Is Affirmative Action in Higher Education Sacrosanct? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

This year marks the centennial observance of W.E.B. DuBois' literary oeuvre, 'The Souls of Black Folks'. The erudite author advanced an indisputable thesis by declaring that the problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color line. Understanding race as a political reality and less about genetic selection yields the peculair double-consciousness for the American 'Negro'. Arguably no single topic today generates as much socio-political controversy than the topic about racial preferences and specific application to admissions policies in premier colleges and universities. Earlier this month the Supreme Court received oral arguments in the two affirmative action (AA) cases affecting admissions policies at the University of Michigan. The High Court is expected to rule on the cases in early June 2003.

Discussions about race is one of the rare topics (outside of religion and sex) where there is no shortage of opinions, informed or uninformed. Over the last ten - fifteen years I too have written, read and commented on the topic about the role of race in American culture. One of my former Northwestern Univ. econ professors has filed a persuasive amicus curiae brief casting doubt about the efficiency of 'race-neutral' admission polices as a substitute for 'race-specific', i.e. AA. Personally I favor a gradual dismantling and phasing out of race-specific policies. President Johnson's Executive Order 11246 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represent the "law of the land" and require enforcement not expanded protections. AA impacts only a small segment of the minority population. Basic concerns about quality health, poverty, crime and poor schooling are beyond the scope and reach of AA. The majority of "our people" need money not selective access. This is why I am a firm advocate for reparations because the fundamental issue about denied and confiscated social status against blacks in America can only be properly addressed by creation of capital. Depending on liberal white guilt to grant selective access in specific professional jobs, colleges and targeted businesses discourages independence and reinforces a behavioral patten of obsequious panhandling.

What I find particularly disturbing in the Michigan Case is the constant rhetoric used by the proponents of race-specific admisssions policies that failure for the Court to uphold the 1978 Bakke decision will result in denied opportunites and a dimunition of black lawyers, physicians, etc. The Bakke decision banned racial quotas but Justice Powell's ambiguous opinion left open the use of race as a factor to consider. Hence the 25 years of confusion on this topic. This case is important but to equate its social impact with Brown v. Topeka Board of Education '54 is disingenuous and incorrect. The current case before the Court will decide whether or not if the state has a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity even when it requires denying the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to whtie applicants.

It is undeniable that race continues to be used as an allocative tool in our society. However, it is equally undeniable that higher education is ineluctably elitist in desgin and practice. Is it fair for some white and Asian students who come from low income families yet have a higher grade point average and score higher on the LSAT & MCAT than their black counterparts of higher family income to be denied entry? If the situation was reversed would we all not condemn such a preference policy as discriminatory, unjust and immoral?Furthermore, it is also undeniable that if some black students are not admitted into the first tier schools alternatives do exist at either 2nd tier schools or even HBCUs. The last time I checked Howard University, NC Central Univ. FL A&M Univ. and Southern Univ. all have law schools. Howard, Morehouse & Meharry all have Medical Schools. Am I alone in rejecting suspicions and private rumors about alleged inferior training these august institutions offer? I find it extremely condescending to suggest and defend AA in the top tier schools while simultaneously marginalizing institutions our forefathers created with far less resources we currently possess. Simply put, are apologists of AA conceding that aspiring black barristers, physicians or molecular biologists should abandon their dreams if top tier schools reject their application?

I have been invovled in mentoring inner city 3rd grade boys with reading activities for almost a decade in Washington, DC and my current home in FL. I made a decision to get involved at this level because K-12 schooling is where our greatest challenge lies. I am profoundly concerned about the future of these boys and I am committed to doing my part in providing assistance so they can master basic cognitive skills. I have restless nights, like the O.T. Patriarch Jacob, pondering how these kids will even survive in a crime-ridden, crack-infested society. However, I loose absolutely no sleep worrying about whether some black students from upper-class bourgeoise environments are admitted into Michigan, Berkeley, U. of Chicago or Haaavard (sic). There are more important issues which concern me. QED

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2003


Amen & Amen!

Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, April 19, 2003

Thank you Professor Dickens for such a provocative topic. You have asked a rhetorical question in asking if "Affirmative action is sacrosant in education". I am not a lawyer but I suspect that if the Supreme court opines that race cannot be used as a criteria for admission to universities, then it will set a legal precedent for other aspects of society where race is used as a criteria for admission. Please correct me if I am wrong about this current Supreme court argument in regards to race as an admission criteria. Similarly, if they opine that race cannot be used then what about ones sex or age.

After reading DESTRUCTION OF BLACK CIVILIZATION 4500B.C. to 2000A.D. by Chancellor Williams, I agree with his thesis that America never intends to level the playing field for all Americans. Quite frankly, I hope that the Supreme Court does away with " affirmative action" because it will clearly demonstrate this country's hypocrisy in regards to black people. Racism is based on a fear that one group will outnumber the other and thus obtain power. The President is the biggest beneficiary of affirmative action. The Washington Post did an expose of this man and showed that he graduated from the prestigious Philips Academy in Andover, Mass with a "C" average and got accepted into dad's alma mater, Yale and graduated with a "C" average. The Vietnam War was going on and even though he scored in the bottom 25% of pilots applying to the Texas Air National Guard, he was accepted as a pilot. For some reason, he stayed 4 out of the 6 year committment. After which, he applied to the University of Texas Law school and was denied admission. Therefore, he applied to the Harvard MBA program and was accepted(Wow!!!) Then prior to age 40 according to Ted Koppel's interview with him, he never held elected office. Then he becomes Governor of Texas. You know the rest of the story on the tumultous road to the White House by controversial election results. What black man or white man with similar academic credeentials and work experience would rise to the level of the Presidency of the US?

America is hypocritical for trying to deny African-Americans opportunities to uplift themselves. Clearly, America has never given Africans who were forced to come to this country the same opportunites as it has extended to all other immigrants. Therefore, we should expect the descendants of Africans to this country to have more social ills than immigrants who were embraced by this country and allowed to advance based on their abilities.

I hope that when the Supreme Court does away with affirmative action that it will serve as a wake up call to African-Americans and force us to start our own businesses, support our own schools, and establish our own institutions. If we follow the Spirit of God, we will survive.


-- Anonymous, April 21, 2003

Dear Brother

You continue to stimulate and educate this board with thought provoking and well studied facts. I agree with your entire series of points. When you consider the monument dedicated to those who suffered during the third reich and the financial support the nation of Israel enjoys from the U.S. Government. I believe it is time for respect and reparations for the same number of human beings who died in the crossing of the Atlantic. There is no monument for African Americans nor the Indians (Native Americans).

Persons of African descent have continuously defied expectation for centuries yet we are still judged today as lower in intelligence. I support your idea and work in mentoring these inner city boys. I work in Bermuda as the Chairman of the National Training Board of Bermuda (a Government Agency). I find it a stimulating challenge in motivating teenager boys to stand up, step up and patricipate in their conuntry's future.

Continue the great work my dear sir. Hope to see you again in Philadelphia. God Bless You Professor QED

-- Anonymous, April 21, 2003

Our forefathers/mothers coming directly out of slavery founded schools such as Tuskegee Institute (University0, we call them historically black colleges now, that they themselves would not be able to attend. They did this without looking for affirmation or help from the race that so recently enslaved them. They had the foresight and the faith to build for future generations that they would not see. And today, we, who have every benefit, every opportunity, earn millions, spend our time trying to get the "white man" to affirm our existence and give us reparations for our enslavement. We are a lazy ungrateful generation! There are fewer black businesses now than there were 100 years ago. Our forefathers mad lemonade out of the lemons that were given them. We want some to make the lemonade and serve it too. One example: When white insurance companies would not insure us, we founded great black insurance companies. OK, two: When white funeral homes would not bury our dead, we founded black funeral homes, etc. The list goes on. We talk about building self-esteem; yet we constantly look to the "white man" hoping he/she will esteem us. God gave the Children of Israel the Land of Canaan; but they had to fight for every inch of it. WQhen they failed to fight for it they lost it.

Be Blessed Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, April 22, 2003

Dear Rev. Paris,

It is good to hear from you again. I agree with the intent of your post. The intent being to uplift black people by encouraging self-reliance. However, I know that Tuskegee and Howard University arose with philantropy from America's millionaires like Rockerfeller, Collis P. Huntington, and etc. As a matter of fact, Howard was started with the assistance of the Freedman's Bureau and is named after a white man. My alma mater Hampton U was started with the wealth of a retired Union general named Samuel Chapman Armstrong who was so impressed with the way black people fought during the civil war. These facts show that the U.S. government offered some form of reparation in the past to its black citizens who had been mistreated by its racist policies. I agree that " too many of us black folk are lazy" in establishing our own businesses, self-help initiatives, etc. but not all of us are lazy. There are quite a few of us who were told back in the 60's, 70's, and 80's that we have to be " twice as good" to get the same job as a white person in this country. Then when some of us became "twice as good" and learned the rules of the game, America changed the rules of the game. Can I get a witness?

Colin Powell's record of public service makes him " twice as good" as the current resident of the white house. However, the fact that he is a black man makes it politically impossible for him to be President of the U.S. Look at how well the indigenous people of this country known as " Indians" have done in this country. I mean they didn't know that they were "Indians" until Europeans came to this country and pinned that name on them. Where are the " Indian" universities, banks, national magazines, etc. Certainly, America's policies towards people of color has never intended on leveling the playing field or never intends to. I have given up on this country as a land of equal opportunity for all without regards to race, I am looking to Jesus for my survival.


-- Anonymous, April 23, 2003

Just an observance. If I were to go to Harvard or Yale or any other first tier school, It would mean a lot more to me and my loved ones that I got there because I worked hard and deserved to be there. Not because they HAD to let me in because of some law! All I ask is that the open chair in that classroom go to the person who deserves it most because of his/her academic achievements.

-- Anonymous, May 01, 2003

Kate I am an alum of Princeton Seminary and I got in with a 3.8 accum and great recommendations. The funny thing is when I went to seminary there were many white students who thought the black students were there because of affirmative action. But we all got in because of hard work. Ivy league schools are so competitive that if you cannot do the work you will not succeed. For the most part Ivy League and first tier schools are not admitting based on affirmative action. They want to maintain their reputations. You can look at small percentage of people of color admitted to bear this out.

I remember when my daughter got admitted to American University, the admission director called to say they were excited about her coming because she was coming out of a high school that was designated as a "school of excellence" and ranked as one of the top 10 schools in the country. They did not know she was black because we live in Montana and know one thinks black people live here;-). She too got in based on grades. She was on Honor roll all through high school. I remember thinking, what about the good black student from camden new jersey, or alabama whose school is not ranked high or in national publications. Don't they too deserve a chance?. There is a lot that goes into college selection and colleges look closely at the high school students come out of. Why should a student of color be penalized because he/she did not go to a fancy high school. The white students that go to better high schools are selected for college. Isn't that a form of "affirmative action" it is important to understand that often it is not a level playing field in the academy because where a student lives is also taken into consideration. People still make "wrong assumptions" based on the color of one' skin. I strongly believe we do need some mechanisms in place to help students of color.Maybe we should call it "equal access for all students" instead of affirmative action. For as things stand today our students of color do not have equal access.

-- Anonymous, May 02, 2003

I was pleased to see you refer to equal access. That is what we have in Texas (signed by then Governor Bush). The top 10% of all Texas high schools are admitted to any of our State Schools. Law can only control State schools, SMU and Paul Quinn, both private schools are another matter. The horrible thing about Affirmative Action is the assumption that all black students have been admitted on that basis rather than merit. The sad thing is that it will follow them throughout thier careers too. I was an engineer and manager at TI by merit far before AA, but in the latter stages of my career I had young (dumb) engineers suggest that I was there as a qouta of AA. Needless to say they were given a lesson.

Be Blessed

-- Anonymous, May 02, 2003

Black people lazy? I don't think so! I was once confused about black Americans who were living in poverty. I wanted to know why. Then I found out, from a credible source, that black students were most likely to have an inferior education than white Americans in "integrated" highschools. You see I learned that most white students were put in the highest track to prepare them for university, unlike black students. So much for equality in a country that prides itself on equal opportunities! Now you have the biggest part of an answer to know why most black students are in the situation they are in today! Oh and for the record I ain't black.

-- Anonymous, August 01, 2003

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