Speakers Explain Affirmative Action

Speakers at a Monday night forum, seeking to dispel myths about affirmative action, reminded the audience that affirmative action does not mandate quotas, that its main beneficiaries have been white women, and that former President Richard Nixon set the minority hiring goals and timetables most federal programs currently follow.

The event was sponsored by Ventura County's Affirmative Action Commission and drew more than 50 people to discuss changes to affirmative action policies. Commission members are appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.

Panelists John Hill, director of the Los Angeles County Office of Affirmative Action Compliance, and Fred Jones, a steering committee member of the Black American Political Assn. of California, discussed topics including ending racism, encouraging minorities to vote and whether the time has arrived to end affirmative action.

"What you have to do is get beyond the point of seeing race," Hill said. "We are not beyond that point."

Hill also tried to refute the myth that affirmative action leads to reverse discrimination.

"There is no such thing as reverse discrimination," he said. "Discrimination is discrimination--period. Discrimination means you are hiring unqualified people over qualified people, and we are not doing that."

At one point, an affirmative action opponent stood up and yelled at the panel, "I hate racism and I hate fascism, and that's what this is!"

But organizer Neil Demers-Grey, a Ventura County affirmative action commissioner, soon calmed the audience.

The two-hour forum was followed by questions from attendees.

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