Paul R. Lehman, The affirmative action problem in Oklahoma

April 11, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 3 Comments
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After some three hundred years of slavery which precluded African Americans from enjoying the blessings of liberty, America was finally made to see its hypocrisy. Along with African Americans, other ethnic Americans and women were subjected to segregation, discrimination, and prejudice in employment, schooling, housing and even religion. Finally, in 1964, a Civil Rights bill was signed into law that made provisions for trying to correct the years of injustice perpetrated on the Americans who had been victims of unjust treatment. One of the so-called remedies for helping to address and correct the ill treatment of American prejudice and bigotry was called Affirmative Action.

Today, some Americans believe that the day after President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights bill all Americans became free and equal in all aspects of life and society. These people have no sense of history preceding the Civil Rights bill because if they did then they would realize that simply creating and putting into place laws do not change human nature. The first order of business for those people who opposed the laws would be to create defenses for them. Part of the problem comes from one of the terms used historically in our social laws—equal.

What many people assume is an understanding of the word equal when in fact, they misunderstand it. Equal is an arithmetic and mathematic term in that it pertains to numbers or constants. For example, when we say two plus two equals four, we use equal to mean “results in,” “comes to,” “totals,” “amounts to,” or “constitutes” four. The numbers are constant and fixed entities. However, if we try to apply the term equal in a social situation, we no longer deal with fixed entities, but relatives and variables. For example, if we say that love plus hate equals chaos, we have no standard of measurement to evaluate the results. We have no standard of measurement because the terms love and hate is relative, not fixed. We all have mental images of these words through associations, but these images differ with each person. So, the word equal was and is used inappropriately in social matters where its interpretation is often confusing.

Part of the confusion in using equal as a social term comes from the fact that its application contradicts the idea of logic and justice. For example, in a family of four with two children, a boy and a girl, every time either child receives anything, the other child must receive it as well. If the girl get a new dress for Easter, her brother must get one as well; or if the boy gets a suit and shoes, the girl must get the same items. That would be the essence of equal treatment. Is it logical or just? Actually, we would say no, it makes on sense to give each child the exact same thing s since they are different genders. So, how does one receive equal treatment? One has to change the interpretation of the word equal to fair. The expectation of the word equal is fairness. People want to always be treated with fairness, rather than being treated equal. Why?  Because logic and common sense dictates that one does not give a bicycle to a child with no legs, but a wheel chair.

Fairness means that conditions and appropriateness are brought into play regarding the individuals seeking it. To apply fairness means to underscore inequality. Affirmative action is by design unequal because one cannot maintain the status quo while attempting to correct it.  For example, if there is a two-lane bridge with only one side paved, in order to pave the other side, traffic on the paved side must be interrupted. The majority Americans for hundreds of years used the paved lane while the African Americans, women, and other ethnic Americans were force to use the unpaved lane.  Affirmative action seeks to pave the other lane, not to deprive others from using the paved lane.

Now consider the following news article, “Plan may reverse right act, “published in The Oklahoman, April 6th, that states “A Republican-backed plan to wipe out affirmative action programs in Oklahoma appears headed for approval by the Legislature…” Evidently, these legislators believe that fifty years is time enough to remedy the problems of segregation, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry that was part of the American character for some three hundred years. The article further states that “The affirmative action proposal by state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, would prohibit special treatment based on race or sex in public employment, education or contracts.” In other words, the majority Americans enjoyed three-hundred-years of special privileges and preference, but will allow those who were victims of unfair and unjust treatment only fifty years to try and make some advancements.

The article states what the supporters want to accomplish in this proposal, namely, “Supporters say the measure would underscore an important principle even though the practical effect would be minimal.” What important principle is of concern here? The article does not say; however, it does point out an irony—“No preferences are given to minorities or women in state contracts or for admission to state colleges or universities. The measure would abolish a handful of state scholarships that target minority students.”

So, there we have it. The rights, privileges, and preferential treatment of European Americans in Oklahoma are being denied, abused, and restricted because of this infamous affirmative action measure. My question to you, dear reader, is what would possess these fine, up-standing, fair-minded legislators to want to cut a program that seeks to help some disadvantage students? My first inclination would be to identify a deep-seated prejudice in them, but other reasons might be more applicable. You be the judge.



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  1. I have for years said that “equal” in terms of antidiscrimination does not mean “sameness”. I like the fairness concept much better than “equal”. I believe in “equal rights” for women – that does not mean I want to burn my bra.

    No, 50 years does NOT correct the legacy of 300 years of slavery or an extremely badly managed emancipation (which is some respects was no emancipation at all). 300 years might.

  2. Excellent blog! Oklahoma never ceases to amaze me… Obviously the good ‘ol boy network believes 50 is “equal” to 300.

  3. What is the motive indeed. One need only examine the outcomes of the progress made in the last 50 years to understand the great advantages affirmative action has given African Americans. We know there’s an unfair advantage when the unemployment rates and college graduation rates for African Americans is roughly the same…16 percent! Yep…all even.

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