"Base Selections on Quality, Not Race"


"Base Selections on Quality, Not Race"


This labored column by Bret Poteat attempts to take a middle path in the affirmative action debate by supporting the idea of affirmative action while actually rejecting the realities of what affirmative action would take. In so doing, Poteat relies on the old "quality" debate and implicitly suggests that African Americans and minorities often do not show the same "quality" as white candidates and therefore should not receive the same jobs. While Poteat supports the idea that affirmative action would create a larger selection pool for employers, he is vague about how affirmative action would actually do so and calls any attempt to hire a less qualified, but still qualified, minority for a job over a white person as preferential treatment. Poteat clearly does not actually like the idea of affirmative action, but feels that he must support its tenets in order to be politically correct. His views probably represent a good proportion of onlookers who feel like affirmative action is a good thing, but are concerned that they might lose their own privileges and are vague about how and to what degree affirmative action should help minorities in education and the job market.


Bret Poteat


Bret Poteat, "Base Selections on Quality, Not Race," The Technician vol. LXXIII no. 2 (August 23, 1991): 12.




Cheryl Dong


newspaper article


Affirmative action programs seek to provide a larger applicant pool for desirable positions through quality training and recruiting. Once the larger pool is in place, previously disadvantaged minorities have an equal chance for selection.

For many people, this system is neither controversial nor discriminatory: the desired positions still go to the most qualified applicant, race and gender notwithstanding

Preferential treatment, on the other hand, seeks to instill sex and race as a part of the job-selection criteria.

Unlike affirmative action, which passively increases minority opportunities, preferential treatment actively places them in positions based on minority status.

This is not to say that someone hired under this process is not qualified, just that he may not be the most qualified

Proponents argue that this is a necessary evil if a greater good is to be achieved. They would say it is fair for a more qualified candidate to be passed over in favor of a possibly less qualified one to right past wrongs. Thankfully, at NCSU, I have met only one such individual

This person maintained that we owed her.

By “we,” I assume she meant some white establishment. She felt there should be a specified number of seats in each class reserved exclusively for blacks, both male and female. I would like to believe that this student’s view represents a small, shrinking minority

Contrary to my fellow student’s absurd claim, I feel that our student body should consist of people selected for merit and achievement, without regard to race or gender. And they should succeed through self-reliance, diligence and effort, not because they are “owed” something by an establishment.

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Bret Poteat, “"Base Selections on Quality, Not Race",” The State of History, accessed April 14, 2024, https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/33209.