Paul R. Lehman, Civil Rights Act of 1964 still misunderstood by many relative to African Americans

February 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in American Racism, Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Prejudice, blacks, whites, equality, justice, fairness, minority, public education, African American, European American, segregation, desegregation, integregation, Affirmative Action, college admission, Equal Opportunity, academic qualifications, The U.S. Constitution, skin color, discrimination, democracy, liberty, skin complexion, Constitutional rights | Leave a comment
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Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.

The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.

Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.

African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.

After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.

So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.

Paul R. Lehman, George Will’s Commentary on the high courts challenge for Michigan on race lacks good reasoning.

October 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, Michigan, minority, Prejudice, segregation, Slavery, The Oklahoman, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the ironies in America today is the lack of acceptance of the fact that America, from its beginning, was a biased society. Europeans who called themselves white, created a society of two so-called races—one white, one black. The character of each so-called race was also created; the white race was to be superior to the black race in every way. The problem with this creation of races from the beginning was that it was not logical because race was never defined, just assumed. Shortly after Africans were introduced into American slavery, the problem of race reared it ugly head in the form of children produced by individuals representing each so-called race. Society met this problem by creating laws based on its conception of race to keep the separation in place. The laws, however, were based on the assumption of race by color, an assumption which nature and biology did not share. Society, nevertheless, continued to ignore nature and biology while creating and enforcing as best it could laws to address the continuing racial problems. Had America used another form of separation in its creation of and assumptions of races by color, the problems society is incurring today might not be so challenging.
One such problem was published in The Oklahoman by George Will in his “Commentary “(10/13/13)on the Supreme Court’s up-coming hearing on the use of race by the University of Michigan in its admission’s policy. Will stated that “the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment says ‘No state shall…deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’” He added that “the following provision of Michigan’s constitution violates the Equal Protection guarantee: No public university, college or school district may ‘discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis or race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin…” The provision continued with the conditions “in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” The laws seem to cancel out each other, so Will believes the court will rule in favor of the 14th Amendment.
The problem with this case can be seen in the use and lack of definition of the word race and the history of America’s prejudice. From the end of the Civil War to 1954, America practiced segregation and discrimination, separate and unequal polices based on race. In 1964 when the Civil Rights Act provided relief from the practices of separate and unequal practices in public institutions, many states complained that the rights of some of it citizens were being denied because preferential treatment was being given to African Americans and other ethnic minorities. What society and Will does not say is that for over two-hundred years the equal protection in the 14th Amendment was not applied to African Americans, women, and other ethnic minorities, so the suspension of equal protection guarantees had to be put in place while an attempt to try and remedy the injustices of the past could be addressed.
Now the question of should race be included in consideration for admission to the University of Michigan, and if it is, will that serve as a form of discrimination against other students? Common sense should dictate a reasonable approach. How can an injustice be addressed by simply retaining the status quo, which is what the Michigan state provision suggests. The suggestion of fairness seems to reflect the idea that all citizens are equal have the same rights. History tells us that the concept of race has and still does play an important role in how some people; especially African Americans, women, and other minorities are treated. For someone to suggest that bias, prejudice, and discrimination does no longer exist in society is to ignore today’s reality.
The fact that Michigan created the law requiring that “”No public university, college or school district may ‘discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to…” anyone, suggests that many people believed that some people, African Americans and others, were receiving these preferences. They also believed that the preferences worked to the disadvantage of the majority population, regardless of the fact that they were not discriminated against in the past. Regarding those who were discriminated against in the past, the law suggests that they automatically and magically became equal and no program for addressing the inequities of the past need be instituted.
Interestingly enough, Will stated that “Michigan’s attorney general correctly argues that the voters who passed the amendment in 80 of the state’s 83 counties were not ‘restructuring’ the political process, they were using the process to give constitutional dignity to the valid ideal of a colorblind society.” One wonders if Will truly believes that the people in the 80 counties were voting without consideration of so-called race and color. If those voters in the 80 counties were not conscious of race during their voting, there would be no reason to vote. After all, the law was written to stop what they considered unfair treatment of themselves and preferential treatment of African Americans.
Part of the problem facing the court has to do with the concept of race and how the university might apply it in admissions. Because biased and prejudiced citizens accused the government of using race as a partial method to help remedy segregation and discrimination of Africans Americans in the past, and the Supreme Court agreed in part with them, the emphasis was redirected by the universities towards using race as a form of academic “diversity.” Now the practice of the University of Michigan in using race as a form of bringing diversity into the academic community is being challenged by people who believe that is also a form of granting preferences. At some point society will have to ask the question concerning addressing the injustices of the past to African Americans, women, and other ethnic minorities. So far, most of the people receiving complaints of preferential treatment in college and University admissions are African Americans. We rarely read of complaints of women receiving preferential treatment.
As a society, we must accept the fact that race was created to serve as a form of separation and discrimination and that society employed the concept of race by color to employ forms of preferences for European Americans while creating walls and roadblocks for African Americans and other minorities. The mere fact that Will made the statement that the people of Michigan voted “to give constitutional dignity to the valid ideals of a colorblind society” represents a form of hypocrisy, deceit, and ignorance. How can we believe in the ideal of a colorblind society when the majority population identify themselves as “white”?

Paul R. Lehman,The concept of a post-racial society conceals the misdeeds of America’s past and present.

April 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, minority, Race in America, segregation, skin color, Slavery, The Thirteenth Amendment, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, University of Texas, whites | 2 Comments
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An article that appeared in the grio posed the questions:”has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?” (4/1/13) These questions were asked in conjunction with the two cases before the Supreme Court, one case deals with affirmative action, the other focuses on voting rights. Although both questions involve some aspect of the same topic, race, they need to be addressed separately, and in a different context from the general public concept. Let us look first at the question about racial preference and racism.
The first thing we need to address is the fact that America and the government created race based on color. Two races were created, one black and the other white. These races were not created on anything other than the color for a person’s skin. Later many scientists, scholars, ministers, and a host of other players tried to justify race from a biological perspective, to no avail because any person who looked white could be white. So, while the definition protected people with fair complexions, it was no guarantee that the race of these people was correct or valid. So, society added ancestry to the definition of race via color, but only African Ancestry. In other words, if a person had any African ancestry, that person was considered black regardless of how they looked. The problem with race defined by color was finally addressed by U. S. law in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) but proved to be something of a joke– Homer Plessy’s complexion was so light, that his arrest for sitting in a seat reserved for white-only had to be staged. None the less, the law was kept in place.
America made these two races distinct in that they represented opposite values. The so-called white race was given power, privilege, and prestige. If one was upper-classed white, wealthy or educated, then he or she was considered normal. Otherwise, being white just placed one above all other non-whites. For the so-called black race or Negroes, as they were also called, they represented negative stereotypes that included ignorance, laziness, worthlessness, untrustworthiness, and repulsiveness along with a host of other despicable characteristics. All these elements were promoted by the so-called white race to be biological features of the so-called black race. Society created, promoted and enforced laws and practices that discriminated against and segregated people of the so-called black race.
Before and during the time of the Civil War many people, European Americans as well as African Americans worked towards eliminating slavery and discrimination of African Americans. Once the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed by Congress with pressure from President Lincoln and others, African Americans were recognized as citizens of the United State of America. That meant that only whites and blacks were citizens since no other race was recognized.
For African Americans, being citizens of the United States did not end discrimination, hatred and bigotry. As a matter of fact, negative feelings against African Americans began to manifest in acts of violence by so-called white vigilante gangs that included acts of lynching. Although America has always been a diverse society, it acted like a monolith of European Americans. They still held on to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny—this country belongs to them because God gave it to them to take and possess. Although many diverse societies existed in America, the country projected two so-called races—black and white, under the rubric of one country, America. The so-called black race was never treated fairly nor equally by society until the laws of the country was challenged in courts, and especially, the Supreme Court. The 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Topeka began the change in the social structure of America. According to the law, African Americans could no longer be treated as unequals in public facilities. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not affect the minds of many American who saw the law as a form of discrimination against their rights. Therefore, they continued to maintain and enforce an atmosphere of segregation and discrimination against African Americans until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965, 1968.
During the time from the beginning of America creating to two races until the Civil Rights Acts, the race America called white enjoyed the liberties of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness without reservation. Now that America has decided to live up to its promise of fair and just treatment for all its citizens, the so-called white race wants to cry discrimination because it cannot continue to discriminate on the basis of its so-called race. The court case involving university admissions at the University of Texas is said to be based on racial preference for African American students. Actually, if the University of Texas did not show some preference to African American students, it would still be discriminating against them based on past social history and practice. They were formerly denied admission based on their so-called race, so not to consider their so-called race for admission would be seen as unjust or unfair.
Another problem exists regarding this case, that is, how will race be defined since color is not a reliable indicator of race and DNA will show that all people have some African ancestry? The fact that America created two so-called races based on color has come back to haunt and trouble us since the European Americans no longer control the definition of race in America. Race should have been replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity since the 1940s, but to do that would have meant a loss of power, privilege and prestige for the European Americans. What society could not bring it to do; Mother Nature is doing for it. In a few more years, the ethnic minority in America will become the majority and the concept of a black race and white race will become so complex and confusing that it will have to become a thing of the past.
So, if the court wants to avoid the problem of having to deal with race, it should simply look at the people who have been denied social and economic justice in our society and do the fair and just thing by them without regard to a so-called race. The idea of a post-racial society is just a way of trying to avoid the realities of discrimination and bigotry that have been a part of America’s history. America created the problem; it can resolve it.

Paul R. Lehman, Civil rights for all Americans is a constant battle

December 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Abigail Fisher, Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, blacks, college admission, desegregation, Equal Opportunity, equality, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, minority, Prejudice, segregation, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 3 Comments
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Most Americans do not dwell on the fact that America was created as a biased society and that the government was one of the prime movers in creating, maintaining, and promoting segregation and discrimination. After all, the government is not some strange, mysterious organization that influences the lives of the people. No, the government is not strange and mysterious; the government is the people and the mind-set and perceptions of the people in control of the government does affect and influence the lives of the people. Since American society had distinct biases against African Americans that were spelled out in the laws, those laws had to be challenged in order to effect change. Many of the laws were neither just nor fair, but they were legal. Many of the laws created problems for society because they were contrary to the ideals and values that America promoted to the world. For example, the government sanctioned laws of segregation that discriminated against African Americans.

The rights of the people are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, so any challenge to an existing law must eventually go through the Supreme Court.  For example, the concept of separate but equal laws that supported segregation in society had to be challenged and brought before the Supreme Court.  In 1954 the case Brown v. Board of Education which involved a young African American student, Linda Brown, who was prevented from attending a white neighborhood school, was successfully argued before the Supreme Court. As a result, the law was changed and schools were ordered to desegregate. To some Americans, this ruling was wrong because it took away their rights to segregate in spite of the fact that to do so was considered un-American. The anger came from the fact that the government had been aiding and abetting the concepts of segregation and discrimination against African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans since after the Civil War. Many citizens believed that America belonged to European Americans only and that they had the right to live any way they pleased. The concept that living in a society had responsibilities as well as benefits for all individuals was lost on many European Americans.

So, when groups like the NAACP began challenging some of the laws that had prevented African Americans from enjoying the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, they were vigorously opposed. The belief was that when a law was changed to correct a long-standing abuse, that change in the law gave the plaintiffs an unfair advantage. The resentment of some Americans regarding the rights given to African Americans in particular, resulted in a number of cases challenging, for example, Affirmative Action that allowed race to be considered in college and university applications for admission. Several cases have become part of our common knowledge including a recent case involving Abigail Fisher, a young European American female who claimed she was discriminated against because she was white. In essence, she claims that she was denied admission to the University of Texas in favor of an African American with lesser academic qualifications. What most Americans do not know is that Miss Fisher’s case was used as a test case to challenge the use of race in college and university admissions.

In a November 15, 2012 article in The Washington Spectator,” Lou Dubose, the writer, introduces us to the crusader who wants to undo many of the civil rights laws: “Edward Blum’s campaign to dismantle statues and case law that provide advantages to minority groups began in 1992. After Blum, who is white and ran as a Republican, failed to unseat a black Democratic congressman, he filed his first lawsuit.” Blum is the behind-the-scene backer of the Fisher case. Although what Blum does is legal, one wonders why he believes hundred of years of preferential treatment favoring European American is acceptable and need not be changed when we witness the results of years of injustice in education every day. Dubose notes that “Blum confirmed that his litigation is funded by Donors Trust and that the names of contributors to the fundraising collective are not available to the public.” Dubose does mention that there might be some connection with the Koch brothers via the Donors Trust.

So, while many Americans view the language in our national documents that describe life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens, some American have yet to accept the concept of democracy and the diversity that make this country strong. Many of the people Blum represents in his lawsuits have a mind-set that speaks to the idea of “just us” as apposed to “justice.” He identifies these people and says “The Reagan-era cabal of Federalist Society lawyers and think-tankers co-opted the “equal rights” language of the civil rights movement and managed to turn the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against the people it was intended to protect.”

What this writer finds difficult to understand is how the courts can omit or discount the conditions that resulted from the laws and not consider them in the reasons for wanting to over-turn the laws. If Affirmative Action was created to address some social ills based on race, how can race be removed when trying to correct the problem? If race is removed, what is left to combat the problems of segregation and discrimination that existed before Affirmative Action? None-the-less, Dubose notes that “Meanwhile, the consensus of legal scholars has the Court wiping out some, if not all, of the race-based college admissions practices that Fisher and Blum are challenging in Texas.”

What seems to be the primary reason for some Americans wanting to proscribe the rights and privileges of ethnic and minority Americans is bigotry. In spite of our history of injustice, discrimination, segregation, prejudice, and bigotry, some people would like society to not address these detrimental features in an effort to create a better, more democratic and just America. They, in fact, want to destroy the progress we as a society have made. So, now we know that the fight for civil rights for all Americans is a continuous battle.

Paul R. Lehman, Roger Clegg and charges of racial discrimination in OU’s admissions policy

November 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, Michael J. Sandel, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, presented some statistical data in an article “On racial admission preferences at OU,” in The Oklahoman recently (10-26-12). The article and data suggests that African American and American Indian students receive preferential treatment when admitted to The University of Oklahoma (OU).  In addition to presenting the information, Clegg makes a certain charge:”A study released this week by the Center for Equal Opportunity has found evidence of racial discrimination in law, undergraduate and medical school admission at the University of Oklahoma.”

Clegg continues by noting that “The study, which analyzes data obtained from the university, found that blacks were admitted to all three schools with lower academic qualifications than students from other racial and ethnic groups. Some evidence of preferential treatment for American Indian applicants was noted as well.” The fact that African American and American Indian students submit applications for admission with lower academic qualifications than other ethnic American groups should not come as a surprise when we consider from whence they come. Common knowledge underscores the fact that African American as well as other ethnic American students who come from socially and economically challenged communities do not receive an educational experience equal to that of more affluent students. So, why would the test scores lower grade point averages come as a surprise, especially from African Americans considering their special experiences in a biased society?

The article got specific regarding the charge of discrimination: “At the law school, we found black-white median LSAT gaps of 6 (equivalent to a combined math-verbal SAT gap of over 100), and a gap in undergraduate GPAs. Indeed, 105 whites were rejected despite higher LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than the median black admittee in the two years studied.” What exact ally is the point being made here? If admittance was based only on examination scores of the LSAT and GPAs, the number of African Americans and American Indians would not exist at all, except for those students coming from upper-middle-class or affluent communities and schools. Statistics show that schools in the lower socio-economic communities generally produce poor to median students. All we have to do to verify this information is to take a look at the schools in Oklahoma where the applicants graduated.

Let us be clear about what is being suggested in this study.  Data concerning admittance at the University of Oklahoma was given to the Center for Equal Opportunity. The Center released the data along with the charge of “racial discrimination” and “racial preference” with a special focus on African Americans. For years, beginning with statehood to 1948, African Americans were denied admittance to all of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher education with the exception of Langston University, a predominantly undergraduate African American school. The primary reason for denying admission to the African Americans was their ethnicity or as noted, their race. If that was the primary reason for their being denied entrance, should not part of the resolution take in the fact of their ethnicity? Just how would Clegg suggest the problem be addressed that provides an equal opportunity to all?

Whether intended or not, Clegg characterizes African American students as villains for seeking admission to the school  at OU knowing full well that their scores and GPAs are not as high as the European American students. What are these students supposed to do when their society and academic experiences do not adequately prepare them to compete equally at the college and university level? One of the problems with these kinds of studies is created via the language used. The very name of the Center for Equal Opportunity is an oxymoron; since “opportunity” is based on chance or break, how can that be equal? Unfortunately, the word equal is a mathematical word, not a social one. The possibility of two people being equal does not exist. To use it with respect to college and university admittance suggests that all students must be treated the same. The problem with using that word is the creation of unequal experiences for some when attempting to correct the admittance problem for others. The appropriate word and action to use is fair or fairness because it allows for changes to be made without the restrictions associated with being equal.

As in my previous blog regarding Affirmative Action, the book Mismatch, by Sander and Taylor is referenced to show that preference is given to African American students. Clegg says “None of this is surprising: Nearly every selective school in the country uses racial preferences unless a court or state has told it not to.” If the schools want to treat the once denied African American students fairly, then they must show preferences; that is just plain common sense. Simple admittance will not address the over-all problem. Attention to the students’ education prior to college or university must be given serious and necessary attention as the book Mismatch suggests.

Concerning the charge of discrimination by Clegg we must wonder who else is being discriminated against. We know the African American and other ethnic American students are who are forced to compete unfairly with students from more affluent families and communities.  We know the European American students with the high test scores and GPAs are who are rejected in favor of students whose parents attended OU. We do not know for certain, but Clegg seems to place the blame on the university and the African American students, but we wonder why.

Maybe we can find some food for thought in the words of  Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy when he says “Democracy does not require perfect equality, but is does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.” Sometimes a simple word is sufficient.

Paul R. Lehman,Opinion misguided on Affirmative Action and State Question 759

October 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, public education, segregation, state Government, whites | 3 Comments
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The “Opinion” writer for The Oklahoman has again brought up the topic of State Question 759 which to ban Affirmative Action in state government. This time, however, his comments are misguided and illogical. The title of the article is “Merit must trump race in state government,” shows just how confusing his thoughts are on Affirmative Action. Until Affirmative Action was put in place, race was always used to keep African Americans and women out of state government. Before Affirmative Action, merit was not even a consideration for office in state government. However, since opponents of the state question have voiced their opposition to it, those for its banning are offering their views.

One of the primary problems involved with banning Affirmative Action is the lack of understanding about what it concerns. Many of the opponents of Affirmative Action focus simply of college and/or university admission programs that supposedly favor African Americans applicants over European American applicants. Therefore, since these programs single out race as the criteria for acceptance, the programs must be discarded. What is missing from this action is the reason for Affirmative Action in the first place. Nowhere in this legislation are mentioned the words African Americans, blacks, Negroes, Colored or any other noun describing or identifying an ethnic group. But, because of the efforts of African Americans and other Americans citizens, the measure sought to make unconstitutional discrimination of people for reasons of race, color, sex, creed, or national origin.

If we were to stop and look at the record of American society in the areas of school admissions for women and other ethnic Americans prior to Affirmative Action, we would see a marked change for the betterment of those applicants. Also, if we checked the record for women and ethnic Americans in fields and professions like, firefighters, law enforcement, postal workers, medicine, law, and construction, we would hopefully understand just what Affirmative Action has done and continues to do for society.

However, since the “Opinion” writer focused on African Americans specifically, let us look at what President Lyndon B. Johnson said about this measure he signed: “Nothing is more freighted with meaning for our won destiny than the revolution of the Negro American…[we were called Negroes then]. In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope…But freedom is not enough.” He explains what he means by that last statement: “You do not wipe away the cards of centuries by saying; Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair….”

The article states that “Affirmative action’s harsh reality is to harm those it is supposed to benefit. In their book, ‘Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Its Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit it,’ authors Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander outline affirmative actions destructive consequences.” Indeed, the authors document cases where institutions admitted students who were not academically prepared for the rigors they faced. Although the focus was on African Americans, this situation applies to students of all ethnic groups. The problems in Affirmative Action are the results of institutions attempting to put it in force. Contrary to the “Opinion” writer’s support of banning the program, the authors made recommendations to make the program more effective.

Unlike President Johnson’s comment about unfairly expecting people having been deprived of freedoms to go right into competition with others who have had more experiences and opportunities, some Americans expect African American students to do just that—compete in an unfair arena. They think to do otherwise is to discriminate against the European Americans. To be sure, the problems created by institutions attempting to impliment Affirmative Action are real and serious, but not unsolvable. What seems strange regarding Affirmative Action is the fact that it was created to address the years of discrimination and unfair, unjust, and unequal treatment of African Americans in general, but women and other ethnic Americans as well, but when the program is implemented, arguments by European Americans charging discrimination are brought to the fore. Evidently, some people believe the problems of the past can be addressed by not disrupting a thing in the present. Go figure.

Regardless of the many problems associated with institutions implementing Affirmative Action programs, the fact that doors of opportunity have been opened to African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans is a positive change for society. The idea that merit alone should be the key to admission leaves much to be addressed. Since we know that many African Americans represent the lowest level on the economic and unemployment ladder, we also know that the level of education received by African Americans living at that level will also be influenced. So, why would the expectations for students coming from underserved institutions be placed at the same level with those coming from middle-class and affluent communities? Who decides what merit is? How is merit acquired? Where is merit acquired? Who decides who get merit? What good is merit if having it does not address the primary problem of diversity? As the title of the “Opinion” suggests, “that merit must trump race,” what’s to prevent the status quo from remaining the status quo if only the same people qualify for merit?

Yes, we agree that implementing Affirmative Action has and will continue to create challenges for society, but we also know that going forward allowing more Americans to participate in and contribute to society is better than going backwards. Banning Affirmative Action as State Question 759 wants to do is a step backwards. We need to stop looking at this program thinking it applies to educational institutions, but consider its over-all contribution to society.

Paul R. Lehman, Supreme Court looks at Affirmative Action in UT’s admission policy

October 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, desegregation, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, Texas, whites | 2 Comments
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The issue of Affirmative Action has come up again for the Supreme Court to decide its merits as applied by the University of Texas and its admission policy. The outcome of the case could impact the role ethnicity has in college admission. An article entitled “Supreme Court studies UT’s race admission policy,” by Mark Sherman (Associated Press), noted that “The court heard arguments in a challenge from a white Texan who contends she was discriminated against when the university did not offer her a spot in 2008.”The title of the article should be “Supreme Court studies UT’s admission policy that includes race.” No one is being admitted to a race at UT.

Abigail Fisher, a twenty-two-year-old student claims she was rejected because race was used against her. The problem relative to this issue is the fact that race is only one of the considerations used by the university to admit students. According to the university, if it is to have any decision in creating an atmosphere of diversity, then it has to have the power to use whatever criteria necessary to achieve that objective. Its admission’s program was deemed earlier by the Supreme Court to be effective in its objectives: “The University says the program is necessary to provide the kind of diverse educational experience the high court has previously endorsed.” So why a suit was filed based on race? The suggestion seems to be that race has more value than the other considerations.

The university notes that along with race, it considers “community service, work experience, extracurricular activities, awards and other factors. The bulk of its slots go to students who are admitted based on their high school class rank, without regard to race.” We are led to believe that Fisher felt her high grade point average should have been enough to get her admitted. The state of Texas realized some years ago that admission of GPA only would lead to charges of being unfair to students who for social and economic reasons could not compete with middle-class and above students. Texas discovered that relying only on grade point averages for admissions would create a problem of admitting students with little or no diversity or as in the case of the University of California at the Berkeley campus, the majority of students being Asian American.  The problem actually turned out to be one that was not so much concerned about grade point average as much as who got admitted.

The problem seems to be that some European American students believe in entitlements when it comes to getting what they want. From statehood until 1948 the only school of higher education African Americans in Oklahoma could attend was Langston University, at the time, an African American only institution. Even in 1948, George McLaurin, the first African American to attend the University of Oklahoma Graduate School, had to endure Jim Crow arrangements, separated and isolated from the class in the same room. America, it seems to some, belongs to European Americans and they should receive preference over any other ethnic American. Never mind the many years ethnic Americans, especially African Americans, were denied admission to colleges and universities.

The purpose of Affirmative Action was to try and close the gap between the number of European Americans and ethnic Americans who were qualified to attend academic as well as professional schools, but were denied. The only reason for African Americans not being considered for admission was their ethnicity, so in order to increase their numbers in schools, their ethnicity had to be considered. The problem with schools considering ethnicity as part of admission was a claim of discrimination of European Americans. Ironically, the courts agreed that in some cases, European American students were being discriminated. Many schools realized that they would face charges of discrimination if they continued their policies that gave value to a student’s ethnicity, so they, like the University of Texas, changed their admission program to make ethnicity (race) one of the elements included in admission.

For many people, Affirmative Action is a program that gives the ethnic Americans and women, an unfair advantage over European Americans. In light of the facts that many ethnic American students graduate from academically inferior schools compared to those of many European American students, what elements should be employed by colleges and universities to create diverse student bodies that would be fair to all? The element of ethnicity must be included if the challenge of diversity is to be addressed. Sherman noted that “Opponents of the [University of Texas] program say the university is practicing illegal discrimination by considering race at all, especially since the school achieves significant diversity through its race-blind admissions.”

The university needs the tools they believe are necessary to effectively perform their responsibilities in creating a diverse educational experience for their students. If the court takes away Affirmative Action, then nothing will prevent a campus from becoming predominantly European American or as the case might be, Asian American or Hispanic American? In essence, who would be the most qualified students? Who would decide what students to select, and what criteria would be used in making the selection? At each stage of the process, individuals could file a charge of discrimination based on ethnic bias if the court fails to recognize the reason for the creation of Affirmative Action in the first place.

Common sense tells us that if we are riding in a car and it has a flat, the car must be stopped, the flat tire removed and fixed or replaced before the car can continue it travel.  The point is that a problem cannot be addressed if the program is not interrupted. Change can only come with an interruption to the status quo occurs. For education in America to reflect ethnic diversity, change must be made; excluding ethnic American students from the experience is like the flat tire; Affirmation Action is the replaced or repaired tire. If we ask the question of what is in the best interest of the country regarding education for all, we must answer a diverse educational environment. After all, if our schools do not diversify, who cares?

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