I do not take politics of the world lightly, and I examine all aspects of something before I make a decision. I see gray more often than black and white and believe compromise is an important part of most decisions. I am stubborn though, and am not quick to admit that I am wrong. Unfortunately, I had to admit my mistake to Arthur today, while discussing a topic we had oft times debated.
In 1961 President John F. Kennedy introduced Affirmative Action to a country that badly needed it. Despite our constitution and Civil Rights laws, discrimination was a way of life in our country and needed to be redressed. After Kennedy's untimely death, Lyndon Johnson saw that it was enforced. It was meant to be a temporary fix that would assure that minorities were afforded the same rights that white Americans had been enjoying in areas that should never have allowed discrimination.
Affirmative Action was never easy. Minorities were often accepted into schools or jobs even though they were less qualified than a white applicant, but many times they were less qualified because they were not offered equal education or opportunities. It was far from perfect, but in the fifties and sixties bigotry was so rampant that it was necessary. Black people were being under-paid and under-promoted because of race alone and were unable to raise their standard of living without enforced equality.
I supported Affirmative Action through the years and defended it whenever people proclaimed it a reverse form of bigotry. About fifteen years ago however, my debate team had a discussion about college entry requirements. Several of our African American team members were vehemently against it. They explained that they worked hard to maintain high GPA's and involve themselves in extracurricular activities and wanted to be accepted to colleges on their merit alone. They were tired of people believing that the only way they could succeed was with assistance.
I thought it over and decided that I agreed with them. They were bright, successful human beings who deserved to be measured on their merit. After all, we certainly weren't living in the era of untethered bigotry anymore. Rarely did we see 1950's type of hatred spewing from the mouths of thoughtless bigots. Affirmative Action was always supposed to be a temporary fix, wasn't it? Life had changed in America...hadn't it?
Unfortunately, I realize now that the changes were cosmetic. Like the Cover Girl make-up that covered the teenage acne that lay hidden beneath the surface of some young faces, bigotry lay hidden beneath the smiles of too many people who surround us on a daily basis. As soon as the Supreme Court took away the voting laws, bigoted politicians found a way to rig the system in their favor. As soon as a presidential candidate opened the door to bigoted thinking as a way of "protecting Americans," bigots came out of the woodwork, spewing a type of hatred that I believed was long gone. These people no longer feel that they have to hide their true feelings, and the burning and vandalizing of mosques and synagogues are every day occurrences. The bigots are proud of their bigotry, and I feel like it is the 1950's all over again.
Here it is, 2017, and I say that I was wrong. We do need Affirmative Action! More importantly, we need our silent MAJORITY of humanitarians to take a page from their parents' and grandparents' book and stand up for the equality we all deserve. As Will Rogers says, it is only then we will live in true civilization.
Will Rogers' ability to put our thoughts and emotions into words always fascinated me, and I decided to read/review American Legends: The Life of Will Rogers by Charles River Editors. The book is short, almost pamphlet like, but it gives a nice overview of an honest and funny man who believed in equality for all.
Speaking of equality, Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation (Jane Addams Award Book (Awards) by Duncan Tonatiuh is an important addition to all young children's libraries. It is written for elementary school age children, but it is a wonderful lesson for us all. This fight for integration that took place ten years before Brown vs the Board of Education introduces a family that was willing to fight for what was rightfully theirs... integration!
As always, complete reviews of these two books follow this blog.