Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beyond THE FUTURE: Affirmative Action on the Chopping Block

Talk about timing. My previous post led me to later mention in my comments the trouble “color-blindness” regarding race can have on support for Affirmative Action. Today, the AP is running the article “Obama’s Success Fuels Affirmative Action’s Foes” by AP reporter Charles Babington.

I continue to disagree with the argument that widespread support for a person of color for president proves racism no longer exists in our country; the argument that widespread support of a women for president proves sexism no longer exists in our country is just as ludicrous.

As Babington notes: “Affirmative Action, a term coined in the early 1960s, is a loosely defined set of policies meant to help rectify discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin.” Why such policies should continue to be dismantled when so many Americans battle prejudice based on their race, religion, gender, and/or national origin on a daily basis baffles me.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Affirmative Action policies have been under attack, and it won’t be the last. Read Babington’s informative article for more details on that, and please consider these remarks by two people who believe in the dire need to address the underlying problems faced by people of color in our country long before they’re of age to benefit from Affirmative Action initiatives:

According to Babington, Abigail Thernstrom—a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights—asserts that “disparities between blacks and whites in areas such as income, education achievement, health care and incarceration rates” are rooted “in complex, deep-seated factors that put many minority children behind their peers as early as kindergarten.”

Barack Obama agrees: “Affirmative action is an important tool, although a limited tool,” he told National Public Radio last year.

“I say limited simply because a large portion of our young people right now never even benefit from Affirmative Action because they’re not graduating from high school,” he said. “And unless we do a better job with early childhood education, fixing crumbling schools, investing to make sure that we've got an excellent teacher in front of every classroom, and then making college affordable, we’re not even going to reach the point where our children can benefit from Affirmative Action.”

While such statements remind us that Affirmative Action is generally regarded as benefiting people of color, please keep in mind the many women, immigrants, and other hard-working Americans who also continue to struggle for equal opportunity. Affirmative Action policies originally were intended to help many; I find it hard to understand why some believe these policies ought to be dismantled rather than enhanced.

Affirmative Action artwork from African American Policy Forum’s Focus on Affirmative Action series “13 Myths About Affirmative Action”


Blogger Barrie said...

As usual, a thought-provoking post.

And when can we meet for lunch? I guess the next time you're in San Diego or I'm in Denver. :)

2:08 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Thanks for this informative post about an important subject.

Although I have to say I'm taking AP's election coverage with a grain of salt. I've seen some absolutely atrocious reporting by AP reporters covering both Obama and McCain. I think somehow those reporters skipped journalism school or AP's ethics and standards are slipping. It's not a question of old school vs. new school - it's a matter of covering all sides of a story and getting facts straight, not inserting one's personal - and biased - opinion. Sorry - off my soapbox now!

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm ambivalent about "affirmative action."

I agree with paris parfait about the abominable state of journalism. The need for "editorials" is long gone since every "news" piece now seems to be an "opinion" piece. TV "journalists" are actually just another breed of "celebrities" and have no professional standards at all. None.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Mary Ann said...

I think all the 'isms are alive and well but, because of political correctness, the evidence is just more subtle. And as the managers who were educated on Affirmative Action retire, the young managers will need to "get it" or we'll go backward. So I'm all for keeping Affirmative Action on the books. Can't simply rely on the goodness of people. Just my two cents.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A while back I read "Confessions of an Affirmative Action Baby." Stephen Carter? Anyway, I can't remember it much, so I'll have to pull it off the shelf when I get back to Florida.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Barrie, sounds good, lol!

Tara, you're always welcome to get on your soapbox here! I had a journalism professor way back when who made me aware of the differences between UPI and AP coverage; thanks for the important reminder to analyze all news sources.

Gerry, I hardly watch television news anymore but wish I had more time to read The Economist or US News & World Report.

Suggestions from anyone on other news publications with an international bent (I also appreciate NPR's The World) are welcome!

Mary Ann, I always appreciate your two cents, too! :) My kids think it's funny I left the corporate world before e-mail even existed (not to mention cell phones), but I've seen my husband deal with these issues for many years. It's a tricky balancing act, that's for sure.

Gerry, thanks so much for reminding me of Stephen Carter's important work. I've heard about him but never read his writings, and now that one (Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby) is on my TBR list. I understand from reading the synopsis that he's highly critical of Affirmative Action, but from two angles. I'm also intrigued that his bottom line seems to echo others': that affirmative action must return to its original goal of providing educational opportunities for all those who might not otherwise have them. This, I agree, is critical. K.

7:54 AM  

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