am #

    The one positive thing about her being president is she can’t talk and meetings don’t go 5 hours with her constant repeating the same old thing over and over.

  9. Nota
    April 5, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    Yeah billy, repetition is tedious.

  10. Spider
    April 5, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Billy: Great posts….I couldn’t agree more!

    I am making a prediction….the following city councilors will faithfully follow their leader (our mayor) and vote for the school budget …..even with a $1 million increase: Mazzeo, Connell, Cotton, Amuso, Tully and Morandi. And one or two others may join them. Of course, before they do vote on it, we will hear their heart wrenching reasons …..their concern for the poor taxpayer, etc. But in the end, we must remember…..”IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN:.

    • danvalenti
      April 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

      Well expressed.

  11. Spider
    April 5, 2014 at 6:46 am #

    And Billy … right you are about Yon and Sherman. The only ones who had the guts to vote against the school budget. How sad that we have supposedly intelligent people on the council…..but spineless!

    • danvalenti
      April 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

      Agreed. The school department budget must not be allowed to pass with a dime increase. They have padded and padded and padded, all the while claiming they have been essentially shortchanged by the greedy taxpayers, who do not care about public education. THE PLANET shall be running at least a couple and likely more stories in our continuous expose of this corrupt department.

  12. Nota
    April 5, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Sherman for mayor!

  13. Tito
    April 5, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Did anyone see the license board meetings, the chairman said Johnny needs to get rid of the late night crowd and let it be someone else’s problem. two shot at Camelion’s last night.

  14. C Trzcinka
    April 5, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    What is sorely missing from Tanner Colby’s Slate article is data. I don’t know if anyone has tried to quantify what effect an affirmative action program has had on the organization’s (corporation, government, school..) hiring of people from the favored group (Blacks, women,…). The fact that Blacks have double the unemployment rate and a lower net worth may be due to something other than affirmative action. Tanner Colby essentially advances the conjecture that affirmative action hurts and offers arguments but not data in his favor.

    For what its worth, in the very small sample that consists of my personal experiences I do see bigotry against Blacks. This partially driven by Whites who feel that Blacks get advantages from affirmative action.

  15. Bill Sturgeon
    April 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    While I think that Kevin Sherman would (will) make a wonderful mayor now is not his time. He has two beautiful daughters who need his time, right now. He needs to be concerned about their happiness not potholes, holdover (leftover) department heads and street lights.

    I believe that Kevin’s time will come and I hope that I hear to see it.

  16. Spider
    April 6, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    Interesting real estate transaction in today’s Eagle. Property was bought for $53,500 on Francis Ave. and the new buyer turned around and sold it for $255,000 to Co-Act. Inc. (a non-profit org.).

    This discrepancy in money reminds me of the Stonehenge sale.

    • billy
      April 6, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      nice work spider

    • dusty
      April 6, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      I am sure there is nothing fishy going on here. At least you won’t find it in the paper trail.

      • danvalenti
        April 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

        Nah, never nuttin’ phishy goin’ on in Podunk. Another non-profit. Just what Podunk needs to hasten its rush to financial irrelevance.

    • danvalenti
      April 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

      Thanks, S!

  17. joetaxpayer
    April 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    All the thugs should have to take a gun course teaching them how to shot straight at the intended target. All heroin should be at lethal dosage. Pittsfield would be a self cleaning oven.

    • danvalenti
      April 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      JOE THE T
      Your last line is a classic!

    • Scott
      April 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Joe good one. It’s a shame hudpuckers didn’t just stay at that location they made the investment, moved to the ever increasing in popularity (just ask any of the numerous downtown boards.) north st area and went under.