Thursday, August 30, 2007
When I first saw that the Civil Right Commission was going to weigh-in on this quantitative study of affirmative action impact, I thought, “Its about time somebody showed some interest”. I, for one, have spent tens of hours sloshing through UCLA Professor Sander’s study and counter-rebuttals, as well as the disproof’s his Stanford Law Review article has inspired. However, my enthusiasm quickly waned as I realized that partisan politics have long-since taken over the position of any given commission. Anything the current Republican-swayed group says needs to be considered with a jaundiced eye, as would also be the case under a Democratic president.
Regardless as to which side you take, whether that affirmative action admission results in a ‘mismatch effect’ or not, both sides repeatedly agree that blacks are increasingly suffering inside, and outside, of higher education, as the result of current affirmative action. What is amazing is that all sides seem more intent on arguing the emotionally charged cause of the failure, rather than acknowledging their agreement that the failure itself calls for something ‘new’, which the whole country can rally behind.
Whether the current affirmative action is ineffective because the majority no longer supports it, or that it is an implementation that has exhausted its efficacy, is of no real consequence. As a solution, it is history and we need to replace it with something better. Racism will always be with us, but as I look about, I submit that economic-based classism rules our lives. We need affirming programs that support poor citizens gaining the skills to be competitive in their contributions. Our progress must be about making new opportunity, rather than arbitrarily redistributing it. These new programs would undoubtedly scoop up those same poor blacks the current programs are forsaking, regardless of which argument leads the un-winnable ‘why’ debate.
So then, who will lose out if we replace current affirmative action with ‘new and improved’ programs? Concisely, the losers will be rich kids, black and white. Each will get less of a boost for simply being rich and/or being black. Legacy programs maintain the status quo, where rich white kids fair the best, and where rich black kids too often ‘skate’ on initiatives that they really should not qualify for, based on their available resources.
What poor kids need, both black and white, are tailored skill-building programs that launch them properly into competitive mindsets and arenas where they get to ‘sink or swim’ along with everyone else. We must move past our racist fears that blacks cannot perform on par with whites, when given the opportunity. But mostly, we must reject the bait of the rich who are happy for the lower economic classes to argue and fight on lose-lose racial battlegrounds crafted to maintain the status quo.
James C. Collier
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