“We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” – Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor, 2003.”
The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments regarding a longstanding racial controversy. So, in the traditional form of our time in America, the Black descendants of slaves will still be losers when the Fisher v. University of Texas case decision is handed down. The court’s decision will affect relatively few students at Texas, which admits most students through a system that doesn’t factor in race. But a broad Supreme Court ruling will roll back affirmative action and be an earthquake at other campuses, and institutions that will mark the death of affirmative actions that use race toward instituting their plans and policies.
Instead of holding pity parties over the demise of affirmative action, it would be good if the descendants of slaves moved to “demand money to compensate them for their ancestors work as slaves.” Blacks have been “disadvantaged” and “non-compensated” throughout our tenure in America. The majority of Black Americans have bought into the theory and culture of “American Exceptionalism” and “Mainstream Mindsets” that we are more than compensated for the damage of slavery by the good fortune we enjoy by living in America. Some African-American patriots say: “Every Black in the United States is much better off economically, legally, politically, and morally than any Black living in Africa.”
It’s time to accept the fact that the basic nature of America excludes parity for Blacks. From the beginning, this country has shown “a particular reluctance to absorb people of African descent.” Because of White Americans intransigence, the little progress made toward racial parity has been slow, cautious, and incremental.
For more than four centuries, Blacks were subjected to the most heinous crimes ever committed. Though slavery has been abolished, to this day, no one has been brought to justice for those crimes. Racial disparities persist at nearly every level of society. From criminal justice to education, employment to housing, Black Americans continue to face an uphill battle toward social and economic equity.
Instead of a constant demand that America apologize for slavery and compensate us, Blacks gamely “go along to get along” in a system they know that’s stacked against them. Most African Americans are oriented toward “mainstream” values and cultures and are eager to live in a “post-racial” society that requires no extraordinary affirmative actions. Over the past half-century, and to be good citizens, as they blended in, Black Americans blithely accepted affirmative action programs and policies as remediation for past injustices. Over its existence, affirmative action has been viewed by many as a “milestone” and others as a “millstone.”
Let’s be clear that racism still runs rampant across this nation and that the possibility of using affirmative action to redress the perpetration of past wrongs is in serious doubt. Whereas, Black Americans support Affirmative Action as a remedy or tool of social policy, the major item stifling the issue is that America’s White majority sees nothing wrong with maintaining the status quo.
The status quo in America equates to disparate differences in prison populations and childhood mortality rates, biases in the application of capital punishment, and unequal access to education and health care. Systematic exclusion of slaves and their descendents from positions of political and economic power continues to haunt African Americans. Past iterations of affirmative action haven’t helped us as racism continues to shape most Blacks’ lives.
Sixty-two percent of Americans say that the country should “make every possible effort to improve the conditions of Blacks … even if it means giving them preferential treatment.” We can wait for their acts, or institute reparations toward repairing damages inflicted by slavery and continuing racism. From now on, Blacks need to think of themselves as creditors seeking payment of an overdue debt, rather than as social supplicants seeking an undeserved preference.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.