Realities Of Reverse Racism

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Ali Bahmanyar, a contractor, left Iran to build roads, and a new life, in Charlotte, North Carolina. But, as he told CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann, he hit a roadblock at this intersection -- which the city wanted widened.

When a competititor won the job, Bahmanyar lost his cool and sued the city.

His construction company had submitted the lowest bid.

Bahmanyar says, "If I have worked hard enough to be able to perform and have created a successful project for the lower money, then I should be awarded the contract."

His competitor won that city project, by promising to subcontract more of the work to other businesses owned by minorities and women.

Bahmanyar's company, one hundred percent minority owned, was run over in a collision between traffic engineering, and social engineering.

Equal opportunity, the ideal civil rights marchers demanded in the 1950's and '60's evolved, in part, into government programs and contracts with clear racial goals and set-asides. But as social engineering it's an approach that's clearly on the way out. Time and again, courts have ruled it unconstitutional.

The University of Georgia had been accepting more black students, even if that meant rejecting more qualified white students, including Aimee Bgrow.

Bgrow says, "If it hadn't been for race and gender, I had all the qualifications to get into the University of Georgia."

She sued for reverse discrimination, and won. And the school dropped its policy.

Likewise, Atlanta's Fulton County transferred eight librarians, just because they were white.

They sued and won thirty million dollars.

As part of its mandate for limited government, the Southeastern Legal Foundation is spearheading these suits to end race-based programs.

Phil Kent, the foundation's president says, "Government-sponsored segregation was wrong forty years ago, and it's just as wrong today. It's not so much reverse discrimination. It's just plain old discrimination."

In courtroom challenges, since 1989, not one of these race-based, gender-based programs has survived.

This has proved to be justice for some, injustice for others.

John Payton, an affirmative action lawyer, says, "There are an awful lot of minority-owned and women-owned business out there that are finding they can not get through the ole boy network to set into the business community and thrive."

Frances Hall, a contractor, asks, "Why are these programs still necessary? Because unfortunately racism in America is alive and well. Now the same laws that my forefathers fought for are being reversed."

Back in Charlotte, when Ali Bahmanyar sued, the city settled with him without a fight and ended its program for minority subcontractors.

Charlotte becomes another American city with a new challenge: building a different road to equal opportunity, but for now, without a blueprint.
  • Sue Chan

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