The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 5A
Qusioig h ''supr
consion and U admissions
For some, affirmative action is a question of politics, and for others, it's just a
big question mark. Whether University students or conservative
policymakers, the time has come for all to fine-tune their positions on
race-based affirmative action in general, and the University's policies specifically.
BY SAM BUTLER
With the date quickly approaching for
the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Uni-
versity's verbal arguments quickly
approaching, thoughts toward the legiti-
macy of our race-conscious admissions
policies are filling the minds of people
across the country. However, with even
the comically colloquial President Bush
misquoting the quota system, I can't help
but feel that there is a tremendous amount
of misperception about affirmative action
and the virtues of its existence.
The reason for this confusion lies
with its supporters, who seem to be con-
fused themselves. The voices of people
supporting affirmative action in this
country have amounted to nothing more
than the mere thunder-
ing percussion of a "Ever
pindrop. The messages
of the left are so incon- COfn14
sistent with one anoth- CollO
er that they have
droned themselves out President
in a jumbled mixture
of diffused static. Sim- misquot
ply put, supporters of-quotaSy
affirmative action rou-
tinely can't explain
why they support affirmative action.
And when an answer is stumbled
upon, a concoction of two aspects, involv-
ing economically-poor segregated schools
and neutralizing our race-biased society is
the usual result. However, both of these
points are wrong and are poor arguments
for affirmative action.
First of all, affirmative action should
not be seen as a booster to counteract
ramshackle schools. There is no question
that schools are more segregated than
they were 20 years ago. Nor do I deny
that there are many societal implementa-
tions designed to keep the level of poor
inner city youths down to a minimum.
However, affirmative action does not.
remedy these implementations because it
only band-aids the true problem. These
segregated public schools are sinking,
leaving many kids to drown, but if affir-
mative action is meant to counteract this
then I'm afraid policymakers have sim-
ply missed the boat. In this country
,where there are more black males in jail
than in college, the victims of our socie-
tal caste system drown before they even
reach 16 years old, when a college appli-
cation is but a pipe dream. If we are to
save these kids then we should devote
time and energy to repair the ship
instead of throwing a life-preserver to a
chosen few still afloat. The best way to
help these children is to revamp the edu-
cation in our grade schools.
The stickier contention is that affirma-
tive action makes up for past discrimina-
tion in an effort to cure this country's
rabid racism. The task of convincing
opponents when purely looking at this
reciprocity argument is certainly a formi-
dable one because the logic of the argu-
ment simply doesn't compute. How can
one fight discrimination with discrimina-
tion? It certainly presents a quandary of
principle. But what is not understood is
that the purpose of affirmative action is
not to combat discrimination. The fight-
ing of prejudice is a desired but wholly
secondary and resulting effect.
The strongest rationality for affirma-
tive action is the one that is most saliently
misunderstood. It is the argument for
diversity itself. The ultimate goal whenev-
er patching together an enrollment class,
is to form an eclectic and
the educational student body;
a collage of minds beget-
any ting diversity of thought.
LAj Yet affinative action only
Ual appears to create a diversi-
Bush is ty of race. The keystone of
the University's affirma-
rig the tive action theory lies
behind the notion that
stem." diversity of race is diversi-
ty of thought.
This may seem like liberal blasphemy,
but the theory is that as a minority grow-
ing up in America, living in our majoritari-
an exclusive and culturally imperialistic
society will innately give a minority stu-
dent a fresh perspective from that of a
white student. It is this perspective that is
the desired commodity and the reason
why it is legitimate to give the 20-point
advantage to the son of a black physician
rather than to the son of a white coal
miner. His social class is irrelevant. This
unique cultural perspective augments
one's normal intelligence and academic
achievements and does not replace it.
The ensuing cultural meshing con-
tributes to the further enlightenment of
us, the future leaders of society. Ironical-
ly, the grounds for affirmative action rest
on the biases within our society and this
racial exposure will one day help abolish
the very reasons for affirmative action. I
look forward to a day when affirmative
action is no longer needed, but that day
has not yet come.
Whatever ideology subscribed to, stu-
dents at this University had better decide
their reasons for supporting affirmative
action soon - because in less than a
week the whole country will be con-
fronting us with microphones and some-
one had better be making sense.
Butler is an Art sophomore and a
member of the Daily s' editorial board.
BY LOUIE MEIZLISH
of 2001, which, it is hoped, will
benefit impoverished urban
When Bush went on televi-
It used to be that if you were black, you were a sion in January saying he would
Republican. file a brief opposing the Univer-
The Republican Party's first convention - in sity's policies, it seemed his
1854 in nearby Jackson - adopted a platform administration would be taking
that was unquestionably pro-black. Its main plank, a pretty hard line on the subject.
after all, was the end of slavery. But Solicitor General Theodore
But since the New Deal the GOP has had, Olson's argument in the admin- State Sen. BillI
well, a little trouble selling its policies to blacks. istration's amicus brief with the of State ColinF
As Robert A. George noted in an August 2000 court is couched in terms of attention to b
piece in the National Review, the Republican hold inclusion and diversity. It essen-
on the black vote has been on a downward slide tially reads: "We're all for diversity. Diversity's
ever since the 1930s. As a point of reference: great! Just don't give points simply for skin color.
President Dwight Eisenhower received 39 percent That's bad."
of the black vote in his 1956 reelection bid. So that's a reasonably clear argument
George W. Bush, it is estimated, captured less than offered by one Republican, but ...
10 percent of the black vote in 2000. When a totally symbolic resolution to oppose
As president, Bush, as well as fellow the University's policies was proposed in the state
Republicans, have made a point of trying to House by conservative Republicans, the GOP
build some sort of Republican base among leadership there figured it wasn't the right time.
blacks. U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert "It's a very contentious issue, and out of
recently - and publicly - urged fellow respect for both sides, we didn't feel a vote was
House members to hire more minorities on necessary," a spokesman for the House speaker
their staffs to, it was explained, better educate said at the time.
legislators on minority issues. But since when was controversy a reason to
Now, with the debate over affirmative drop an issue?
action policies intensifying and the lawsuits Party leaders have to walk a fine line between
challenging the University's are heard in the infuriating blacks for the GOP stance on affirma-
U.S. Supreme Court April 1, the GOP is in a tive action and not being wishy-washy enough to
tough spot. How does it oppose race-conscious be seen as betraying the cause.
admissions policies that - at least on the sur- As Lansing-based GOP strategist Matthew Davis
face - benefit blacks, while at the same time explains, Republican leaders cannot and should not
convince (a few? some? many?) blacks that it follow the Trent Lott example. That's when one
is as pro-black as it ever was. opposes affirmative action for years, and then, when
No Republican leader has offered a clear taking heat for racially-charged comments, switches
answer here, and so far we've seen onlysma his position on affirmative action. "The Democrats
steps in a myriad of directions. didn't kick Trent Lott out of the leadership. It was
Among the president's actions: naming blacks Republicans said Davis, who is half black. "It was-
as top officials in his administration - Cohn n't because he was an embarrassment, (but) to go on
PowelLas secretary ofLs ateandCondoleezza i e-Black =Entertainment Television and prostitute the
as national security adviser, but also the chief way he did and abandon the principles that are held
diplomat's son, Michael Powell, as chairman of by so many Republicans (by saying he supports
the Federal Communications Commission, and affirmative action) - that was galling"
Larry Thompson as deputy attorney general. In Davis' view, Republicans should hold their
The president has pushed his so-called ground on affirmative action, but stress other GOP
Faith-Based Initiative, which would make it policy positions that are beneficial to blacks. Among
easier for religious organizations - including them: often-criticized crime laws that incarcerate a
black churches - to receive federal dollars for disproportionate number of black Americans - but
their charity work. which punish those who commit the most crimes
He has pushed for an expanded federal role in against blacks.
K-12 education via the No Child Left Behind Act
Republicans need to shift gears if
they want more votes from blacks
Courtesy Michigan Senate Republicans
Hardiman (R-Kentwood), left, with Secretary
Powell, says Republicans need to pay more
lack voters, not wait until Election Day.
But the problem, at least with tougher crime
laws and affirmative action, is that Republicans
have been talking about that stuff for years and
their poll numbers have only gone down.
Bill Hardiman, the first black Republican
elected to the Michigan Legislature in 70 years,
may have an answer.
"If candidates rush out and have a few meet-
ings (with blacks) right during campaign time, I
don't think that means very much to anyone -
'Certainly you want my vote, but will you be
back?' - I encourage people to start right after
the election, long before the next election."
It doesn't look good when the Republican
nominee for a prominent office makes only a
token appearance at the NAACP convention, just
before the election.
The outreach has to be genuine and sincere,
says Hardiman, a state senator from suburban
Grand Rapids. In terms of policy positions and
ideology, he thinks Republicans are no less in
line with the average black person than
"I think that when ... a group of acquaintances
are homogenous, it doesn't expand one's under-
standing, one's knowledge base, so I thish fqr
some (Republicans) it's 'We're right on the issues,
there's no need to talk about it, and if you want to
join,.come and join us."
But if the Republicans can ever get their act
together, and sooner or later they will, Democrats
are in trouble.
As Eastern Michigan University political sci-
ence Prof. Jeffrey Bernstein told the Daily earlier
this month: "If the Republicans could ever find a
way to win 20 percent of the African-American
vote, they couldn't lose."
Meizlish is an LSA junior
and editor in chiefof the Daily.
i 2' fo 1I l t 1fUf
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