Paul R. Lehman, Michigan’s Affirmative Action problem

July 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | Leave a comment
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To many people the case for civil rights for all people in
America was fought in the 1960’s and we as a nation have put that all behind
us. Not true. The case for the merits of affirmative action is still being
fought in the courts today. A July 1, 2011, New
York Times
article, “Court Overturns Michigan Affirmative Action Ban” made
it apparently clear that the fight for civil rights is far from over. The
article stated that “A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Michigan’s
2006 ban on the consideration of race and gender in public-university
admissions and government hiring in the latest round of the decade-long fight
over the University’s affirmative action policies.”What exactly does that mean?

Many of the good people of Michigan voted in 2006 to ban the
use of race and gender, among others things, in admission and hiring in a
number of situations. They felt that an unfair advantage was being given to the
recipients of affirmative action. These people were not familiar with or chose
to ignore American history that recorded the discrimination and unfair
treatment of African Americans and women for almost three-hundred-years. They
were under the impression that some people were being given preferential
treatment simply because they were African American or female.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act recognized that long years of
injustice could not be wiped away simply by passing a law. So, in order to try
and make the playing field more accessible to those who had not been permitted
on the field, affirmation actions corrections were set in motion. If one were
to venture a trip down memory lane to the early 1960s, one would not find
females or African Americans employed in a number of jobs and professions that were
generally reserved for European Americans. These jobs and professions had
nothing to do with merit per se. So, to break the monotony of European
Americans only, the courts decided it was time to given the African Americans
and women a break.

Some people thought that nearly three-hundred-years of
privilege by European Americans was just fine until the African Americans and
women wanted to share in the benefits. Suddenly, many Americans felt that to try
and bring about some semblance of justice for African Americans and women was taking
something away from them, so they protested. They actually believed that
nothing should be done to try and close the gap of injustice caused by
three-hundred-years of being locked out of schools, jobs, and positions. In
essence, they believed that all Americans woke-up one morning in 1964 and found
that everyone was equal. Believe it or not, some courts agreed with them. In
Michigan in 2006, the people said that to try and remedy the injustice was
wrong if it meant making room for some Americans because of their ethnicity and
gender; the some courts agreed with them until just recently.

The Times article
stated that “The 2-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit, in Cincinnati, said the voter-approved ban—unconstitutionally alters
Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”
For the African Americans and women who had been systematically prevented from school
admissions and jobs simply because they lacked the education and/or training
for positions they had been prevented from enjoying, and blaming them for these
deficiencies, smacked of hypocrisy. Without Affirmative Action the diversity
that America enjoys today would not exist. For certain, women and African
Americans would not enjoy the many freedoms and liberties made possible through
Affirmative action.

One wonders why recipients and beneficiaries of affirmative active
like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and former University of California
regent, Ward Connerly, both African Americans, would oppose it. What has
changed in society that would make affirmative action no longer necessary? If
anyone though that the issue was resolved simply because of the court’s
decision, well guess what? “Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette,
promised Friday that he would indeed appeal the decision overturning the ban
known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative through a formal request for
rehearing en banc [the full court] by all 16 judges of the court.”

Will someone please explain how one goes about trying to
right a wrong committed against a people because of their ethnicity and gender
when neither of those conditions can be used in the attempt to correct the
injustice? What the voters of Michigan voted on was known “as Proposal 2 and
prohibited public institutions from giving preferential treatment to any
individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national
origin.” In essence, the very criteria used to exclude them from participation
in society justly could not be used to help them recover from the unjust
treatment.

Basically, the opponents of affirmative action evidently
believe that nothing should be done to try and bridge the gap created by
segregation, discrimination, bigotry, and injustice against African Americans
and women for three-hundred-years. Their sense of equality and fairness defies
logic and common sense by their thinking that if no changes are made,
everything will right itself. Their idea of justice and fairness is to leave
everything the way it was before the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and on course,
affirmative action.  Many people will
point to President Obama and say that because he is President and African
American that Affirmative action is no longer needed. What many people do not
understand about affirmative action is that this program simply provides an
opportunity for African Americans and women to access entrance into schools and
jobs. Students who gain admission to schools through affirmative must still
experience the same curricula as the other students. Employees hired with the
help of affirmative actions must still perform their job the same as the other
employees. The key component of affirmative action is access to opportunity.
The end result is a better society for all Americans.

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