The Great Demancipator

The Great Demancipator

Well, I think that it is a good state of affairs in America when the vast majority of bigots are in the minorities. At least you can understand where that bigotry comes from.

AS EXPECTED, President Bush restored affirmative action programs for white people. ”Racial prejudice is a reality in America,” Bush declared Wednesday in his landmark speech from the White House. ”It hurts many of our citizens…. America’s long experience with the segregation we have put behind us, and the racial discrimination we still struggle to overcome requires a special effort to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all.”

What racial discrimination? I agree that there is still some bigotry in America; discrimination, however, is all but gone. We have much more pragmatic forms of discrimination now — based on gender and age. Quite frankly, I don’t think that we should do much to get rid of those forms, either.

Bush’s effort is so special that this may very well be the first Martin Luther King. Jr. birthday during which the loudest celebrations come not from black churches and integrated downtown breakfasts but from the hallways of segregated suburbia to the romantic enclaves of the Confederacy. Finally for them, this is the day to shout ”We Have Overcome.” This is the day that a lot of God’s white people – Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – are holding hands and singing in the words of their new spiritual, ”Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

It bothers me that this bigot has invoked the language of the “I have a dream” speech in order to ridicule the very thing that speech called for.

In standing with the white women, Bush blasted Michigan’s program, which awards bonus points to African-American, Native American, and some Latino students in order to account for historical disadvantages. Bush called it a ”quota system.” He said: ”students are being selected or rejected primarily on the color of their skin. The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination, and that discrimination is wrong.”Bush lied. Yes, Michigan gives bonus points. But the school has no quotas. The school, even with affirmative action, is not yet close to racial parity. The state’s population is 14 percent African-American. The undergraduate college and the law school, the two targets of the lawsuit, are currently 8.4 percent and 6.7 percent African-American. The law school says that without affirmative action the percentage of African-Americans and Latinos would drop to 4 percent each.

Flip this reasoning around. Say that the school claimed that it didn’t have a policy of limiting minority students; it just assigned negative points to anyone who failed the one-drop test. Would he still say that this wasn’t discrimination? Unlike Mr. Jackson, discrimination doesn’t, well, discriminate about which way the preference falls. Discrimination is.

Bush has said nothing about bonus points for white people in job interviews. Studies show over and over again that African-Americans and Latinos with the same resume as white applicants are rejected far more often than white applicants. The silent bonus point system is so pernicious that a recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago and MIT found that job applicants in Chicago and Boston with ”white sounding” names received 50 percent more callbacks than ”black sounding” names.

I think that this study falls to a basic fallacy of definition. The names were not “black” and “white” sounding. They were professional and unprofessional sounding. Names like Melissa (I picked this because I have only known two Melissas in my life, and one was black) were favored over names like Tawnisha. Quite frankly, I have never met a Tawnisha who was very professional. I’m sure there are a few, but they are the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, I have met many black professional women with names like Melissa, Wanda and Janet.

I also have a relative named Melissa who is white trash. Guess what? She has problems getting a job, despite the massive advantage she gets from her name and white skin. Huh.

Under the white bonus point system, too many people of color are rejected primarily on the color of their skin. By standing with three white women to take bonus points away from black and brown folks while white Americans continue to collect points for simply being white, the party of Lincoln has come a long way in civil rights. Lincoln was called the Great Emancipator. President Bush has become the Great Eraser.

This is the most egregious insult to professional blacks everywhere. “You cannot stand on your own merit against white people.” That is the message Mr. Jackson is sending.

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