There has been dialogue in the media as of late pertaining to a new Justice Department initiative surrounding the investigation of and possible litigation against colleges and universities with affirmative-action programs that they feel have discriminated against Caucasian students. Given the ugly racial history of our Nation as it relates to concerted efforts to disenfranchise minorities, I was taken aback as I read article after article both in support of and against such activity coming out of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Historically Black Colleges & Universities, such as North Carolina A&T, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Southern University and Grambling were all founded during a time where Black students were not allowed to attend colleges and universities that were predominantly White, by and large, so in order to obtain a post-high school education, Black folk were forced to establish their own schools. When we arrived at a point where integration was to become a reality --- James Meredith was the first Black man to enter and graduate from the University of Mississippi and there was a significant effort by the power structure during his time to keep him out not based on his academic bona fides (or lack thereof) but simply for the color of his skin.
Conversely, there have been many instances where admission decisions are based on “Legacy” and/or if the students’ parents are affluent and are able to provide significant monetary gifts to the universities and their endowments, despite the fact that the students may not have grades/SAT scores equivalent to their peer group --- is the Justice Department planning to expand the scope of their investigation into “Legacy” admission decisions, as well? Black folk and other ethnic minorities are not able to participate in the “Legacy” system because our forefathers were banned from these schools for simply having too much melanin in their skin and not based on their intellectual ability.
It is because of the fact that the playing field is not level that programs such as Affirmative Action are necessary, in my view, to mitigate the “Legacy” system and unconscious bias in the admissions process. I attended three institutions of higher learning that were predominantly White for my bachelor’s and two master’s degrees --- given the fact that I was a Finance and Accounting major, there were many instances where I was 1 of 1 in my classrooms as a man of color. However, what I do not recall is a professor ever handing me a syllabus, assignment or exam with a “B” or “C” (Black/Colored) denoted anywhere on the paper. I say that to state that I successfully completed the same curriculum as my White and other counterparts and was given no special consideration due to my ethnicity – my intellectual curiosity and ability to persevere through undergrad and two degrees subsequent allow me to complete the coursework, not that I was given assignments that were less rigorous than my cohort.
I believe that this new effort by the Justice Department is in furtherance of the agenda of confusion and obfuscation to keep our focus off of things that are really important --- such as police department reform. Affirmative Action is not perfect by any means and if we lived in a truly equal society from an opportunistic perspective, I would be the first person in line to do away with such. But – in having lived my 40-plus years through many sets of circumstances, I realize that this remains a requirement and necessity.
Ray Wiley, Blogger