Friday, December 28, 2007
The Death of Affirmaitve Action in November 2008 by Akindele Akinyemi
My friend and ally Ward Connerly is getting ready for another fight. The master (along with my other ally Jennifer Gratz) are gearing up for another showdown in 5 states next year.
The states, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, will most likely to see on the November 2008 ballot a vote to end affirmative action. This is a larger effort to end race and gender based policies nationwide.
I know people think I have lost my mind supporting them for ending affirmative action. I was duped last November by thinking that supporting affirmative action in Michigan was a bi-partisan campaign until I got to the meat and potatoes of this deception. This was a liberal smear campaign to give preferences to people.
Connerly's views on affirmative action have led to him being labeled a "self-hating black" by some of his critics. In 1995, former State Senator Diane Watson said about him, "He's married to a white woman. He wants to be white. He wants a colorless society. He has no ethnic pride. He doesn't want to be black." While I feel that is extreme let's get to the point of why I no longer support affirmative action.
I want to discuss this how Historically Black Colleges and Universities do not benefit from affirmative action.
The history of HBCUs predates the Civil War. Cheyney University, the first HBCU, was founded by Richard Humphreys in Pennsylvania in 1837. Humphreys was a Quaker philanthropist from Philadelphia who started the then-named "Institute for Colored Youth" to counter the prevailing practice of limiting or prohibiting the education of blacks.
Despite the economic effects of the Great Depression, between 1929 and 1940, enrollment at HBCUs rose by 66 percent compared to a rise of 36 percent at all colleges. By 1940, 85 percent of blacks that attended college went to HBCUs.
Desegregation, however, provided the opportunity for blacks to attend traditionally white schools. Naturally, this drew some of the brightest black students and professors away from traditionally black colleges in the process. In 1965, an executive order issued by President Lyndon Johnson required government contractors to "take affirmative action" toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment. This order was later amended in 1967 to cover discrimination on the basis of gender.
Increasingly, many HBCUs are having trouble competing for students, faculty and money. Major public and private schools began aggressively recruiting black applicants to meet racial quotas precipitated by affirmative action. By 1971, only 34 percent of black college students were enrolling in HBCUs and that figure dropped to just 18 percent in 2000. Declining enrollments led some schools to market themselves to a broader demographic, with low tuition's attracting an increasing number of white students.
Today, there are roughly 105 HBCUs. However, over the past 26 years, 12 HBCU's have closed - primarily due to money problems resulting from declining enrollments and endowments. Contributing to this phenomenon is the continual push for racial quotas in predominately white colleges in the guise of affirmative action.
Look at from this angle. Endorsement of affirmative action policies that allow schools to continue using race as a factor in student admissions can, at best, be seen as a mixed blessing for the black community. But while the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges that blacks should be guaranteed the opportunity to attend our nation's best universities, their decision also carries the assumption that blacks can't get there without preferential treatment.
Every American university wants the "cream of the crop." They set their own standards, and only those meeting these criteria are offered admission. Less qualified applicants are encouraged to look elsewhere. This competitive environment means those who "win" admission have every right to be proud. It is an appraisal of twelve years of successful learning.
Affirmative action robs many blacks of this honor. Black college students who have worked diligently are praised, but are also forced to live with the uncertainty that their admission had more to do with the color of their skin than their academic merits. And those "helped" by affirmative action are similarly harmed. Through no real fault of their own, they may find themselves lacking the same skills as their classmates and must play catch up for much of their collegiate careers.
This might explain why the national college dropout rate is 20 points higher for blacks than whites. Blacks who would likely have succeeded somewhere else face uncertain futures at universities where they are unprepared, thanks to affirmative action.
Another drawback is that affirmative action allows the larger problems regarding education to be ignored, decreasing minority opportunity. Prior to college, blacks are disproportionately represented in under-performing public schools. The disgraceful state of such schools is hidden when their students gain admission to top universities for reasons other than educational merit. Reform of our public schools from the bottom on up would help produce more minority students who are able to compete for coveted admission at elite universities without the need of a crutch like affirmative action.
As it is now, affirmative action can perpetuate bad study habits. Even minority students motivated only by the intent of attending a prestigious university will not feel threatened to put in the extra effort required of many of their future classmates.
Efforts to implement learning standards, accountability and alternatives to failing schools meet fierce opposition from liberal activists and the equally liberal teachers' unions. Although at least 40 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members and the majority of other members of Congress use private schools to educate their children, liberals insist that Americans who cannot afford this option continue to send their children to failing and underachieving public schools.
So I commend Mr. Connerly for standing up for what is right. The American Civil Rights Initiative is on the money when pushing for the elimination of racial preferential treatment. Families should be in the business of teaching our children that they can accomplish their goals and do great things through hard work and education. If you are armed with education and vision you will not need any crutch programs to hold your hand towards success.