Bush, if not Affirmative Action,then what: Reparations?
By Dr. RUFUS G.WSANDERS
Exclusive commentary for USAfrica TheNewspaper, Houston, CLASSmagazine
USAfricaonline.comand TheBlack Business Journal
Affirmative Action has worked for the last 30 years to create aBlack middle class. It has helped to integrate the American societyand to truly diversify the American culture. It alsohasserved to help nurture the socialization and the psychosocialdevelopment of Black people in this country. It was throughaffirmative education that Black people finally were able toassimilate into the American mainstream; but now the president wantsto end the one social program in the history of America that evencame close to the closing of the gaps of racism. No other program hashad as much success..... Affirmative Action is about attempts tobring historically underrepresented groups who have suffereddiscrimination into a higher degree of participation within thesociety. Affirmative Action attempts to remedy some of the vile-nessby allowing for opportunity, chance and redress of being historicallytaken advantage of by the state all because of the color of onesskin. Bush has proposed nothing to replace the progress ofAffirmative Action. While he certainly is no visionary; he still mustbe aware of the tremendous strides that have been made because of thebold action taken by the Affirmative Action Program.
Initially, I was shocked when the PresidentGeorge W. Bush announced that he would file a Supreme Court brief toend Affirmative Action. On second thought, I probably shouldn't havebeen. Recall that, after all , he's the son of the president GeorgeHerbert Walker Bush who refused for two years to sign the CivilRights Act of 1991. You know the act that only wanted to restore andstrengthen the civil rights laws of 1964 and 1968 which had banneddiscrimination in both employment and housing. The younger Bushfollows the Republican right wing manifesto. We recall, too that hishero, President Ronald Reagan, in the mid-1980s refused to sign theCivil Rights Act of 1982.
With Bush's January 2003 statement,deliberately misusing and twisting affirmative action to mean "racialquotas", I am convinced that like most of the dominant Americanpopulation, he is not only racially insensitive but also in denialabout the true American racial condition. Bush fails to understandthe true historical and psychological dynamics of cultural racism andsuffers from all the residuals of white privilege.
It was reported at the 2002 State of the Black World Conference thatin the United States, though the walls of legal segregation have beenabolished and multitudes of Black faces are now in elective office,especially in rural areas of the Southern sections of the U.S., thevestiges of institutional racism remain painfully intact. Blackfarmers continue to lose land at an alarming rate and the urbanghettos resemble "domestic colonies."
They are nothing but dis-empowered zones ofdesolation, despair and nihilism where Black people still suffer fromthe ravages of ongoing poverty and political neglect. While Blackpeople have made progress as middle class citizens and have becomeupward mobile; not much of the progress or the middle class-ness hastranslated into real economic and political power for the masses ofBlack people.
This seems to be the piece that the dominant culture just can't seemto get. The key reason being, of course, that in the White equationfor Black success have always seem to intentionally ignore that oneembarrassing variable -- the 400 years of involuntary servitudecalled slavery, as well as just how extremely difficult it is forBlacks to play catch up after only about 40 years of legaldesegregation.
What the powers that be won't do is to talk honestly about the livinglegacies of structural racism. What we need in this country is openand frank dialogue about the historical origins and meaning of racein this society, and how we must begin to overcome the many maligningresiduals of the institutional. This would begin the process ofuprooting and deconstructing the structures of white privilege whichforms the very floor boards or American racism.
Every day white Americans wake up to the feeling that they areentitled to the best treatment, better life quality, bettereducational and job opportunities simply because they are Americans-white Americans. They have higher rates of home ownership, longerlife expectancies, greater economic opportunities, larger personalnet worth, and assured protection by the police and court systems. Asprofessor Manning Marable has said, "It's woven into the fabric ofwhite daily living." If Blacks are truly Americans then they shouldalso awake with the same feelings of white euphoria but theydon't.
Blacks continue to face psychological hurdles and significantchallenges that linger from the horrific Jim Crow legacy ofinstitutional segregation. They worry on a daily basis about racialprofiling, police brutality, tougher criminal sentencing, and moreprisons, fleeting educational opportunities, economic dependency, andthe death penalty and so on.
It was because of the cultural context of the Black experience thatAffirmative Action was created in the first place, not to mentionthat it was really a way to deal with white guilt which had becomeinternalized.
President G.W. Bush must know that in anymulti-racial community where democracy is elusive, the tyranny of themajority can be most crippling, especially when it is based upon thecompetitive forces of capitalism.
Rather than inspire us and lead us into discussions on how we cancreate the "beloved Community," the president continues to sociallydivides us by misappropriating terms such as quotas, set asides,reverse discrimination, and preferential treatment. He never oncementions the chronically deprived communities, or the remainingdiscrimination in education, hiring practices or economic disparitiesthat are yet part of this democracy.
Therefore, I ask the question; if not Affirmative Action programsexactly what is it that Bush proposes to do about the lingeringeffects of discrimination. Reparations maybe?
Dr. Sanders,contributing editor and columnist for The Black Business Journalmagazine, www.BBJonline.comand USAfricaonline.com,is a Suffragan Bishop in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the world, isthe founder and the pastor of the Emmanuel Temple church in Sandusky,Ohio. He holds a Ph.D in American Culture Studies and has served inmany leadership capacities in the organization that include nationalevangelist, 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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