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Commentary: What's a 'qualified woman or minority'?

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland Martin: Why isn't the word "qualified" used often for white men?
  • He says "qualified" is often applied to idea of hiring women, minorities
  • He says every job should be filled with someone who has talent to succeed
By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: A nationally syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information. He is hosting "No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET on CNN while Campbell Brown is on maternity leave.

Roland Martin says there's an assumption the word "qualified" needs to be used for women, minorities.

Roland Martin says there's an assumption the word "qualified" needs to be used for women, minorities.

(CNN) -- I couldn't help but laugh this morning when I saw the headline for a debate on Politico.com: "Should Obama feel obliged to appoint a qualified woman, African American or Hispanic to the Supreme Court? If so, why, and on what basis should he choose among these groups?"

Hmmm. A "qualified" woman, African-American or Hispanic. My first thought? Hell no! Give me the most unqualified person to sit on the highest court in the land!

Yeah, right.

It's always amazing when diversity is discussed that people feel the need to use the qualifier "qualified." If you think about it, there never seems to be an assumption when white men are being discussed that they are unqualified. Their qualification is simply assumed and is inherent in their whiteness and maleness.

Sure, go ahead and say, "Man, you're being too sensitive!" But I do want you to think about this for a second. Why do we as a society feel the need to say it's important to have "qualified" women or minorities? Isn't that assumed?

If President Obama is going to pick a Supreme Court justice, it never has dawned on me that he will grab a list of people who aren't capable of doing the job. The thought never even enters my mind.

Part of the issue is that a lot of folks have bought into the notion that any minority has gotten a job based on their skin color or a woman is hired because of her gender, so therefore, we better emphasize the need for a "qualified" person.

You ought to see some of the e-mails I've gotten from folks who think they are hurting my feelings by saying I'm a "quota" or "affirmative action" hire and took the job of "a deserving white person." Oh, yeah, these are a part of the greatest hits in my inbox.

A few years ago, I recall a white female news director in Texas who often reveled in her liberal way of thinking. She would go on and on about being a white liberal but would often talk about how hard it was to find "qualified" minorities for jobs. Then I would look at some of the most incompetent white men and women who worked for her and ask myself, "I wonder if they passed the qualified test?"

Another time, I challenged a white male recruiter on the term, and he would just say over and over, "You, know, qualified." And I kept pressing him on whether he asks the same question of someone white, and he couldn't answer the question.

Now, I'm sure the folks who despise affirmative action will quickly say, "See, if it weren't for affirmative action, no one would even use such terms!"

Yeah, right.

In the 17 years I've been a professional journalist, I've seen unqualified white men, white women and, yes, minorities hired and promoted, and affirmative action had nothing to do with it. People make hiring decisions based on the flimsiest of reasons, whether it's what schools they went to (such as assuming everyone from an Ivy League school is the best; no, some are incompetent), they know the right people, or they were so "articulate" that they were given a shot.

And yes, I've seen a host of qualified white men, white women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans hired for jobs, and they've done a fantastic job. It wasn't their race or gender that was the key; they simply had the skills to do the job.

It's simply time that when it comes to women or minorities, we should retire the use of word "qualified." Every job, regardless of a group targeted, should be filled with a person with the right talents, smarts and energy to get the job done.

Hiring the best should automatically mean they are qualified. Period.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.

All About Barack ObamaAffirmative ActionRacial Issues

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