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October 04, 2006 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - The Michigan Daily

Fireworks
By Karl Stampfl

he middle-aged country-
club member was known
as eccentric even before
he rounded up 50 black people
and bought them tickets for the
exclusive club's Fourth of July
dinner and fireworks. They
arrived in cars ranging in quali-
ty from 1987 Chevy Caprices to
2005 Hyundai SUVs, but every
eye in the exclusive club stared
at them as they paraded into the
lush parking lot, the eccentric
member leading them, his wife
trailing behind, blushing.
"What's going on hereChuck?"
another member asked as they
walked into the clubhouse.
"Isn't it the Fourth of July
dinner tonight?" the eccentric
member asked.
"Yeah, but ... "
"Then I'd say it's safe to
assume that we're eating," he
said as he motioned the troops
into the main dining room.
The group, who was fully
aware that they were being mar-
ginalized and tokenized and
probably a number of other ices,
tried to ignore the stares. They
sat down and began to eat.
"What the hell is Chuck up to
this time?" one member whis-

pered into another's ear. They
were on the other side of the
dining room.
"He's taking this admitting
minorities crusade too far," the
first member said. "We talked
about it at the meeting last week.
What more does he want?"
After dinner, they marched
onto the fifth fairway, set up
lawn chairs, blankets and wait-
ed for the fireworks to begin.
"How much did this charade
cost you?" another member asked
the eccentric member just before
the show. "Four, five thou?"
"It's not a charade," the
eccentric member said. "It's the
Fourth of July."
And the correct figure, he
almost added, when you added up
the hours he spent recruiting and
convincing people, the newspaper
ads, the bribes, the tickets, the gas
money and a few other expenses,
was closer to $10,000. But it was
worth it. He would show this
club what was right and what was
wrong, no matter the cost.
So they quietly waited for
the fireworks to start, 50 black
people in a sea of L.L. Bean polo
shirts and pressed khaki shorts
and all the stereotypes you see

when you close your eyes and
think about a suburban country
club. They didn't act any dif-
ferently from the country-club
people, and the country-club
people didn't act any differently
from them, except the wildfire of
gossip that spread from blanket
to blanket, even among the chil-
dren, who were mostly confused
but not really sure why.
The gossip settled during
the fireworks, when everyone
hushed to enjoy the expensive
display. It was oddly quiet dur-
ing the 20-minute show, much
quieter than the year before,
perhaps because everyone was
contemplating the newcomers.
About halfway through the
show, the club's oldest mem-
ber and most revered gentle-
man walked up to the eccentric
member's chair, put his hand on
the shoulder of his pink Hawai-
ian shirt, and politely said,
"Don't be a fool."
The eccentric member looked
up at him to see the reflection
of blue and red fireworks erupt-
ing in his glassy eyes.
"We've got a lot of members
around here, and a lot more on
the waiting list. Lots of good

guys on that waiting list," the
oldest member said.
"I know, sir."
The oldest member turned to
walk away but stopped first.
"There's one more thing," he
said. "Ekeland's out with a head
cold, and there's a spot open
in the first foursome Saturday
morning."
The morning's first foursome!
The eccentric member's eyes lit
up with their own fireworks. It
was the most prestigious group in
the entire club. Every week, they
swept the dew off the wide-open
course, driving gloriously white
Titleists down curvy fairways sexy
with unblemished possibility.
"I'll be there," the eccentric
member said.
"Are you sure?" the oldest
member said. "Because there
are a lot of people on the wait-
ing list who would die to be in
that foursome."
The implication was clear.
The eccentric member consid-
ered being offended,
"Then maybe one of them
should take it," he said. "As
long as they're not a different
skin color, right?"
The oldest member winked

wisely, momentarily snuff-
ing out an eye of fireworks.
"Maybe," he said. "Why don't
you think about it?"
After the fireworks, the
eccentric member showed the
group out of the parking lot and
back to their regularly sched-
uled lives.
On the way home, his wife
said, "I understand you were
offered a spot to play in the first
foursome Saturday."
"How did you hear that already?"
"You should take it," she said.
It was then that the eccentric
member fully realized the power
it gave him to be a part of the first
foursome. Slowly, methodically he
began the humiliating process of
self-justification. It took him five
days, but on Saturday he was at the
first tee box at 6:30 a.m., wearing a
new pink shirt in an effort to main-
tain at least some eccentricity.
"I'm glad to see you came
around," the oldest member said.
"It's a beautiful morning,"
the eccentric member said as he
swung a 5-iron through the misty
air. "Might as well enjoy it."
Stmpfl is an RC junior and the
Daily'smanagingnewseditor.

BEAM
Continued from page 8B
point, those immutable charac-
teristics of race, class and gen-
der come into play. They are
present in nearly every aspect of
a child's upbringing and educa-
tion. Through affirmative action
policies, colleges consider these
aspects in determining who
deserves to be admitted. The use
of these characteristics in deter-
mining merit is no more signifi-
cant than how the more accepted
measures of admission - SAT
tests, difficulty of curriculum,
GPA - are biased by them.
Of course, college admis-
sions is just one aspect of MCRI,
though you might not know it
from the discussion on cam-
pus. MCRI would ban affirma-
tive action
in public
employ-
ment and
contracting
as well. If
the factors Of course,
dgterain-dm
ing admis-
sion to just one a
college are M C t
complex, MRCI, tho
then cer- mih
tainly those not
for employ- from the c
ment and
contract- Sion on ca
ing are
even more
so. Hiring
involves
qualifica-
tions, work experience - and
connections. Less than 4 percent
of the 11,000 seats on the boards
of Fortune 1000 companies were
held by blacks in 2002, and less
than 2 percent were held by Lati-
nos. Eleven percent of corporate
officers are women. Thanks to
decades of discrimination, the
higher-ups in businesses and
government are overwhelmingly
white men.
These powerful white men
have golfing buddies who have
kids who could really use a job.
These powerful white men know
a white guy who can definitely
offer the lowest bid. They've
been friends for decades, since
college. It's certainly under-
standable why just 3 percent
of government contracts were
awarded to women-owned busi-
nesses in 2003. It's understand-

C

able why the unemployment rate
among blacks and Hispanics in
Michigan was more than twice as
high as among whites in 2004.
And so in a world where con-
nections determine who gets
hired and which small business
makes it, affirmative action
allows those who have been shut
out from those connections to
have a shot.
If we lived in a world in which
only hard work and talent paid
off, maybe we wouldn't have to
consider factors like race and
gender when we look at what
it means to be deserving. But
admissions decisions, hiring
decisions and contracting deci-
sions aren't made like that. Few
employers have the time or energy
to thoroughly review every appli-
cation and objectively select the
best-quali-
fied candi-
date. And
the sort of
"best-quali-
fied" MCRI
Col- support-
ers tend to
SSI',/9 5 advocate is
speCt of again some
set of crite-
ugh you ria labeled
-as objec-
know it tive, despite
Sisc us- being any-
thing but.
Impus. One wom-
an's story
should not
determine
a state con-
stitutional
amendment, and allowing one
school's admissions policy to
confine the discussion about
MCRI to the college campus is
just as myopic.
As a society, we - not Gratz
- have to determine who is
deserving. Is merit the only fac-
tor we should consider when hir-
ing, contracting and admitting
students? Does a specific attempt
to measure merit make those
selected deserving?
MCRI's passage would take a
difficult issue and make it sim-
ple. Those who are privileged,
those who score well on stan-
dardized tests, those who have
connections to ensure they never
count themselves among Michi-
gan's unemployed - they, and
they alone, would have merit.
They, and they alone, would be
deserving.

. >: m...- - . . - . ..

Send fiction and
poetry submissions
to cyanj@umich edu.

TOP: Students rally against the MCRI.
BOTTOM: LSA sophomore Kim Leung sits in the Law Quad.

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