Accounting for Preferences
Racial bookkeeping.


Third, embrace a discredited and illegal rationale for discrimination. The report recommends that accounting firms and historically black colleges and universities use “cross-sabbaticals,” whereby the former’s “seasoned professionals” work at the latter, and the latter “require one member of their accounting faculty annually” to work at the former. (There’s no discussion here of any academic freedom issue that might arise from such a requirement, by the way.) The report emphasizes the “role model” justification for matching the races of teachers and mentors with that of their students and industry protégés — which the Supreme Court rejected 22 years ago, with Justice Powell observing, “Carried to its logical extreme, the idea that black students are better off with black teachers could lead to the very system the Court rejected in Brown v. Board of Education.

Fourth, support segregated programs. Or, as the report delicately puts it, “Increase the numbers of minority accounting doctorates through focused efforts.” These “focused efforts” are “dedicated programs” to increase the number of minority accounting professors. The example given is the KPMG Foundation’s “PhD Project,” which is “available to anyone of African-American, Hispanic American and Native American descent.” Those of other colors need not apply.

The overarching problem here is that the report urges accounting firms to get their racial numbers right. Inevitably, this means making hiring or promotion decisions based on an individual’s racial or ethnic background, discriminating against those with the wrong skin color or whose ancestors came from the wrong country. This violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which makes it “an unlawful employment practice” for public- and private-sector employers “to discriminate against any individual” or “to limit, segregate, or classify” employees or applicants for employment “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

The costs are not limited to potential lawsuits, however. The discrimination will, for instance, create resentment. In an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society, where individuals themselves are increasingly multiracial and multiethnic, what is “unsustainable” is a profession that classifies and rewards people on the basis of skin color and national origin.

The discrimination will also stigmatize the purported beneficiaries. Professor Richard Sander of UCLA law school has documented how mismatching young minority lawyers and law firms in the name of diversity has hurt the former, and there is no reason to doubt that the same phenomenon should occur among accountants and auditors. Finally, as noted earlier, when the best qualified people are not hired and promoted, the work of the firm is compromised.

That a committee of experts on accounting and the like (not sociologists) appointed by the Bush (not the Gore or Kerry) administration would draft such a report shows how embedded the “diversity” fraud has become in corporate America.

Comments on the report are due June 13.

Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.