I am tired of hearing people write about how affirmative action is an unfair endeavor maintained to accept unqualified black people while leaving white people out in the cold, leading to “reverse discrimination.” This argument would be valid if we lived in an equal society. President Johnson wanted hiring practices to be free of racial bias, but in 2003 the National Bureau of Economic Research found that white sounding names are 50 percent more likely to be called back for an interview than black ones. In that same year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resolved almost 31,000 charges of race discrimination.
Blacks pay more for car loans and home mortgages-if they can obtain them-receive inadequate healthcare, housing, education and possess less wealth than whites. With regards to education black student are more likely to attend a majority black school because of white flight to suburban areas and subsequent enrollment in private schools.
At the same time there is a disparity between the two groups with regards to the state of race relations. The results of a 2002 University of Dayton study showed that whites believed that minorities are routinely discriminated against (79 percent) but do not believe discrimination is a problem where they live (24.8 percent) and where they work or attend school (14 percent). This leads me to the argument from people who feel that they are discriminated against when it comes to higher education. Some think that affirmative action gives people a free ride to college while ignoring legacy and athletic admissions, and the fact that poor people, regardless of race, are squeezed out of higher education because of the shift to more “merit” based aid to those who will attend college in the first place. The federal government is not much of a help as its subsidy plan is two decades out of date.
Blacks still find it hard to break away from Jim Crow laws of the South. West Virginia still has a few. Some believe the government’s War on Drugs is a new version of Jim Crow because of the crackdowns in inner city neighborhoods. The majority of those that use crack are white while the arrests are disproportionately black, though with powder cocaine more whites are arrested. Powder cocaine carries shorter sentences than crack. Connect this to the last two elections where former, mainly left leaning, black felons were not allowed to vote while others had their rights restored.
Do not tell me that this is a fair and just nation because I know that it is not. Many choose issues that involve them directly and take that individual issue out of context. Just because it is not socially acceptable for someone to hurl racial slurs in my direction does not mean this nation is that far from its tragic past. Affirmative action is used to right obvious wrongs. To those of you who quote Dr. King’s speech for your purpose I would like to tell you this: It has barely started.
Vontilla Steven can be contacted at email@example.com.