When I read this story about the racist bake sale hosted by the UC Berkeley College Republicans, I was reminded of a case over University of Michigan’s law school admissions policy that went to the Supreme Court in 2003. In this case a white woman was passed over for admission. She sued the school,saying that if not for racial preference, she should have been accepted, but was passed over in favor of slightly less or similarly qualified black students who slipped by her with extra points for having dark skin.
At Berkeley the argument is over pending legislation that would allow university admissions to consider race.
It’s an interesting debate, and one that I will be watching closely. I don’t think that our country is ready to drop affirmative action policies. While they are not ideal, these policies are helping balance out inequalities that were ubiquitous in our country for hundreds of years. It’s not logical to think that after only one generation we are back in balance. Our wounds are still raw; racist history still too recent.
I have strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
On the one hand, I think this is a sign of progress. According to this news article, no violence happened. Students were angry, but respectful conversations happened. Debate ensued.
What significant is that they are talking about it. Nobody bombed anyone. People got angry, sure. But nobody got killed or hurt. For our country, this is progress.
Perhaps, this generation is ready to talk about race. The white kids are comfortable enough to notice and say that these policies are unfair. They are feeling a smidgeon of some of the indignities that their darker-skinned classmates past generations felt. An eensy, weensy smidgeon. It is unfortunate that they have to be the ones to pay for their older generations’ sins. But on the other hand, they are not suffering anywhere near as much as the opposite side has. That’s not really fair either.
So, it’s a significant that they are having this conversation. It is a sign of progress. Past generations discussed race with violence and hate. We should be proud of this generation that they have come to a point that past generations couldn’t. We are growing as a country.
On the other hand, I know how these kids feel, to some extent.
When I went to Wayne State University in Detroit, I had white friends who struggled to pay for school. They were given no preference and no scholarships without proving some sort of academic achievement.
I also I knew smart and worthy students of color who never would have made it into school without the help of their skin color as a basis for preferential treatment.
Personally, I watched as black students were given internships at the Detroit News and Free Press where I was passed over. In one instance, I was particularly angry upon hearing of one of my classmates receiving an internship at one of the papers. I knew for a fact that she could barely string a decent sentence together and wrote horrendously bad news articles pulling quotes out of press releases, never bothering to call sources. She was not only a bad writer, but a bad reporter. She had no business in a newsroom at all. I knew this because I was her editor at our school newspaper. And yet, she was given that opportunity because of her skin color. I was not given the opportunity, because of my skin color. (No, I’m not bitter. Not at all.)
Even so, I support affirmative action policies and organizations.They are important. They are still needed because even though poor white students who are not racists will be passed over, there are still a shit ton of prejudicial indignities in this country. It’s one area that we can thrive and grow, helping the balance out.
I also have selfish reasons to support these policies.
If there are still affirmative action policies in place by the time Annika reaches college age, I will encourage her to use all resources possible to raise herself into a comfortable position.
Is that really fair? She’s not coming from an underprivileged ghetto life. She won’t be one of those kids that’s just barely making it. From that viewpoint, it’s not exactly what affirmative action was installed for.
But on the other hand, there will be times in her life where she will be negatively viewed and judged based on her skin color, (and her gender). In that aspect, that is exactly why we have these programs in place for workplaces and organizations. It’s good to have a leg up from the start when you may have inequalities slap you in the face when you are least expecting it.
Giving students of color preference at prestigious universities is a good place to keep these programs in place and add to them.
Because, no, we are nowhere near ready for complete and utter equality. It just isn’t time. Yet.