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Still Getting It Wrong On Affirmative Action

Saw this short news item earlier. And even though I read it all the way through, it was the story's first sentence that I kept returning to:

A federal appeals court is about to consider a lawsuit challenging Michigan's ban against racial preferences in public university admissions and government hiring.

Yes, I think affirmative action is a palatable, if mild, remedy to the ongoing discrimination that women and people of color face in Michigan and around the country. But this take isn't about cheering the court's decision to hear the challenge to race preferences or even affirmative action itself, for that matter. Rather, it's about the implications of the persistent, narrow belief that affirmative action is just a set of "racial preferences" -- when the truth is that the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action have been white women.

No, I'm not saying that  blacks, Latinos, Arab-Americans and Asian-Americans haven't also benefited. (The University of Michigan, for instance, has 11 percent fewer minorities than in 2006, in part because affirmative action was outlawed.) But it's the idea that these minorities, not white women, are disproportionately helped by affirmative action that inflames much of the opposition that we saw here three years ago.

Many who voted against affirmative action had it in their heads that black people and other minorities were somehow getting something they didn't "deserve" or were receiving "something for nothing." Sure, some will howl that I'm wrong -- that affirmative action opponents were driven solely by noble desires for "fairness" and "equality" -- but I'm not. I've lived in Detroit much of my life. And I know well that even though many of us here consider it uncomfortable or impolite to discuss race when talking about why metro Detroit is what it is -- and that includes its standing as one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the U.S. --  intense racial hatred remains alive and well. (Don't believe me? Check out the message boards and comment sections over at just about any of the local papers, particularly when there's a story about a crime that involves someone of African, Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent.)

Understand, I'm not particularly angered by these racial realities. And I generally don't care to try to "wash racists." Still, I do think that there are plenty of other, good people of all stripes -- yes, I know even some blacks and other minorities who oppose affirmative action because they consider it an unfair race "quota"  -- and that is why I always hope for a broader, more inclusive defining of the term.

Of course, knowing that sexism is also alive and well, I don't mean to suggest that Michigan voters would've kept affirmative action had everyone understood that it helped white women more than, say, black men. And I don't have a problem with white women who've benefited, as they certainly have endured their own fair share of hell at work sites, academic institutions and other places. Further, I'm also not saying that everyone who opposed affirmative action harbored racist sentiments. I don't think that's true at all.

But I do firmly believe that affirmative action is problematic for many in this area mainly because they can't abide even the slightest notion that some black person somewhere may be "getting away" with something. And as telling as that misguided belief may be about metro Detroit, it is no truer than misperceptions about what affirmative action really is or whom it aids the most.

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  • 1

    AA was never about preferences for Black people it was and is a mild and at best passive approach to confronting white supremacy and white privledge..

    I could care less about noble white folks and Black apologists having principled positions against AA..The so called progressive whites who did not understand this reality are still enjoying the benefits of white privledge and white supremacy it is and remains easy for them to declare they are not racists for not supporting AA..I here the same theme from my white jewish friends who claim they are against quotas yet they never run from being white privledge folks themselves..

    The Black apologists who also run from AA are still suffering from the pathologies of white privledged and white supremacy as such it creates low self esteem and defeat in many Black folks so I ignore them just like I do white jewish folks who invoke deflective nonsense like quotas..

    NO I will never accept the excuses and bullshit I hear from folks regarding AA which from my vantage point is a mild response to white privledge and white supremacy...AA is not enough I want and I will demand more from White America whenever and wherever 24/7 ...I will define when parity is present not others..

    • 1.1

      I think you should spend less time deriding "noble white folks" and "white Jewish folks" and spend more time learning how to spell.

      Maybe you will then have more credibility when speaking about education, which can be self-taught if you felt excluded because of "Black apologists" or the like..

  • 2

    Women generally have higher test scores and grades, so this is not affirmative action, which allows for admission and other opportunities for groups with lower grades and test scores.

    http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/addressing-the-gender-gap-in-colleges/

    Article above from NYTimes about why women succeed more than in college than men. This cuts across racial lines.

  • 3

    As a white woman who attended a public university in Michigan, I find the notion that I needed affirmative action to get into college insulting. I'm an advocate of a race- and gender-blind admissions process. Compare my scores against anyone and everyone, regardless of what demographic groups we may fall into. I certainly don't want to be anyone's charity case.

  • 4

    Well I for one don't agree with AA in the least bit. But I do understand what it stands for. I think that every one should be judged for who they are not what they are. Has AA been abused in the past? Yes, I believe so. Will it be abused in the future? I'm sure it will. As with every form of intervention by law has been.

    Most people think that AA is about the admission of minorities to school or work because of their color. But really it is about their abilities as a person. But because business and education have taken a few liberties with AA in the past it has angered more then a few people, yes a lot of those angered people came from both sides of the racial fence, but the one thing we all forget from time to time is that there must be other people out there in this world who are not of the same skin that are smarter then us. Who deserve to get what they get. AA should not be used as a crutch but a guideline that says "Hey don't look at the color of our skin or our gender, when we apply for a job or enroll in a school". That is what AA should be, first and fore most.

    Shunning color and gender in the hopes that every one can enjoy a good life at work or school. Do some people think that is dose not work right, sure they do. There are a lot of policies that don't work right, and that is all of our faults for not being honest with ourselves.

    The racial boundaries that divide us all are just stupid on both sides. We as a people make a decision not to work together due to what ever fears we have against people of different colors or genders. (notice I did not say race. We are all of the human race.)

    The racial divide we are fueling the fire of will only lead to an explosion, just as it has alway done in the past, AA or not we will be forced to choose sides once again and neither side will win, as neither side has won in the past.

    I will say that I'm not a racist, but I am an ignornatist. I don't enjoy being around ignorant people. That includes people of all colors, from the white kid who thinks he is a thug and can do and say what he wants because his parents give him everything, to the black kid who thinks it's my fault he has nothing because my ancestors may have had his ancestors as slaves a long time ago. (far from the truth because when my ancestors came here slavery was over).

    In closing, should AA be abolished, no it should not. What we all need to do is just relax and get over ourselves for a minute. Is AA unfair, for some yes it will always seen unfair. The white person got dismissed but the black person did not, the woman got the job and the man did not. Do we all think we are entitled to something that we may not be? It sure seems that way to me.

  • 5

    @grew upindetroit,

    This is a chat forum not an english lit class as such I will never concern myself with grammar, spelling syntax, etc...of course whenever someone lacks the depth and skills to debate they often play the spellcheck card..

    I have no problem being candid with noble whites and white jewish folks who have contempt for me .Please refrain from putting your verbaige "deriding" into my prose..

    BTW feel free to run a spell check on these comments..

    Of course white females pivot off of the white privledge thier white counterparts have enjoyed...Test scores and studies which document the advantage of white woman in the marketplace is a weak point given many jobs in corporate america have nothing to do with merit or one's test scores ..

    ..Being White and Female never hurts just this morning on NPR they reported on the unemployment rates for young white females in contrast to Black folks it was revealing and of course not a surprise..Young white college females are rolling thier unemployment rate is less than 4% ....

  • 6

    I am tired of the standard white defensive arguement of my parents never owned slaves...Hell nor did mine, nor was I around 400 years ago.

    .Yet why muct I still deal with whites and others who have contempt for me in year 2009..BTW I do not need to travel back 400 years to document racism by whites it is quite present today...

    • 6.1

      The standard white defensive is true for some of us, I don't hate anybody. I dislike a few people but I don't disregard who they are based on the color of their skin or their gender.

      And you have taken a part of my whole text out of context based on what you believe, and that is fine by me. But stop for a minute and think about what you have just said.

      You truly don't have to deal with any one who has contempt for you. I don't have contempt for you at all, I expect every one to act in a respective manner. Not only to themselves but to others as well. We all live together, yet we want to live apart as well it seems. We point fingers to our failures, but fail to admit we may have been wrong.

      The days of back of the bus mentality are over yet, we have forgotten to forgive both sides, and until we can do that we will be together yet apart for a long time to come.

      So go ahead and don't deal with the problems you have experienced and those problems will continue to plague you for the rest of your life.

      If your black should I blame you that another black man gunned down my friend? No, I think not as that would be rude and really disrespectful. Should a white man today be blamed for his ancestors owning slaves 200 years ago? I think not.

      This is the mentality that we need to lose, all of us as a whole. Treat people as individuals first not as a group as a whole for the misdeeds of one.

    • 6.2

      gthrasher--

      I'm very sorry that you encounter contempt. It has no place in our society, and it hurts us all when it exists anywhere. But it's my experience that we all encounter contempt. No matter our skin color or gender.

      Ignore it, and it loses its power. Reach out to those who express contempt, and you can turn the entire relationship around.

  • 7

    AA is not about charity, it is about allowing capable people equal opportunity. I am a black woman who attended UM on AA scholarship. I did not test as well as other incoming UM freshmen. But I graduated from Detroit Public Schools at the top of my class from one of the city's top magnet high schools. UM recognized that I attended a school that did not have the resources, science labs, field trips, technology, etc that other schools do. UM also recognized that top performers do well when given opportunity. It was a good decision on UM's part, because unlike my UM classmates who came from better-performing high schools and who had better ACT scores, I finished a double major at UM with honors in 3.5 years. That's charity, that's reality. To say AA was a bad move, is to say that I never deserved to be there, which is obviously not true.

  • 8

    Snipedangle, i think i left out a key word in my previous post, so i am re-posting it....:
    AA is not about charity, it is about allowing capable people equal opportunity. I am a black woman who attended UM on AA scholarship. I did not test as well as other incoming UM freshmen. But I graduated from Detroit Public Schools at the top of my class from one of the city's top magnet high schools. UM recognized that I attended a school that did not have the resources, science labs, field trips, technology, etc that other schools do. UM also recognized that top performers do well when given opportunity. It was a good decision on UM's part, because unlike my UM classmates who came from better-performing high schools and who had better ACT scores, I finished a double major at UM with honors in 3.5 years. That's NOT charity, that's reality. To say AA was a bad move, is to say that I never deserved to be there, which is obviously not true.

    • 8.1

      I certainly wouldn't argue that you didn't deserve to be at UofM. You say that you graduated at the top of your class from a top high school in the city. I absolutely agree that schools should look at those factors in admissions. I don't, however, think that race or gender should be factors that influence admissions. Look at your GPA, your class rank, your test scores, just leave demographics out of it.

      If affirmative action must continue to exist, I would argue for it to be based on economic class. Wealthy minority students who have the benefit of growing up in good school districts do not face nearly as many challenges as poor minority students who are forced to attend failing schools because of lack of funding. Likewise, as the beneficiary of an upper-middle class upbringing and an excellent school district, I did not face nearly as many challenges to achieving academic success as a white female student would have in an impoverished community and school district. It would help those of all races and genders who need assistance while eliminating some of the accusations that the system is being taken advantage of.

  • 9

    We probably can all agree that our society needs to do everything it can to provide historically repressed demographic groups with AT LEAST the same level of career and educational mobility as its historically privileged groups. But we inevitably run into controversy when initiatives such as Affirmative Action promote the academic enrollment or job hiring of a lesser-qualified candidate over a better qualified candidate- i.e., what's perceived as a minority “getting something they didn't ‘deserve'.”

    At the same time, it's naive to think that enforcing color-blind hiring and college enrollment would be anywhere near enough to solve this country's race problem. This view ignores the complex systemic factors that have more often than not prevented minorities from achieving their potential and making themselves legitimate contenders for jobs and school slots. Discriminatory hiring practices, predatory loans, real-estate redlining, and declining tax base due to white flight in Detroit dating back to the 1950s and 1960s (and perhaps to some extent slavery 130 years ago) DO still impact our society today- these factors led to the decline of inner city communities and limited the ability of minorities to provide an environment where their children (and by inference their children's children) could reach their potential.

    Affirmative Action does take steps towards addressing a very real problem, but it certainly isn't the best solution over the long haul. Snipedangle's suggestion of Affirmative Action based on economic class sounds sensible- it's a color-blind solution even though we all know it would disproportionately help those demographic groups which need it most. To take this a step further, the problem needs to be addressed at its root- equal opportunity for primary and secondary educational opportunity regardless of race or economic class- so that when today's children reach the age to apply for college or a job, color-blind hiring and enrollment will be enough. Band aid solutions may help a little today, but these kinds of problems take the span of a generation to solve.

  • 10

    As I posted earlier I will nevr pay any attention to racists, and others who have contempt for me..It is not my mission to elevate others or seek to elevate others..

    I have civil rights fatigue.. I am not reaching out to any ignorant white folks to become humane...I am not reaching out to any ignorant folks at all when racism is the core issue..Hell Black folks have done the met and greet for centuries now....

  • 11

    It's a shame that the need for AA exists but it is necessary if bright, motivated children trapped by circumstances beyond their control are to have any quality of life.
    AA should be eliminated as a necessity but that can only be achieved through a drastic culture change. I'm talking to the black culture, to the culture that accepts 48% illiteracy as normal, to the culture that claims that education is for whites only, to the bullies who enforce that lie, to the one parent families with 6 or 8 or 10 kids, to the welfare moms who can't support those kids, to the mothers of those kids who aren't even sure who the fathers are, to the fathers who couldn't care less, to the parents who can't be bothered to show up at PTA meetings, to the drug culture, to the gang culture,to the car jacking culture, to the drive-by shooters.
    If you are an educated, law abiding, responsible black person who is offended by my characterizations, you have every right to be. I offer my apologies but these remarks are not directed at you. I am not the one who unfairly included you in this broad, generalized category. The blame for that belongs to the losers who, by their skin color alone, dragged you along with them. Never the less, it is only you who can do any thing about it. Government programs, including AA and welfare are never going to solve the problem.
    For a long time, I have been reluctant to write this. It is harsh and perhaps unfair but the time for political correctness is past. The only slavery that exists today is the slavery of culture. White control is now a myth. For years, Detroit has had black mayors, a black police chief, a black city council, a black school board and an 85% black population. We now even have a black President of the United States. There can be no more excuses.
    I have certainly opened myself to cries of racist and maybe I am. But I am convinced that the solution starts with two parent families who value education, love their children and closely supervise their behavior. Poverty, drugs and crime can not take hold in that environment. If I am a racist, I am not a very good one. I want blacks to suceed. I want them to lead healthy, productive lives. I have great respect for those blacks who have been able to overcome the culture of failure put in their way and lead productive lives. But I also have no use for anyone who would stand in their way.

  • 12

    The black graduation rate at U-Michigan is generally about 65%, as compared to an overall graduation rate in the high 80s%. This is because the black students do not graduate due to either social or academic reasons.

    There is an argument that the many state universities with preferential admissions are depriving other students of an opportunity to attend, who have a much better chance to graduate, as compared to the black students.

    The politicians and university presidents such as Mary Sue Coleman take great pride in their overwhelming support of AA programs. However, once getting black students in, too few graduate, vs white or Asian students.

    Most cities and their schools have been black-controlled for decades, so blaming these failures on whites is not valid. I think blacks can only blame themselves at this point for not being able to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them.

    I have seen many kids come from non-English speaking families who have managed to succeed in the very same public schools and go to great colleges with good results.

    In many cases, it's the culture and lack of family support, not the school or college to blame. Certainly slavery is not to blame. Too many groups with circumstances just as bad or worse have come here and excelled.

  • 13

    @gthrasher

    I am sure you have encountered true racism in your life. However after reading your comments here I am betting most of what you encounter is due to how you come off - like an asshole.

  • 15

    @allusername sex,

    Your comments reflect you are the real asshole instead of offering up some substance and reasoned comments your lack of depth makes you call me an asshole...It takes one to know one is what my elders taught me...

  • 16

    @ DD,

    I post on here to chat and engaged in interesting exchange I do not post here to offer long winded paradigms or detailed solutions to the world's problem...

    I find it interesting you have not demanded this response and reactions from others who post here.

    I do not recall nor read anything on this thead which required of me or others really to offer up a programmatic solution to on ongoing social ills..

    My opinons reflect my personal interaction with on going social skills..For those who seek more from me that can;

    1, Interview me
    2. Visit my blog planeideas.blogspot.com
    3. For a fee I will provide a detailed consult narrative/report/findings on related topics, issues etc..

    I have opined on my view about AA from my perspective it is at best a mild margainal response to white supremacy and white privledge. I find in truth reparations and constructs like cultural imminent domain and vicarious economic ownership as being more productive and rewarding than weak racial remedial shift programs like AA..

    Fact is white folks have dominated the cultural landscape in our nation for centuries and yet minor eforts like AA still piss them off..

    Allow me to use this example I employ when I lecture to large white groups;

    View racial relations in our nation as a Big Ben Clock for 23 hours and 45 minutes white folks have dominated the time from illegal aliens like pilgrims and puritans to 2 domestic holocausts to jim crow, segregation, disparate treatment to now the digital divide and a happy negro in the white house

    I have 15 minutes left to fix the clusterfuck white folks have left our nation under thier stewardship..the clock is ticking.tic, toc,tic, toc..I look forward to designing a new nation for the new day ..tic toc, tic toc

  • 17

    gthrasher is one angry, deluded, misinformed, and seemingly a bit sick from his own vitriol and bile...

    No wonder no one can take his postings with anything other than mild amusement - particularly when he starts trembling in his ramped-up rage...

  • 18

    gthrasher is the "extreme" that makes Affirmative Action look mild. Otherwise, it would look quite extreme.

    It isn't true that the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action are white women. What is true is that white women are the largest demographic group that is SOMETIMES eligible for affirmative action. White women are a huge demographic group that has given up millions of spots at colleges and universities to affirmative action, but also has been helped by the policy occasionally in the workplace. The benefit given to them is marginal (and probably negative when the damage to their education is factored in) but they are the largest demographic group that the policy mentions.

    If the same policy taxes a huge group of people $3, but gives them $1.50 back--and then, gives $5 to another, smaller, group of people--do you say that the first group is the "biggest beneficiary?"

    White women have, in balance, hurt by affirmative action. They've given up spots in colleges and graduate schools--thereby giving up educational opportunities that would likely make the workforce protection they're offered irrelevant. Education is the biggest determinant of income, not eligibility for workplace protection and the ability to file harrasment lawsuits. No amount of protection from sexual harrasment and easing of the glass ceiling is going to make a white woman marketing assistant who gave up her spot in law school on account of her race have an career equal to that of a lawyer.

    Furthermore, white women typically have part of their economic futures tied to white men. Affirmative Action isn't doing them any favors there.

    It's bad enough that whites and asians don't see ourselves as demographic groups with the RIGHT to vote in our own self interest. This devide-and-conquer strategy is even more insulting.

  • 19

    @kioti & test,

    Why do people like you seek to make this personal with the insults and attacks simply becuase I have posted some comments which do not follow your logic or reasoning...WHY? WHY ? do both of you lack the maturity and integrity to separate basic facts from the poster???

    Apparently both of you are very myopic people who are unable to be free of bias on a chat forum ..This is about expressing opinions not about spitting venom on people...

    White woman employ and have leverage the same white privledge that thier white male counterparts have leverage..

    AA has not taken anything from white woman as a matter of fact white males with legacy and the good ole boy network have screwed white woman yet is is easy and sad to read backward comments that AA has taken something from white woman ..Wat a joke and a sad example of how twisted the logic and excuses are of those in the privledge class...

    Both of you are pitiful and again the reason why racism continues to stain and wound our nation...Tragic on so many levels..

  • 20

    [...] saw this short post on Time's Detroit Blog today: Still Getting It Wrong on Affirmative Action. In it, blogger Darrell Dawsey comments about the recent news that civil rights groups in Michigan [...]

  • 21

    [...] Originally Posted by chielgirl Got any links to that? Myth: Affirmative action is an African American entitlement program. FACT: Affirmative action benefits a broad range of people and communities that continue to face discrimination in this country, including Latino, Native, Arab, Asian and African Americans. The primary beneficiaries, however, have been white women. Focus on Affirmative Action Yes, I think affirmative action is a palatable, if mild, remedy to the ongoing discrimination that women and people of color face in Michigan and around the country. But this take isn't about cheering the court's decision to hear the challenge to race preferences or even affirmative action itself, for that matter. Rather, it's about the implications of the persistent, narrow belief that affirmative action is just a set of "racial preferences" -- when the truth is that the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action have been white women. Read more: Still Getting It Wrong On Affirmative Action - The Detroit Blog - TIME.com [...]

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