Three unrelated items were in the news today, and from my perspective, all three represented positive developments.
The first was the signing of an executive order by Governor Gavin Newsom of California that will place a moratorium on the death penalty in California.
At a news conference in Sacramento today, Newsom noted that there are 737 people on death row in California, meaning that the state is tasked with “executing more people than any state in modern American history; (lining) up human beings every single day for execution for two-plus years.”
“It’s a very emotional place that I stand in,” he said, noting that the subject was once “an abstract question” for him, but now he is “the backstop” for any execution that takes place in California. “And so I am expressing this is not from (a) paradigm of politics. It’s not a situational conversation for me. This is about who I am as a human being. To me, this is the right thing to do.”
Citing a National Academy of Sciences report estimating that 1 out of every 25 people on death row is innocent, Newsom noted that if that’s the case, California will execute roughly 30 people that are innocent. “I don’t know about you. I can’t sign my name to that. I can’t be party to that. I won’t be able to sleep at night.”
Newsom has received a good deal of criticism for his decision, but I admire him not only for his views on the death penalty but his willingness to take such action, knowing that doing so would invite a good deal of criticism.
I hope more states follow suit; currently, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Oregon are the only other states to have a moratorium on the death penalty.
The second news item was the decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling firearms at 125 of its stores (the chain has a total of 729 locations). This follows an earlier decision by CEO Ed Stack to stop selling guns to buyers under 21 and take assault-style weapons out of all stores after a fatal school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The earlier decision met with a good deal of criticism, and sales at the chain have declined, with Stack blaming much of the decline on its stance on guns, saying some gun enthusiasts have stopped shopping at the chain.
Once again, like Governor Newsom’s death penalty decision, the tighter restrictions on gun sales is one that I am in full favor of, and I admire Stack’s willingness to take such a stand, knowing what the reaction and impact would likely be.
The final news item is the college admissions cheating scandal. Words that came to mind when I heard about it were outrageous, disgusting, immoral.
I’ve never been a fan of people taking unfair advantage of their privileged status. I admire people who have achieved success, and I have no problem with those people enjoying their success. But to use that success as a way of gaining an unfair advantage is wrong.
I know it happens all the time, but that does not make it right.
Knowing that it happens is part of the reason why I am a fan of affirmative action.
Some people of privilege, as this college admissions scandal is showing us, take advantage of such status at the expense of the less fortunate. These less fortunate individuals need some mechanism to create a more level playing field, and that’s what I think affirmative action, when properly implemented, can do.
“When I think of affirmative action, I am not suggesting that people who are not qualified for an opportunity, such as admission to a college or a job opening, are given preference over someone who is qualified. However, if two people are qualified for a position, I do not see a problem with using the tenets of affirmative action to give preference to one individual over another.
Bill Clinton, a proponent of affirmative action, stated this idea much better than I can:
Let me be clear about what affirmative action must not mean and what I won’t allow it to be. It does not mean – and I don’t favor – the unjustified preference of the unqualified over the qualified of any race or gender. It doesn’t mean – and I don’t favor – numerical quotas. It doesn’t mean – and I don’t favor – rejection or selection of any employee or student solely on the basis of race or gender without regard to merit…”
What we have in the current college admissions scandal is the “unjustified preference of the unqualified over the qualified”. College admissions should first be based on merit, and then when appropriate, affirmative action policies can and should be used to create a diverse student body.
It will be interesting to see what the fallout from this college admissions scandal will be. Will some of the individuals involved go to jail? What will happen to the students that gained admission as a result of these illegal practices? Will their applications be reviewed to see if they would have been admitted through regular means, and if not, will they be expelled?
So why do I view this scandal as good news? Because I hope it will bring to light the unfairness of the way many decisions are made (often times based on wealth and privilege), and the potential power of affirmative action to correct such injustices.
After reading this post, you can now see why I turned out to be a “liberal Democrat” when I took this political party quiz.