Affirmative Action Under Attack by Initiative 200?
Affirmative action is under heavy attack by initiative 200, and it should not be. It should not be under fire because it serves as an act of restitution for the discrimination and hurt that we have caused African-Americans and other minorities throughout this century. It is our job to repair and repay blacks because our performance in the past has immediately affected their present status.
Americans, especially white males until late, were not opposed to affirmative action. This is only because affirmative action primarily benefited white males. It was the privileges our colonial fathers established on the basis of race and gender that allowed white males to dominate the job market with little or no contention. Some even believe that affirmative action is preferential treatment for white males.
White males have used race consistently in two ways since the Civil War: for the purpose of inclusion and exclusion. They have used race inclusively to benefit themselves and exclusively to deny opportunity to others. In the past, white males were preferred. In the present, however, affirmative action, though still based on race and gender, is used to include those who in the past were excluded. In more precise terms, with today’s affirmative action, or preferential treatment, we are attempting to adjust for the imbalances of the past that have been carried on into the present.
All of this seems so intuitively obvious, so why then can’t most Americans understand why affirmative action is obligatory? I believe the answer is as follows: Americans have refuse to recognize that there is and empirical relationship between the past and the present. They refuse to recognize that understanding the effects of past discrimination on the present is the key to explaining why affirmative action is not only needed in the present, but is the moral and political responsibility of so-called Christian nation. A recognition such as this would also demonstrate the inadequacies of present-day affirmative action. Affirmative action is a cheap price for blacks to settle for, given he way America has systematically discriminated against them in order to preserve and protect white male, and increasingly, white female privilege.
Since the Civil War and up to the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, African Americans have been denied equal access to higher education and the labor market, and they have been denied by law. Starting with Jim Crow laws in the South, and later with the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court decision, statutory discrimination became the la of the land.
There is a relationship between these two systems of discrimination and the class circumstances of a group that is the object of them. Obviously, if a group is excluded from key economic and educational opportunities in a society, it will remain at the bottom of the class hierarchy. In time, it will become possible to exclude the group as effectively by invoking class characteristics: invoking the lack of qualifications. To deny a group access is to guarantee that that group ill not has the resources to qualify itself to compete wit a group that has not been similarly denied. This is especially true if arena of denial is denial of access to the labor market.
However, in American labor history, whites have often begrudgingly recognized that they needed black labor. Given this recognition, the issue became to deny blacks equal policies made certain that blacks remained at the bottom of the labor market. History – that is to say historical fact – also demonstrates that whites recognized that by also denying blacks equal access to educate, they would render blacks less qualified. Consequently, they d not be able to compete for the more-prestigious, well-paying occupations. Clearly, by denying one group accesses, more opportunities are available for the go that is in the position of power. In such a system, notice that the denier is preferred and receives preferential treatment.