—Coretta Scott King
I had an epiphany during one of my insomnia bouts last night, and it changed my way of thinking about affirmative action. I realized that I was looking at it from the wrong side, and this last year has given me a fresh perspective. I was questioning the necessity of a supposedly temporary measure that was introduced nearly sixty years ago, in 1961, by President John Kennedy. He believed that something needed to be done to atone for the discrimination that continued in our country. Upon Kennedy’s death, President Lyndon Johnson continued to support and enforce Affirmative Action in our country.
I never doubted, for a minute, that this measure was needed in the sixties. Something had to be done to level the playing field for minorities who were finding difficulty being accepted into colleges and being hired for jobs they were well qualified for during that tumultuous time. Scholarships, financial aid, and salary increases seemed to be handed out to white people almost exclusively, and without something to force the issue the minority population would never have been able to attain equal footing.
In the beginning of the 21st century though, I began to wonder if it was still necessary. Hadn’t we become much more accepting of each other? After sixty some years of minorities using Affirmative Action, had it become more of a hindrance than a needed help? My African-American students were every bit as intelligent and determined as their White counterparts, but whenever they proudly showed their college acceptances eyebrows raised as if the only way they could have been accepted was through Affirmative Action. They began to resent the idea of such a measure, and I began to see their point. Surely our society had passed the point where minorities could only find success when others were forced to accept them.
In a way the 2016 election helped shine a light on the amount of bigotry that still remains in America. While I have to believe that President Trump did not have bigotry in mind when he used the phrase “make America great again,” many of those who don those red MAGA hats do so with a hatred that I had hoped was long gone. They have used it as a rallying point, much like other frightening symbols of the past, and gather like-minded individuals to spread bigotry through violent acts and attempted artistic renditions of swastikas painted on houses of worship and governmental buildings.
These red hats help them find each other, and in the process it helps me see how wrong I have been. Things have definitely improved through the years. Schools are integrated, for the most part, and we don’t have separate water fountains and rest-rooms. The majority of us see everyone as equal, and would never consider anything less than equal education and equal pay for all races, religions, gender and sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, most is not all though, and some college admission officers and heads of Human Resources still believe that the way to make America great again is through oppression of minorities and elevation of white American men to a status that stands just a little higher than everyone else. For those people, Affirmative Action is the only thing that keeps them from accepting students and hiring employees by the color of their skin.
My epiphany was that Affirmative Action was not about making it easier for minorities but about the oversight of those who make it more difficult for minorities to be treated equally, and unfortunately our country is no where near ready to lose that oversight. I wanted to believe that bigotry was close to being wiped out, but I was proved wrong. Although it is unfair that minorities who attain their goals through hard work and intelligence are made to feel as though they were given a “gift,” it is a small price to pay for the ability to advance in a world where those who make decisions over our future do so with the knowledge that there will be over-sight and their personal agenda will never hold minorities back. I will continue to support Affirmative Action until all Americans see their fellow Americans as equals. That is what will make us great.
Our country is filled with people who spent their lifetime working towards a great America. Author Brad Meltzer, has spent the last few years writing a series that beautifully illustrates what a caring heart and much determination can accomplish. In the latest book in this children’s series, I am Billie Jean King (Ordinary People Change the World), Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos (illustrator) share their findings on the life of Billie Jean King. This is another winner in a series that just keeps getting better.
As always a complete review of this book follows my blog.