Affirmative-action programs have ``run their course'' and, according to this overworked, self-referential diatribe from Carter (Yale/Law), that's all to the good. A Stanford graduate, Carter entered Yale in 1977. ``I got into a top law school,'' he offers, ``because I am black--so what?'' He argues here that all should be based on merit and that affirmative action--what he decries as ``racial preference''- -further ghettoizes blacks by not allowing them to compete against ``the best.'' The ``taint''--the idea that success was achieved solely because of race rather then merit--haunts all black professionals, says Carter, lamenting also the ``biology implies ideology'' presupposition that there is only one correct black viewpoint, that a minority member who expresses a view that a white could hold is ``not a bona fide representative of [his] people.'' Carter empathizes with ``dissenters'' such as author- historian Shelby Steele and controversial sociologist William Julius Wilson, intellectuals who have gone against the grain by not speaking ``for'' the black race and who have been criticized as ``neoconservative'' and branded traitors. Affirmative action, claims Carter, has lowered general standards to meet racial quotas rather than spurred minorities on to being ``too good to ignore.'' It's been ``a convenience,'' a means of avoiding more costly, difficult solutions. He doesn't go into detail, but he offers the Head Start program and refers hazily to the ``policy initiatives'' of the War on Poverty as possible answers. While his analysis has undeniable merit, Carter's call for a reemphasis on ``societal commitment'' and ``a loving solidarity'' as the means to gaining equity and achievement for black Americans seems to overlook the harsh historical reality and pervasive attitudes that made affirmative action a necessity.