Former Secretary of State Colin Powell argued that some form of affirmative action is still necessary to ensure minorities are fairly represented at colleges and in the private sector.
“If you have a public institution…where you’re responsible for educating the public, not just a part of the public, but the public, and as you are looking at your student population, if you find that there are some parts of the public who are not properly represented in your institution, shouldn’t you do something about that?” Powell asked.
“You don’t have an obligation to bring in anybody who’s not able to do the work. You should always have qualifications,” Powell added. “But once you have established those qualifications, is there something wrong with a taxpayer-funded institution not making sure that it is representing the entire public, the entire population? And I think that’s a good rule for private institutions as well.”
Powell sounded supportive of the confirmation of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, calling her a “very gifted and accomplished woman” with a ” judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law.” He criticized those who called her a reverse racist because of her support of affirmative action.
“What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor … called a racist, a reverse racist and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her,” Powell said
Powell also argued his party still isn’t sensitive enough to the needs of minorities, citing the party’s poor performance in 2008 with African-Americans and Hispanics. He also took an unmistakable jab at conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh in arguing that the country still has a problem talking honestly about race
“When you have non-elected officials, such as we have in our party, who immediately shout racism, or somebody who is quite prominent in the media says that the only basis upon which I could possibly have supported Obama was because he was black and I was black, even though I laid out my judgment on the candidates, then we still have a problem,” Powell said.