Bush, if not Affirmative Action,
then what: Reparations?
By Dr. RUFUS G.W SANDERS
Special to The Black Business Journal magazine
Affirmative Action has worked for the last 30 years to create a Black middle class. It has helped to integrate the American society and to truly diversify the American culture. It also has served to help nurture the socialization and the psychosocial development of Black people in this country. It was through affirmative education that Black people finally were able to assimilate into the American mainstream; but now the president wants to end the one social program in the history of America that even came close to the closing of the gaps of racism. No other program has had as much success..... Affirmative Action is about attempts to bring historically underrepresented groups who have suffered discrimination into a higher degree of participation within the society. Affirmative Action attempts to remedy some of the vile-ness by allowing for opportunity, chance and redress of being historically taken advantage of by the state all because of the color of ones skin. Bush has proposed nothing to replace the progress of Affirmative Action. While he certainly is no visionary; he still must be aware of the tremendous strides that have been made because of the bold action taken by the Affirmative Action Program.
Initially, I was shocked when the President
George W. Bush announced that he would file a Supreme Court brief to
end Affirmative Action. On second thought, I probably shouldn't have
been. Recall that, after all , he's the son of the president George
Herbert Walker Bush who refused for two years to sign the Civil
Rights Act of 1991. You know the act that only wanted to restore and
strengthen the civil rights laws of 1964 and 1968 which had banned
discrimination in both employment and housing. The younger Bush
follows the Republican right wing manifesto. We recall, too that his
hero, President Ronald Reagan, in the mid-1980s refused to sign the
Civil Rights Act of 1982.
With Bush's January 2003 statement,
deliberately misusing and twisting affirmative action to mean "racial
quotas", I am convinced that like most of the dominant American
population, he is not only racially insensitive but also in denial
about the true American racial condition. Bush fails to understand
the true historical and psychological dynamics of cultural racism and
suffers from all the residuals of white privilege.
It was reported at the 2002 State of the Black World Conference that in the United States, though the walls of legal segregation have been abolished and multitudes of Black faces are now in elective office, especially in rural areas of the Southern sections of the U.S., the vestiges of institutional racism remain painfully intact. Black farmers continue to lose land at an alarming rate and the urban ghettos resemble "domestic colonies."
They are nothing but dis-empowered zones of
desolation, despair and nihilism where Black people still suffer from
the ravages of ongoing poverty and political neglect. While Black
people have made progress as middle class citizens and have become
upward mobile; not much of the progress or the middle class-ness has
translated into real economic and political power for the masses of
This seems to be the piece that the dominant culture just can't seem to get. The key reason being, of course, that in the White equation for Black success have always seem to intentionally ignore that one embarrassing variable -- the 400 years of involuntary servitude called slavery, as well as just how extremely difficult it is for Blacks to play catch up after only about 40 years of legal desegregation.
What the powers that be won't do is to talk honestly about the living legacies of structural racism. What we need in this country is open and frank dialogue about the historical origins and meaning of race in this society, and how we must begin to overcome the many maligning residuals of the institutional. This would begin the process of uprooting and deconstructing the structures of white privilege which forms the very floor boards or American racism.
Every day white Americans wake up to the feeling that they are entitled to the best treatment, better life quality, better educational and job opportunities simply because they are Americans- white Americans. They have higher rates of home ownership, longer life expectancies, greater economic opportunities, larger personal net worth, and assured protection by the police and court systems. As professor Manning Marable has said, "It's woven into the fabric of white daily living." If Blacks are truly Americans then they should also awake with the same feelings of white euphoria but they don't.
Blacks continue to face psychological hurdles and significant challenges that linger from the horrific Jim Crow legacy of institutional segregation. They worry on a daily basis about racial profiling, police brutality, tougher criminal sentencing, and more prisons, fleeting educational opportunities, economic dependency, and the death penalty and so on.
It was because of the cultural context of the Black experience that Affirmative Action was created in the first place, not to mention that it was really a way to deal with white guilt which had become internalized.
President G.W. Bush must know that in any
multi-racial community where democracy is elusive, the tyranny of the
majority can be most crippling, especially when it is based upon the
competitive forces of capitalism.
Rather than inspire us and lead us into discussions on how we can create the "beloved Community," the president continues to socially divides us by misappropriating terms such as quotas, set asides, reverse discrimination, and preferential treatment. He never once mentions the chronically deprived communities, or the remaining discrimination in education, hiring practices or economic disparities that are yet part of this democracy.
Therefore, I ask the question; if not Affirmative Action programs exactly what is it that Bush proposes to do about the lingering effects of discrimination. Reparations maybe?
Dr. Sanders, contributing editor and columnist for The Black Business Journal magazine, www.BBJonline.com and USAfricaonline.com, is a Suffragan Bishop in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the world, is the founder and the pastor of the Emmanuel Temple church in Sandusky, Ohio. He holds a Ph.D in American Culture Studies and has served in many leadership capacities in the organization that include national evangelist, international youth leader and missionary to West Africa. Responses will be published in our online and print editions. January 17, 2003
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