Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 6/30/2003 6:14 AM
Random Thought: Affirmative Action, Education, and Society

I've been thinking about the recent deaths of Maynard Jackson and Strom Thurmond and Lester Maddox, of the seemingly never-ending story of the flap over the Georgia state flag, and of the recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action.

Let's talk honestly about race consciousness, racial equality, and equal opportunity--and simple respect. Forget victimization! Forget white guilt! Forget indemnification! Forget self-righteous breast beating! And, forget political correctness! Let's just talk about the truth that our attitude towards others and the way we behave towards them is an expression of our values and character.

I've just a few overlapping questions: Does anyone really think there is yet a deeply sincere and wide-spread complete change of heart towards racial minorities? Does anyone really think we in this country are not race conscious? Does anyone really think no one plays the race card in political nominations, appointments, campaigns, and redistricting? Does anyone really think racial bias, prejudice, and bigotry is a vanished problem? Does anyone really think that there aren't subtle winks and nods of bias and prejudice? Does anyone really think there are no denigrating racial "code words" in our everyday conversation? Does anyone really think that there is equality in our legal and judicial and educational systems? Does anyone really think racial prejudice is not encountered in housing, in education, in the workplace, in financial transactions, in job searches, in real estate deals, in awarding contract, in everyday commerce, and in daily life? Does anyone really think disrespect and intolerance is no longer tolerated? Does anyone really think there is equitable inclusion? Does anyone really think there is no longer any racial divide? Does anyone really think the barriers preventing equal opportunity and discrimination have been torn down? Do you really think discrimination has been replaced by a sense of community based on mutual respect and the sacredness of each individual? Does anyone really think that the habits and attitudes reflected in legally, socially, economically, politically, and culturally sanctioned prejudice that have marked the history of our country have gone away? Does anyone really think that the corrosive racial stereotypes have been eaten away? Does anyone really think that the legacy of race does not carry special weight in this country?

And my last question: how is it that no one in the dominant "white" society complained of using racial preferences when it was they who were the sole beneficiaries of favoritism and discrimination simply by reason of skin color?

Contrary to a chorus of "Not me," anyone who thinks that racial bigotry and prejudice is a thing of the past, that we have reached the point of being color blind, is blind.

No, Martin Luther King's dream is not yet close to being a reality. There are too many lingering nightmares. Affirmative action, then, is not patronizing or racial gerrymandering or disrespecting or demeaning. It is offering opportunity and impose responsibility. It is simply living in the present-day real world that sadly is still too perniciously "Bunkeresque" and still populated by too many backstair Archie types.

For us academics, if education is to serve, it must do so beyond merely transmitting information and granting a credential. It must be a transformation of the heart. The most powerful tool we have in knocking down the walls of separation is modeling and coaching on how to show unconditionally what Aretha Franklin electrifying spelled out in 1967.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
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