Race-Norming in Sri Lanka by Ron K. Unz
The New Republic (Letters), July 12, 1993
It is astonishing that William McGowan’s article on the roots of the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka (“Mythconceptions,” June 7) nowhere mentions the words “affirmative action.” Yet government “set-asides” to Sinhalese businessman, preferential promotions of Sinhalese in the government bureaucracy and the “race-norming” of test scores for university admissions between the “underrepresented” Sinhalese and the Tamils were widely cited by Tamil activists as among their sharpest grievances. Many of the “disaffected Tamil youth” whom McGowan describes as grist for the terroristic Tigers became disaffected when their higher university entrance scores where overridden by considerations of ethnic “equity,” leaving them no path out of Third World misery but the gun.
It is especially disheartening that throughout the ’60s and ’70s and prior to the outbreak of ferocious race war, Sri Lanka was regularly cited by American proponents of ethnic preferences as a trail-blazing example (along with Yugoslavia!) of the benefits of government-imposed “equity” in education and business. Perhaps the fact that your editorial staff so strongly supported the election of the current administration allowed this curious omission to slip through.
Ron K. Unz
Palo Alto, California